Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge: month 1

I’m hardly likely to read four whole books by the end of today, so I might as well get my check-in post out there today and use tomorrow for Kristen‘s link up 🙂

I changed some of my books from my original ideas (and of course some categories were still blank when I made my preliminary list), so here’s what I ended up reading in November:

winter-reading

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 150 pages long.

Saturday Requiem by Nicci French. I could not resist reading this book the minute it arrived, which is how it ended up being my freebie for this challenge. I adore these books, and this one was an excellent installment. I definitely did not guess who the killer was! The ending made me desperately wish the next book would come out right now (although I’m also sad because Sunday will presumably be the last in the series). 5 stars.

10 points: Read a 2016 finalist (longlist or shortlist) for one of the following literary prizes: National Book Award, Man Booker or Man Booker International.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon was a 2016 National Book Award finalist in the Young People’s Literature category. I loved everything about this book! The characters… the style of writing. Admittedly the love story was little far-fetched, but it kind of had to be to work, and it didn’t spoil my enjoyment in any way. 5 stars.

10 points: Read a brand-new release (something published between November 1, 2016, and January 31, 2017).

Before You Leap by Keith Houghton was published on 1 November 2016! The synopsis sounded good, all the ingredients were there for it to be good, but it just… wasn’t. The plot managed to hold my attention well enough, but I didn’t really like the narrator and the style of writing didn’t do it for me. 2 stars.

15 points: Read a book by an author of a different race or religion than you.

The Color Purple by Alice Walker, who is African-American. I’ve been putting off reading this book and I have no idea why because it’s excellent! I was genuinely hooked from the very first page. 5 stars.

15 points: Read a book featuring a main character who is of a different race or religion than you.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey. The main character/narrator is half native American (and half Caucasian, but obviously looks different enough to be referred to as “Chief”).  Another one that I had been putting off but ended up loving. The casual racism and misogyny is disturbing, but I just saw it as a product of the book’s time so it didn’t put me off in the same way it would in a modern book. And the writing is superb! 5 stars.

25 points: Read a book with an alcoholic beverage (neat or cocktail) in the title.

I read Cider With Rosie by Laurie Lee for the simple reason that I already owned it. Somehow, this book even managed to make me feel nostalgic for the years of Laurie Lee’s childhood, despite the fact that even my parents weren’t born yet! The ending was just really annoying though – I know it’s only part 1 of an autobiographical series, but come on! It just… ends with no explanation. I gave this one 3 stars.

40 points: Read two books: one by an author whose first name is the same as the last name of the author of the other book.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay and Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eager.

I wanted to read Hour of the Bees so I went looking for an author with the last name “Lindsay” and Darkly Dreaming Dexter was the first one to appear. I had heard the TV series Dexter (which is based on this series of books was good), so I decided to give this a try. Unfortunately, I thought the book was just okay. It wasn’t as thrilling as I was expecting and in parts it felt more like it was written from the perspective of a child than a murderer/sociopath (maybe sociopaths do think like children? I don’t know, but either way it grated!). 3 stars for this one, and I won’t be reading the rest of the series.

Hour of the Bees, on the other hand, is adorable. Beautifully written, magical, touching, sad in places and I loved the main character! My only (minor) gripe is that it’s supposed to be for children but I suspect it will appeal more to adults (like me!) who read children’s books. I can imagine it being a bit boring for pre-teens based on the subjects my friends liked to read about when I was aged 10/11. 4 stars.

So that’s 8 books in 7 categories and a total of 120 points.
4 books, 3 categories and 80 points to go! I think should be able to complete the challenge by Christmas!

Have you read anything good this month?

 

Winter Reading Challenge 2015: Month 2

First of all, Happy New Year everyone!
I know it’s 2016 now, but the challenge is still from 2015. Sadly, December was so full of cross stitch and Christmas markets that I barely had time to breathe never mind read so I haven’t completed the challenge yet. I did get a little closer though, and moved one book to a different category so I could include another one I had read in December. Here are the categories I completed this time:

5 points. Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages. The Seeing by Diana Hendry (176 pages). This is an intense and disturbing book. It reminded me of The Chocolate War in that something that seemed harmless at first ended up being taken too far, eventually ending in tragedy, 4 stars.

10 points. Read a debut book by any author. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. I originally had this under the “verb” category, but I’ve moved it to here. I gave it five stars last month.

15 points. Read a book published under a pseudonym. Sunset Song by Lewis Grassic Gibbon (real name: James Leslie Mitchell). This was a strange book. I really enjoyed the description of how the town came to be at the beginning and it was fun to read a book that was written in Scots, but some parts seemed to drag on forever. I gave it four stars.

