Confuzzledom

Just a place for me to gather my thoughts


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35 Before 35: Progress report 3

It’s been a while since I last updated you on my 35 before 35 progress. Seven months, to be exact. Since then, I’ve actually done quite a bit, so I thought it was time for another summary.

Number 7: Complete a cross stitch picture for myself.

I finished this one in September. It’s actually four small pictures, but I’m allowing it to count. For various reasons, they’re not up on the wall yet, but I completed the stitching and that’s what counts!

One of the four pictures

One of the four pictures

Number 13:  Read (or re-read) 50 non-fiction books

I was on three last time and now I’m up to six! I read The Last Lingua Franca: English Until the Return of Babel by Nicholas Ostler, Captain James Cook by Richard Hough and The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester. The last one was quite short, but fascinating!

Number 14. Go back to Austria and finally try Marillenknödel.

I must be the only person ever who managed to live in Austria without trying this amazing traditional dish, which is why it ended up on my list. During our trip to Vienna in June, I finally managed to consume some, and they lived up to every one of my expectations!

Number 15: Read 30 books in German

The last time I updated, I’d read 10 books. Now I’m up to 17 thanks to my boss bringing in a load of German translations of Swedish crime novels that she wanted rid of. The alternative would have been for the books to go in the bin and there was no way I could let that happen! You can see what I’ve been reading in German here.

Number 18: Bake 10 different kinds of biscuits

I’ve only baked one more type of biscuit since my last update, but they were delicious! I baked Pistachio and Cranberry Cookies just a few weeks ago.

Number 20. Attend a world cup rugby match

Obviously there hasn’t been a rugby world cup since I last updated, so I haven’t completed this yet. But my dad phoned the other day to say his application for tickets had been successful so I’m going to all three of the matches at St James’ Park! We had originally asked for tickets to two matches, but my dad bought us some for the third anyway as our Christmas/birthday presents so we’re only paying him for two.

Number 21: Read all the books from the BBC Big Read that I hadn’t before starting this challenge

I was up to 8 (or 7 and two thirds) before, now I’m up to 9 (or 8 and two thirds). I still haven’t managed to finish the 3rd book in the His Dark Materials series because it’s too large to take on my commute and I’ve barely found time to read at home. I did read The Beach by Alex Garland though. I’m also still reading Middlemarch – I’m half way through now and it’s still boring as hell!

Number 29. Visit a continent I’ve never been to before.

Can you perchance guess what continent it was? Did my never-ending series of Taiwan posts maybe give you a clue? That’s right! I visited Asia for the first time in August.

Number 31. Watch 35 films I’ve never seen before.

This was originally 15 films, but after I watched film number 15 I decided that was too easy and changed it. Last time I updated you, I’d watched 5 films. Thanks to movie nights with friends, I’m now up to 16. You can see all the films I’ve watched here.

Aaaand that’s yer lot, for now. Not bad progress I have to say :-)


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Semi-Charmed Winter 2014 Reading Challenge – updated preliminary list

I wrote an initial preliminary list of books to read for the Winter 2014 Reading Challenge the day the categories came out (I got a bit overexcited), but today is the day of the preliminary lists linkup and I’ve had some more time to think about what to read, so here is my updated preliminary list. Books subject to change depending on what I can get hold of cheaply and whether my picks actually turn out to have enough pages to count for the challenge…

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules. – To be decided

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books. – So many authors! I’ll have to let you know on this one too.

10 points: Read a book of short stories. –  Different Seasons by Stephen King (hopefully novellas are short enough to count!)

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title. — Coffee is not a food, so I’m still thinking about this one. I’ve found a few possibilities so will have to see what I can get hold of cheaply.

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you (so no rereads for this one!). — The Various by Steve Augarde. I bought this a while ago but hadn’t read it yet and I just discovered that it’s the first in a trilogy. Perfect!

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language. — I’m thinking of reading a book in German that was originally written in French for this. I hope that doesn’t make me seem like a show off!

15 points: Read a book written by a local author (either an author from your state if you live in the United States, or from your country if you live somewhere else). — Technically I only  need a German author, but I’m going to try and find a Karlsruhe one for this. To be confirmed.

20 points: Read a “bookish book” (in which books play an important role, e.g. the setting involves a bookstore or library, a major character is an author, or a book that celebrates reading and books. Examples: The Book Thief, The Shadow of the Wind, The Thirteenth Tale, etc.) — The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows.

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title (e.g. north, south, east, west or any combination of those). — I’ve orded a book called  Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. I hope it arrives soon!

