I read (very few of) my books!

Like many readers, I am definitely guilty of buying many, many books that I find going cheap and then not actually getting round to reading most of them before buying more. This problem is currently being exacerbated (yeah… I had to look up the spelling of that!) by the BBC Big Read list. I keep buying books from there without even checking what they’re about then taking one look at the synopsis/length/teeny tiny writing and putting them off for another day. So when Erin announced that she was co-hosting a challenge for people to actually read their books I was all for it!

I already briefly mentioned it here, but today is the day of the official linkup where we let everyone know how we did, so you’ll just have to put up with another post on it😉

Read My Books (1)

I went into the challenge thinking it would be easy. Like I said, I already own lots of books that I’ve never even opened, so all I had to do was pick them up and read them. I got off to a good start with Amity & Sorrow for the Semi-charmed Summer Reading Challenge – it wasn’t the best book, but it was a fairly quick read. Then I decided to start The Magus… and that was my downfall. I started it on 10th June and only managed to finish it on 5th July! That book draaaagged! Towards the end of the month, I quickly read A Good Talk, which has been on my shelves for so long that I don’t even remember buying it! So that brought my total up to about 2 and a half books. Not a result I can say I’m proud of, but at least I managed to make room on my bookshelves for two new books (I didn’t particularly enjoy either of the books I finished so they’re off to a free bookshelf somewhere to hopefully find someone who does like them).

Since then, I’ve read two books that I technically owned before the challenge since they arrived at the end of May and one that I only bought in June (hey, just because I’d agreed to only read my own books didn’t mean I couldn’t acquire new ones for after the challenge was finished ;-)). If the challenge had been over two months I would have done sooo much better!

Do you read everything you buy straight away or do you end up with many books accumulating on your shelves (or e-reader) like me? And, if the latter, how do you convince yourself to actually read the books you already own instead of buying/borrowing/downloading more?

Recent doings #7

Ugh, I’m behind on my blog reading again! If I haven’t commented on your blog recently I’m so, so sorry! We had a weekend away, then visitors and more visitors. This weekend we get a brief break but I need to get the flat sorted for the next round of visitors – Jan’s mum and her partner are here on 16th/17th July.

Anyway, it’s time for another “What’s New With You” linkup… which means another month is over. Where are you going, 2016? I wish I could pause you for a while to catch my breath…
So, what did I get up to in June?

What's New With You
Reading. I already did a check-in post for the summer reading challenge, so I’m not going to repeat myself here😉 I will, however, say that I’ve now finished The Magus! Woo hoo.
Watching. The news a lot immediately after the EU referendum. I still can’t believe the result. Why you so stupid, Britain?
Travelling. To the Rhine Falls (Rheinfall) with my mum and brother. Jan and I also went to Graubünden at the beginning of June, so I’ll have lots of travel photos to share with you once I’m done with New Zealand. Here’s a sneak preview:
DSCN8578
Rheinfall
Cooking. Horse steak so my mum and brother could try it. Although technically Jan cooked it on the barbecue. I just made the veg😉
Waiting for. Our new wardrobe. Actually, we ordered it in April so I’ve been waiting for it a while, but it was finally due for delivery in June. Then it finally turned up but the back wall was missing, so I’m still waiting! The missing part is supposed to be coming next Wednesday…
Buying. Clothes. I went to Germany and purchased a skirt for €6 and a dress for €9 – you wouldn’t get clothes that cheap in Switzerland!
Drinking. Cocktails. We found a cute little bar that does interesting cocktails, so when we met up with two people we’ve been kind of hanging around with in Basel (yeah, I maybe made some friends?) we took them there and then took my mum and brother there as well.
What have you been doing recently? Check out the linkup to see how everyone else spent June.

Summer Reading Challenge Month 1 + Read My Books

During June I was taking part in two reading challenges – Megan’s Summer 2016 Book Challenge and Erin’s #ReadMyBooks challenge, which basically meant that as well as sticking to Megan’s categories I had to read books that were already on my shelves waiting to be read. I did ask Erin whether it would be cheating to read almost all books I already owned since I didn’t already own books for every category, but the point turned out to be moot seeing as I only managed to read a total of 2 and a half books in June. Why must The Magus go on so?