15 points. Read a book with a one word title. Siege by Sarah Mussi. This is the story of a school shooting, but written from the point of view of somebody who is inside the school when the attack starts. It’s intense and quite disturbing in parts. I devoured it in one sitting and gave it four stars.

20 points. Read a book with a verb in the title. Don’t Stand So Close by Luana Lewis. I read this book in November but thought I couldn’t fit it into a category, then I realised I Let You Go was a debut so I was able to rearrange things a bit. This is a thriller with various twists, along the lines of Gone Girl and other books that are popular at the moment. A girl turns up at Stella’s house in the middle of a freezing cold night demanding to see her husband, Max. Stella is terrified but eventually lets her in. Who is this girl and what is her connection to Max and Stella? And what happened to Stella that made her so terrified to answer her own door? The author of this one was a clinical psychologist before turning to fiction writing and you can tell she knows her stuff where that’s concerned. I guessed some of the “mysteries” easily, but for a debut it was excellent. Four stars.

That’s it for this month. I have 2 categories still to go, and I’ve started reading books for both of them. Current total: 160 points. 40 to go!

Semi-Charmed Winter 2015 Book Challenge – preliminary list

The categories for Megan’s Winter Book Challenge came out today and I am ridiculously excited… even more so than usual! Admittedly this is partially because I was among the first finishers last month and got to pick my very own category, but the others on the list are pretty amazing as well. Basically, seeing this post appear on Megan’s blog made my day (yes, I do know what they say about simple things thanks…)

I want to share my preliminary list with you, but first, as always, the rules.

General rules:

  • The challenge will run from November 1, 2015, to January 31, 2016. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on November 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on January 31 will count.
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long, unless otherwise noted. 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. 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 time frame of the challenge in order to count it; no simply finishing old books or partial rereads.
  • 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 summer 2016 challenge.

And now for the exciting part: the challenge categories!
5 points: Read a book that has between 100 and 200 pages.Verflixt – ein Nix! by Kersten Boie. I sort of feel like I’m showing off by adding books in another language, but I’m totally lagging on my German reading lately and this one has 175 pages so… *shrug*
10 points: Read a debut book by any author. (The book does not have to be a 2015 debut.)The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivy. I bought this a while ago and I knew there was a good reason I hadn’t started it yet 😉
10 points: Read a book that does not take place in your current country of residence. – So basically what you’re saying is pick a book, any book 😉 Books don’t often take place in Switzerland – unless they’re Heidi of course. For now I’ve chosen Summer’s Child by Diane Chamberlain for this because I got it for my birthday and haven’t started it yet.
10 points: Read a book that someone else has already used for the challenge. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Kristen @ See You in a Porridge. – Well obviously I have to wait and see what everyone else reads for the challenge before picking this one.
15 points: Read a book published under a pseudonym (e.g. Robert Galbraith, Sara Poole, J.D. Robb, Franklin W. Dixon, Mark Twain, etc.). — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Megan M. – I’m thinking Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad (real name:  Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) for this because I’m way, way behind on reading the BBC Big Read Top 200 for my 35 before 35. Also, Wikipedia says he was Polish-British but the place he was born is actually now in Ukraine which please me a lot (my grandad was Ukrainian)
15 points: Read a book with “boy,” “girl,” “man” or “woman” in the title (or the plural of these words). – Again trying to get somewhere with The Big Read I’ve picked Man and Boy by Tony Parsons. I just ordered it from Amazon without even checking to see what it’s about so that should be fun…
15 points: Read a book with a one-word title (e.g. Attachments, Americanah, Uglies, Wild, etc.). – I’m tentatively saying Persuasion by Jane Austen, again for The Big Read, but let’s be honest… I totally failed to even start this one for the last reading challenge I did so I’ll probably end up changing it.
20 points: Read a book with a person’s first and last name in the title (e.g. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle). – I have options here! Currently thinking either Lottie Biggs is NOT Desperate by Hayley Long (second book in a series I’ve already read book 1 of) or The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet by David Mitchell.
20 points: Read a food-themed book. — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher Jamie @ Whatever I Think Of! – I’m not actually 100% sure what a food-themed book is yet, but I’m guessing one where food plays a major role in the story? Four Quarters of the Orange by Joanne Harris is looking favourite so far (I adore her books, especially The Lollipop Shoes, which is the sequel to Chocolat)
20 points: Read a book with a verb in the title. (For any grammar nerds out there, I mean “verb” in the most general sense, so gerunds count. For non-grammar-inclined people, just use any book that appears to have a verb in the title!) I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh would appear to have a verb in it. Two in fact 😉
30 points: Read two books with the same title (by different authors). — Submitted by SCSBC15 finisher bevchen @ Confuzzledom. – See that? That’s ME that is! My very own category. Obviously I kind of new this was coming so I prepared early and actually have two options. I’ve decided to go for The Missing though, one book by Andrew O’Hagan and one by Chris Mooney. The former is a non-fiction book about children going missing so I can see that being a difficult read! (In case anyone was looking for inspiration, my second option was Without A Trace. I have books of that title by Lesley Pearce and by Liza Marklund but there are others out there).
30 points: Read a nonfiction book and a fiction book about the same subject (e.g. a biography and historical fiction novel about the same person; two books about a specific war or event; a nonfiction book about autism and a novel with a character who has autism, etc. The possibilities are endless!). – I’m drawing a complete blank for this one so far so I’ll have to get my thinking cap on. Any suggestions?