25 points: Read a book from a genre you don’t usually read. — I went through several “genre” book lists on Good Reads and didn’t find a single genre where I hadn’t read anything! I think science fiction is probably my least read genre though, and Jan has suggested Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson, so that’s currently my plan.

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title. Be sure to tell us the song name and artist as well! — My current ideas are A Room With a View by E. M. Forster  (song A Room With a View by Danish singer Tina Dico) or Between the Lines by Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer (song of the same name by Sara Bareilles). I’m still kind of hoping to find something more interesting though, i.e. where the book title is a lyric from a song without book and song having the exact same title.

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, brunch). — I am hopefully going to read The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams for this (sequel to Dirk Gently’ Holistic Detective Agency), but I have a horrible feeling it may have less then 200 pages… For my second book, I’ve chosen Lunch Money by Andrew Clements. It’s actually surprisingly difficult to find books with meals in the title!

If you are joining in with the challenge, write a post with your preliminary reading list then head over to Megan’s blog to link up. Looking forward to seeing what you’re all going to be reading this winter!


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The Liebster Award (again)

Dubliner in Deutschland nominated me for a Liebster award. Thank you my dear! :-)

liebster-award 1

I’ve been given the Liebster award before, but usually the rules say to list some number of facts about myself and that’s haaaard ;-) With this version, I’m supposed to answer some questions set by the person who nominated me and then make up some questions of my own before passing on the award. Here are the questions from Dubliner and my answers:

  1. What do you mostly blog about?
    Everything! Although I suppose books, travel and food are my top three themes.
  2. What do you love about blogging?
    The community. I love reading/responding to comments and seeing what my favoruite bloggers have been up to. But I also like that it gives me an outlet for my thoughts. Even if I didn’t have a single reader I would keep blogging to save myself from insanity.
  3. What is your favourite movie?
    I have to pick just one? That’s impossible!I can narrow it down to three for you, but no further (and please don’t ask me to put these three in order!). 1. The Princess Bride, 2. Clue, 3 The Crow
  4. What makes you happy?
    many things! Sunshine (as long as it’s not toooo hot), spending time with my boyfriend, spending time with friends (and also actually having people to call friends!), good food, dogs, seeing the red pandas when I walk past the zoo…
  5. Tea or coffee?
    Tea! I am British after all ;-) When I drink coffee it has to be drowned in milk and preferably flavoured.
  6. Do you have a favourite song?
    That’s even harder than the films! There are so many good songs. I’ll give you four, okay? 1. Wind Beneath My Wings by Bette Midler, 2. No Time to Sleep by Tina Dico, 3. Quick Fade by Feeder, 4. Belgium by Bowling for Soup.
  7. What’s the last book you read?
    The Surgeon of Crawthorne by Simon Winchester It’s the story of the making of the Oxford English Dictionary and one of its main contributers, an American who was imprisoned in Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum. Very interesting. I can recommend it.
  8. Name three places you would love to travel to, if money were no object.
    Canada, Japan and Denmark
  9. Why did you start blogging?
    My first blog was an MSN space (later MSN Live Space) that came with my e-mail address. I started using it out of curiosity, having no real idea what it was. Later, I used it to blog about my time in Austria. I started this blog shortly after I moved back to Germany. I was bored, basically friendless and my boyfriend was busy writing his Diplom (German version a Master’s) thesis, so I started a new blog to keep myself occupied and get my thoughts out of my brain – hence my tagline.
  10. What’s your favourite post that you’ve written? (Link, please!)
    You Know You’re Turning German When… is the first one that comes to mind.

I nominate:

Beth from Ami in Schwabenland
Marianne from Californienne
Becster
Sophie from Sophie in Clogs
Molly from The Move to America

And now here are my questions (only 5 because I’m not imaginative enough to think of a whole 10!):

  1. What is the best book you’ve read so far in 2014?
  2. What is your favourite food to eat in autumn/winter?
  3. Where was the last place you travelled to?
  4. What is your favoruite snack food?
  5. If you could learn any language (and were guaranteed to actually manage it!), which would it be?


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2014 Winter Reading Challenge

Remember when I took part in a reading challenge this summer? Well, it was so much fun that I knew I would have to take part in Megan’s next reading challenge. The categories for the winter challenge have just been released, and I’m excited to share my preliminary list with you.

First, the rules:

  • The challenge will run from November 1, 2014, to February 28, 2015. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on November 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on February 28 will count.
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audiobooks are fine, as long as the print versions meet the page requirements. Large-print books are also acceptable, as long as the regular-print version exceeds 200 pages in length.
  • A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once. If you want to switch the category of a book during a later check-in, that’s fine, just be sure to account for that in your point total.
  • Rereads can be used for a maximum of three books in the challenge. This rule is meant to encourage you to try new books while still allowing you to revisit books from your childhood or young adulthood that you might get more out of now. Please reread the entire book within the timeframe of the challenge in order to count it; no simply finishing old books or partial rereads (unless the category explicitly states otherwise, of course)!
  • The highest possible total is 200 points, and the first five people who finish the challenge will be invited to contribute a category for the next challenge.