So, checking in for the #SCSBC16:

30 points: Read one book with a good word in the title, and one with a bad word.

For my bad word, I read Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley (full review here); brief summary: it could have been good but was ultimately confusing and lacking in detail. I’m sure there are better books on cults out there! Two stars.

For my good word I went very literal and read A Good Talk: The Story and Skill of Conversation by Daniel Menaker. I’m not sure what I was expecting from this book, but what I got was not it! It is neither particularly helpful for improving my awful social/conversational skills nor is it a particularly good explanation of what conversation actually is. The chapter on the history of conversation was boring and the analysis wasn’t very insightful and the “humour” had an air of trying too hard. Another two star read.

I’m currently reading The Magus by John Fowles for my book with an unappealing cover (the cover of the copy I have doesn’t appeal to me). Goodreads tells me I’m 58% of the way through (it doesn’t half drag on!) so maybe I’ll get some points for it next month? As it stands, I earned a total of 30 points in June.

As for reading my books… Erin’s challenge forced me to have a look at what actually is on my shelves! Amity & Sorrow moved to Basel with us but managed to get lost on the bottom shelf, I have no memory of buying A Good Talk but I must have since it was lurking on the non-fiction bookcase (yes, we have an entire bookcase for non-fiction) and it’s not something Jan would buy, and I finally reluctantly picked up The Magus, which has been lurking ominously for while wanting to be read for the BBC Big Read but being just long enough (and with an unappealing cover to boot) to put me off actually picking it up and getting started. Now I’m part way through, I have an incentive to actually push on to the end so I can cross another book off my 35 before 35 list.

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

No Friday letters today because I haven’t done enough this week to be able to think of any…

This month I am taking part in two reading challenges. One is Megan’s Summer Book Challenge, the second is the #Readmybooks challenge with TexErin, which is exactly what it says on the tin: during the month of June, Erin is challenging people to read only books they already own – no buying new ones or borrowing books from the library or friends. So that’s why I started my summer challenge reading with Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley. It actually moved to Basel with us, so it’s been in my possession for at least a year! Part of the reason I hadn’t read it was because it was on the bottom shelf where my eye tends not to wander as much, but mostly it’s because I kept buying new books that I was so excited about I just had to read them the minute I had them in my hot little hand. I read this book for the category “Read one book with a good word in the title, and one with a bad word”, which will be worth 30 points once I’ve read my good-word book (this one was the bad word – sorrow – although it could also have been a good word, since amity means friendly relations).

Amity-SorrowThe plot: Following a suspicious fire, Amaranth gathers her children and flees from the fundamentalist cult in which her children were born and raised. Now she is on the run with her two daughters, Amity and Sorrow, neither of whom have seen the world outside the cult. After four days of driving Amaranth crashes the car, leaving the family stranded at a gas station.

Rescue comes in the unlikely form of a downtrodden farmer, a man who offers sanctuary when the women need it most. However while Amity blossoms in this new world, free from her father’s tyranny, Sorrow will do anything to get back home…

My review: This could have been a good book. The plot sounded really interesting and I actually really liked the character of Amity. She was the only one who actually seemed to develop throughout the book! However, the actual execution of the plot was really confusing. The present day parts were mainly told from Amity’s point of view, and they were mostly pretty good, but then there were flashbacks – either to Amaranth’s time in the cult or to her life before – and a lot of those didn’t make much sense. One particular flashback was presumably supposed to explain why Amaranth got married/joined the cult in the first place, but it really didn’t. (Well, I suppose she didn’t know it was a cult at first? Or she helped found the cult? I never figured that part out). Also, the synopsis on the back of the book says “Amaranth herself is beginning to understand the nature of the man she has left“, well I’m glad she did because I certainly didn’t – other than that he was obviously bad and liked sex a lot? Trigger warning for anyone planning to read it: there is child sex abuse! I gave this one two stars.

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0

books

Yes, another reading challenge. Am I insane? Possibly. This one is being hosted by TexErin and will run from 1 July to 31 October 2016, so it starts a month after Megan’s challenge but goes on for a while after it so I should have enough time…

For this one, the books have to have at least 200 pages.