And now, here are the categories and my first ideas on what to read for them:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules. – I’ll decide this later

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books. – So many authors! I’ll have to let you know on this one too.

10 points: Read a book of short stories. - Do novellas count as short stores? Because if so I have Different Seasons by Stephen King waiting to be read…

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title. — Does coffee count as a food, I wonder?

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you (so no rereads for this one!). — I don’t have any ideas for this one yet. Suggestions anyone?

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language. — I’m thinking of reading a book in German that was originally written in French for this. I hope that doesn’t make me seem like a show off!

15 points: Read a book written by a local author (either an author from your state if you live in the United States, or from your country if you live somewhere else). — Megan has clarified that she wants us to choose an author local to where we are currently living, so that would be Germany for me.

20 points: Read a “bookish book” (in which books play an important role, e.g. the setting involves a bookstore or library, a major character is an author, or a book that celebrates reading and books. Examples: The Book Thief, The Shadow of the Wind, The Thirteenth Tale, etc.) — I now wish I hadn’t already read Mr Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookshop as soon as it arrived! I’m probably going to read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows for this one since I’ve had it on my list for a few years now.

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title (e.g. north, south, east, west or any combination of those). — Not sure about this one yet either.

25 points: Read a book from a genre you don’t usually read. — This is difficult because there aren’t really any genres I won’t read – if a book sounds good (or is the only one available to me), I’ll read it. The genre I read least is probably science fiction though, so I suppose I’ll choose something from that. Or maybe a war story.

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title. Be sure to tell us the song name and artist as well! — Submitted by Daire, who was kind enough to provide several example books, as this challenge is quite tricky! A few possibilities include: Pop Goes the Weasel by James Patterson (English nursery rhyme of the same name), The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes (“Girl You Left Behind,” Pixie Lott), or Somewhere Only We Know by Cheyanne Young (“Somewhere Only We Know,” Keane). – The book doesn’t have to have been named after the song, or even have come after the song so I’m thinking of reading A Room With a View by E. M. Forster (as long as it has enough pages!) The song A Room With a View is by Danish singer Tina Dico. Alternatively, I may read Between the Lines by  and Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer. The song of the same name is by Sara Bareilles.

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title (e.g. breakfast, lunch, dinner, supper, brunch). — I want to read The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams for this one (tea time is a meal where I come from!). Again, it depends whether it has enough pages though. And I haven’t found a second book for the category yet.

If you would like to join in, Megan will be hosting a link-up on Wednesday, 22 October for people to share their preliminary reading lists. In the meantime, you can read up on the rules and categories again on Megan’s blog, Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. Use the hashtag #SCWBC14 to talk about the challenge on Twitter, Instagram, etc.


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10 Books That Have Affected Me

I was tagged on Facebook to lists ten books that have had an impact on me. Actually, the precise instructions on Facebook were: don’t take more than a few minutes or think too hard. They don’t have to be the “right books” or great works of literature, just those that have affected you in some way. Of course, I dutifully listed my books on Facebook. But before that, Angelle had also been tagged for the challenge (except in her version it was 15 books) and chosen to make a blog post of it, complete with explanations. I loved the idea so much that, when I too was tagged, I knew I was going to have to copy Angelle and write my own blog post. Except with ten books, because that’s how many were in my tag…

Here are my ten books (and it was very hard to narrow it down to only ten!). I’m linking the Wikipedia pages for those that have one.

  1. When Marnie Was There by Joan G. Robinson
    I’ve written about this book before, here. I first read this story about a lonely little girl named Anna in primary school, and although I had quite a few friends then, I’d already started to realise I was different to most people so the story really resonated with me. It stuck with me all the way into adulthood, when I finally bought myself a new copy so that I could read it again, and discovered that I still love it.
  2. January’s Child by Jenny Oldfield
    This book is about a 15-year-old girl who is living with a foster family, until said foster family is told they have to either adopt her or put her back into care. The family decide to keep her brother but send her back, whereupon she decides to go on the run until her 16th birthday, when she’ll be able to do as she likes. The story is about everything that happens to her during that year and is utterly heart-breaking. I first read it when I was about 14 and have read it at least once a year since then… and it still makes me cry every time.
  3. A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond
    I loved Paddington as a child… absolutely loved him! Obviously Winne the Pooh was also a huge part of my childhood, but I think Paddington was my favourite bear. I mean, he his bacon in his briefcase in case he got peckish. How hilarious is that? I recently bought A Bear Called Paddington (no idea what happened to my original copy) so Jan and I could take turns reading it aloud to each other. I’m pleased to report that Jan now loves Paddington too!
  4. The Chalet School series by Elinor M. Brent-Dyer
    These are perhaps not the best written books in the world, and if you tried to read them for the first time as an adult I’m sure you’d quickly get bored and give up in disgust, but this series accompanied me through my childhood from the time I first discovered a few that used to belong to one of my aunts at my grandma’s house. I had finished all the Mallory Towers books, and these new (to me) boarding school books came along at just the right time. I then obsessively got them out of the library one by one until they had no more for me to read. These books are 100% of the reason I wanted to live in Austria… of that’s not having an impact on my life I don’t know what is!
  5. So Much to Tell You by John Marsden
    If you clicked on the link under When Marnie Was There you’ll have seen that I wrote about this book in that post as well. I picked this one up in a charity shop when I was 13 and immediately fell in love with it, despite the fact that it was the first book since Black Beauty that had made me cry real tears. I’ve read it many times since then, but I’ve never forgotten the feeling I had that first time (and yes I still cry every time I read it. I’m sensing a theme here… also, note to The Fault in Our Stars. This is what a sad book looks like for me!)
  6. Reise im August by Gudrun Pausewang (English title: The Final Journey)
    This one is also reviewed in the blog post linked above. This is a children’s book, but I read it as an adult when I did a course about Naziism in children’s literature during my year  abroad. The journey that main character Alice is sent on is to Ausschwitz (not really a spoiler, that much becomes clear about 3 pages into the book), and as you can imagine it’s a powerful and devastating story. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to be affected by this book!
  7. Brother in the Land by Robert Swindells
    I read this book in English class at secondary school and later bought a copy of my own so I could read it again. This is a distopian children’s novel set England at a time after a nucelar attack. The majority of the adults were killed in the attack or disappeared afterwards, leaving the children to fend for themselves. I think you can understand why this book affected me! Also, towards the end of the book, something happens that makes me cry, even though I know it’s coming.
  8. P.S: I Love You by Cecelia Ahern
    I don’t think I need to explain this story.. surely everyone knows it by now? (The film is nowhere near as good, by the way!). What can I say… I’m as soppy as the next girl and the idea of a dying man writing a letter to his wife for every single month of the year following his death makes me feel both happy (because of the romance) and very, very sad (because he’s obviously dead and doesn’t even get to see the results of his actions). Also, it’s a cancer story and cancer stories are always sad.
  9. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett
    I could have listed a number of other Pratchett books here, but there’s something about the glimpse into the life of Sam Vimes as a young man and the insights into the bonds between some of the older characters in the Ankh Morpork/City Watch books (Vimes, Fred Colon, Lord Vetinary, Nobby Nobs, Reg Shoe) that just somehow gets me. I mean the lilac guys. And the spoon! “How do they rise up, rise up, rise up?
  10. Haunting by James Herbert
    This was the first “adult” horror book I read (after devouring the Point Horror books all through my teens). I stole it from my mum’s bookshelf, read the whole thing in a single sitting then had nightmares for about the next four nights. I was only about 12 and I found it terrifying, but also amazing. I’ve been a fan of James Herbert ever since (and was genuninely sad to hear of his death last year at the age of 69).

So, that’s my ten. Books that narrowly avoided making the cut included the Ramona Quimby books by Beverly Cleary, Clocks by Agatha Christie (the first “adult” book I was given permission to read), Black Beauty by Anna Sewell (the first book I can remember making me cry) and Summer Sisters by Judy Blume (I think her only adult novel, and another book that made me cry… told you there was theme!). I’m not going to tag anybody here (I already did that on Facebook), but if you would like to join in I would love to see how your version compares to mine… and maybe get ideas for a few more books to read :-) Also, I apologise for my overuse of both exclamation marks and brackets in this post. It just seemed appropriate…


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Peony in Love by Lisa See

I read this book ages ago as part of the 2014 Summer Reading Challenge. This one was for the category “Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe”, which earned me 15 points. I chose to read this book having previously read Snowflower and the Secret Fan by the same author, which I found absolutely fascinating!

The plot:
Peony, the sheltered daughter of a wealthy Chinese family, is betrothed to a man she’s never met and is obsessed with a play called “The Peony Pavillion”. For her 16th birthday, her father plans to host a performance of said play. To maintain proper standards, women have to watch from behind a screen, but through the cracks, Peony manages to catch sight of an elegant, handsome man who she immediately falls in love with. Thus begins Peony’s story of love, desire and destiny.