Here are the categories/my preliminary list. I’ve tried to use mostly BBC Big Read books seeing as I still have over 100 to go and just over 2 years to do it in…

  • 5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages. I’m probably going to read Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, and I would just like to point out how annoyed I am that I couldn’t find a copy under the original, British title (which was Cross-Stitch in case anyone cares)
  • 10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “R”. Would you believe there are only three books on the Big Read with titles starting with an R? And I’ve read two of them already. So River God by Wilbur Smith is my only option.
  • 10 points: Read a book with five words in the title. The Diary of a Nobody by George and Weedon Grossmith. Jan got it for Christmas, so that’s handy (my grandma is buying him classics)
  • 15 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) blue cover. Possibly Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer if the copy I’ve ordered actually turns out to have a blue cover. Otherwise I might read The Dandelion Years by Erica James, even though it’s not on the list.
  • 20 points: (Submitted by Barbara A. Wild; she’s a twin and is a mother to twins.) Read a book with twins as characters. I love twin books! I thought Double Act by Jacqueline Wilson was the only book on the Big Read list with twins and it’s not long enough, but it turns out The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy has twin characters, so that one then.
  • 20 points: (Submitted by Christina Mapes) Read a book from the following list of books made into movies: http://www.popsugar.com.au/…/Books-Being-Adapted-Movies-327… Frankenstein is on that list, Frankenstein is on the Big Read. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley it is.
  • 225 points: (Submitted by Stef Thompson) Read a book set in a country you have always wanted to visit. Shogun by James Clavell is set in Japan. I’m not sure I’ve always wanted to go to Japan (as a child I mostly wanted to go to Disneyland), but I’ve wanted to for a long time. I have zero interest in reading this book though, so I hope it pleasantly surprises me!
  • 30 points: (Submitted by Linda Young Zajac) Read a historical fiction book. Katherine by Anya Seton is an option. The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett is as well (although I keep putting that one off because it’s so long!)
  • 30 points: (Submitted by Ericka Blankenship) Read a music related book. (i.e. a memoir from a musician, singer, band, roadie, producer, groupie, music journalist, etc. OR a fictional book with a lead character that is a musician, music teacher, etc.) Ugh, nothing on the Big Read list is music themed! I do have to read non-fiction for my 35 before 35 though, so I might read Ozzy Osbourne’s biography.
  • 35 points: (Submitted by Ferne Merrylees) Read a book originally published over 100 years ago. This one should be easy – half of the Big Read is classics. Long, long classics. Why did people pick such long books as their favourites? We own Tess of the d’Urbervilles (thanks grandma!) so that’s an option, I suppose. 592 pages though! Kim by Rudyard Kipling is only 368 pages, so maybe I’ll read that instead.

Wanna join in? Submit your preliminary list by 15th June. There’s a Facebook group here, or you can keep track of your progress via Goodreads or your blog, as long as you let Erin know.

Have you read any of my choices? What did you think of them?

Recent doings #6

Uh, how is it time for the What’s New With You linkup again? How is it June? How will this year be half over in a matter of weeks? Could somebody please stop time for a while?

Anyway, like it or not, it is time for my monthly recap post. So here’s what I got up to in May.

What's New With You
Reading. I finished The Grapes of Wrath! Another one down for the BBC Big Read. It’s quite a fitting book for the current times, but so, so depressing. And that ending… what?! Goodreads said I also read 8 other books in May. I’m not going to list them all here though.
Watching. We haven’t got back to any series yet, but I did watch Wreck It Ralph on TV. It was actually really good and not at all what I was expecting.
Cooking. Lots of salad. You’re probably thinking “Silly, you don’t cook salad!”. Well, you do cook the kind I’ve been making! We’ve had bulgur wheat salad, a wild rice salad and a pasta salad. Yummy!
Buying. Apart from the obvious books, books and more books? I bought shoes (sandals) that I will hopefully be wearing for my friend’s wedding in August… provided the dress I bought for them to go with still fits me by then! (Let’s not talk about how much weight I’ve put on/the fact that I needed to wear decent clothes the other day (see listening to below) and precisely one of the things I tried on still fit!)
Cross stitching. Something for a friend. Jan helped me design it and I stitched it, but I can’t show you because I forgot to take a photo before I gave it to her.
Listening to. I can just about sneak this in here since it happened on 31st May😉 We went to see the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra because for part of the concert they were playing with Daniil Trifnov, apparently the best pianist around at the moment. Jan had heard of him, I hadn’t (because I’m uncultured). I discovered that I quite like Tchaikovsky.
What did you get up to in May? Why not join the linkup (you don’t have to use this format – you can literally write any kind of catchup post).