My review:
First of all, I need to say something that some may consider to be a spoiler. However, it is important for me to mention it for the rest of my review to make sense: The majority of the story is told by Peony after she’s already dead. I don’t know about anyone eles, but I would have liked to know that before starting to read. I was expecting a book that would allow me to learn more about Chinese customs, history and belief, instead what I got was basically a ghost story. If I’d wanted to read a ghost story, I would have chosen a ghost story to read!! I also didn’t really like the character of Peony. I know she was supposed to be young (and therefore naive), but her love-sick ramblings just annoyed me. Even after she’d been dead for years and we were given the impression that she’d matured in some way (at least she’d managed to start thinking for herself) she reminded me of a love-struck teenager. And yes, I know she was supposed to be 16, but if the story hadn’t made that clear I would have guessed more like 13! Snow Flower and the Secret Fan was beautifully written… this one felt amateurish and clichéd. I did learn a little about Chinese death rituals and their beliefs about the after life, which was interesting, but honestly that couldn’t make up for the incredibly boring, sickly love story. Very disappointing! I might still give this author another chance, but if I’d read Peony first she would have gone straight to my “do not read” list!


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Summer Reading Challenge 2014 – final check in

Unfortunately, I don’t have anything new to add for the summer reading challenge. I had one category left to complete, and I failed to finish reading the book I had chosen for it, so my first Semi-Charmed Kind of Life reading challenge remains incomplete. Better luck next time! Here’s a finally summary of all the books I read for the various categories, just so that everything is in one place.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.
The Night She Disappeared by April Henry – 229 pages. A young-adult crime thriller. I have no idea how I came across this book, but I’m glad I did. This was a quick read but an enjoyable one.

10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born.
Flowers for Algernon by David Keyes (published 1966) – 311 pages. I loved this book and am glad I read it!

10 points: Finish reading a book you couldn’t finish the first time around. (You must have at least 150 pages left in the book.)
The 1312 Lives of Captain Bluebear by Walter Moers. I started re-reading this book and got as far as Chapter 6 (compared to Chapter 3 last time), but I just couldn’t get it finished in time…

10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of a library or bookstore.
The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell – 215 pages, for age 9-12. Another great book. I would have adored this as a child! Read my review here.

15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times’ Best Sellers List when you start reading it.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 313 pages. Number 1 in the Young Adult Fiction category at the time of reading.I thought this book was quite good, but nowhere near as brilliant as everyone kept saying. I think I might have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t heard all the hype about it beforehand. As it was, I ended up feeling slightly disappointed and wondering what I’d missed.

15 points: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe.
Peony in Love by Lisa See – 387 pages. I LOVED Snowflower and the Secret Fan by the same author and was hoping for more of the same. What I got was basically a weird ghost story. I wish I’d chosen a better book for this category!

 15 points: Read a book another blogger has read for the challenge. (That means you have to wait till the first check in in June to see what other people have read already.)
Bedknobs and Broomsticks by Mary Norton. Before seeing that aother blogger had read this book, I had no idea that the Disney film was based on a book… or that the author of The Borrowers books had written anything else! This was a quick, fun read. Not as good as The Borrowers, but pretty decent. Here’s a review by the blooger who I got the idea from.

20 points: Read a book with “son(s),” “daughter(s),” or “child(ren)” in the title.
The Murderer’s Daughters by Randy Susan Meyers – 307 pages. This book had been on my Amazon wishlist for ages and I was looking forward to finally reading it. The idea for the story was great, but in the end the book was just okay. Disappointing.

 20 points: Read a book that will be/was adapted into a film in 2014.
A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby – 256 pages. Again an interesting idea for a story, but ended up being just okay. Most of the characters annoyed me! Read my full review here.

25 points: Read a book by a blogger.
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I adored this book, but I already knew I would based on the blog. Read my review here.

 25 points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir.
Captain James Cook by Richard Hough – 445 pages. A thoroughly enjoyable book! Well written and interesting, and also quite entertaining. No dry facts for this author. Highly recommended for anyone who is interested in Captain James Cook and/or the history of discovery/navigation.

30 points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the title.
The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell – 309 pages and Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien – 360 pages. (Antonyms: Birth and Death). I absolutely loved The Death of Bees and am really glad I chose this one! Review here. Birthmarked started off brilliantly but ended up being slightly disappointing. I’ve read better teen distopian-future novels! A review of that one is here.

And that was that. A few disappointing books, but also some interesting ones that I may not have read without the categories for encouragement. I’m excited for the next reading challenge!

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