Summer Book Challenge 2016 preliminary list

It’s summer reading challenge time again! Well, nearly. I can’t start reading my books yet, but the categories have been released so I can decide what I’m going to read. This time, the number of pages has been cut down from 200 to 150, which is nice. Although I plan to use the challenge to try and make some progress with the BBC Big Read and most of the books on there are loooong!

As usual, we start with the rules:

General rules:

  • The challenge will run from June 1, 2016, to August 31, 2016. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on June 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on August 31 will count.
  • Each book must be at least 150 pages long. Audiobooks and large-print books are fine, as long as the regular print version meets the length requirement.
  • A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once.
  • 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 winter 2016 challenge.

Okay, formalities out of the way. Now for the most exciting part. Categories!

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long. Like I said, BBC Big Read, so I’m thinking I’ll go with The Color Purple by Alice Walker

10 points: Read a collection of short stories or essays. They may all be written by the same author, or the book may be an anthology from different writers; your choice! Maybe Different Seasons by Stephen King since it’s been sitting on my shelf for a while. Provided novellas count as short stories, that is. It’s a collection anyway.

10 points: Read an adult fiction book written by an author who normally writes books for children. Examples: J. K. Rowling, Judy Blume, Suzanne Collins, Rick Riordan, etc. – Submitted by SCWBC15 finisher Kelly E. Umm, maybe something by Judy Blume? I have nothing on my shelves so whatever I choose will have to be purchased. TBC.

15 points: Read a book set in Appalachia. – Submitted by SCWBC15 finisher Ericka B. (Try this list or this one for inspiration. And here’s a map if you have a book in mind and want to know if it fits the setting.) No idea! I’ll have to check those lists and see if anything looks interesting. TBC.

15 points: Don’t judge a book by its cover! Read a book with a cover you personally find unappealing. I will need to look at some covers for this, but I’m hoping I can make it a Big Read book. TBC.

20 points: Read a book that you have previously only seen the film (movie) of. – Submitted by SCWBC15 finisher Bevchen. Hey look, my category! Usually I read the book first, but I’ve definitely seen a few films and only realised later that they were based on books. I have two options for this: High Fidelity by Nick Hornby or Papillon by Henri Charrière.

25 points: Read a book with a punny title. The title can be a play on another book title, movie title or a common expression. Examples of such titles include Southern Discomfort, We’ll Always Have Parrots or Bonefire of the Vanities. – Submitted by SCWBC15 finisher Jamie G. I will let you know when I find something:-) TBC.

30 points: Read a microhistory. (Try this list or this one for ideas.) I had no idea what a microhistory was, but having looked at that list it seems I already own some! I have yet to read The Potato by Larry Zuckerman or Swindled by Bee Wilson so I’ll probably make it one of those.

30 points: Read one book with a good word in the title, and one with a bad word. Note: This category is reeeeeeeally open-ended! Maybe you like turtles, so The Pearl that Broke Its Shell is a title with a “good” word. Similarly, the “bad” word could be a swear word or a literally negative word like “not” or “none,” or it could just be something you don’t like. Have fun with it! (Remember, you must read both books to get 30 points; this category is not worth 15 points per book.) I’m thinking I might go reeaally literal with this one and make my bad wrd something like “war” and my good word “happiness” or similar. I haven’t picked specific books yet, though. TBC.

40 points: Read two books that contain the same word in the title, but once in the singular and once in the plural. For example: Pretty Girls by Karin Slaughter and The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer, or Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff and The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner. (Remember, you must read both books to get 40 points; this category is not worth 20 points per book.) I have a few ideas for this one. Trying to make it fit the Big Read, so I’m thinking Secrets by Jacqueline Wilson and The Secret History by Donna Tartt. The Old Man and the Sea and Two Men in a Boat are also options.

That’s all of this year’s categories. Looks like it’s going to be an interesting one! Roll on the 1st of June!

Are you joining in? You can link up your preliminary list or get ideas from everyone else’s here.