So, that’s it for now. I can’t believe I actually have to wait all the way til 1st November to start reading. Aaaah!
Here’s a picture of my piles of books waiting to be read (the ones I already have anyway):

Winter books 2015If you want to join in (which you really should!) you can link up your preliminary list here or just start reading in November and visit Megan’s blog to check in on 1 December. And don’t be put off thinking you’ll never complete the challenge – doesn’t matter! Whether you read all the books or just one it’s all good fun and an excellent way of discovering new (sometimes amazing!) books that you might never have even looked at otherwise.

Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge – final check in

I was supposed to write this check in post yesterday since it was the last day of the challenge, but we were out from 8.30 a.m. until really late so it wasn’t possible. I didn’t finish anyway, but for the sake of consistency I’ll check in. I’m read two books this month, and also have one to add which I actually read before this month but have only just realised it counts!

In September, I completed two categories:

  • Read a YA book: Darkness, Be My Friend by John Marsden (the fourth book in the Tomorrow series, having read book 3 for another category).
  • Read a book with a one word title: Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston.

The other category I completed previously without realising was:

  • Read a book that has been on your TBR list for a year or more. I read The Shadow of the Wind because it’s on the BBC Big Read Top 200, and since I set myself the challenge to read everything on that list well over a year ago, by default every book on that list has by default been on my TBR for over a year! I read it in July, so it definitely counts for this challenge. Yeah, apparently I’m an idiot…

So here’s my final list:

  1. A YA book – Darkness, Be My Friend by John Marsden
  2. Non US Author Quite a few, to be fair, but: The Sea Sisters by by Lucy Clarke (British author)
  3. A book that was recommended by a blogger – Didn’t complete 😦
  4. A book that has been on your TBR list for a year or more – The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
  5. A book with a kickass female character – The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden
  6. A book that is or will be a movie (or TV show) – I’ve been reading Captain Corelli’s Mandolin since July and still haven’t finished, so another fail for this category.
  7. A book written by a celebrity – Nope, another failure.
  8. A book with a one word title.  Zorgamazoo by Robert Paul Weston
  9. A mystery or thriller – Without You by Saskia Sarginsson. It may have been a terrible thriller, but it still claimed to be a thriller 😉
  10. A book about Summer/with Summer in the title – I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan

So, seven (and a half) categories out of ten completed. Hmm. The Semi-Charmed Winter Reading Challenge is coming up (in November) so hopefully I’ll do a better job with that. By that time Captain Corelli should finally be out of my hair…

To see what other people read for the challange, go here.

Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge: Month 1

Remember the Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge I was participating in? Well, it’s time for the first check in. Sadly, I haven’t actually been doing very well with it… I’ve managed a grand total of two books (I have read a few others this month, but they were either too short or didn’t fit the categories). Here’s what I’ve read so far:

  • A novel written by a non-US authorSea Sisters by Lucy Clarke (4 stars)
  • A book with “summer” in the titleI Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan (yes, the book the film was based on! 4 stars. See my GoodReads review here.) My copy of this book only just managed to qualify for the challenge – it has precisely 200 pages!

So I still have 8 categories to go. Hopefully I’ll do a better job over the next month! I’m flying to England for my cousin’s wedding on Friday so at least I’ll have plenty of reading time while hanging around airports and on planes/trains.

Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge

Because apparently one summer reading challenge isn’t enough, I’ve decided to sign up for another one! After all, I’ve nearly completed Megan‘s (still need to finish reading Life of Pi, but once that’s done I’m finished!). This one is being run by, among other people, Kristen from See You in A Porridge, which is how I heard of it.

The rules are as follows:

  1. The Literary Ladies book challenge will run from June 21, 2015 until September 21, 2015. Only books read during that time will count.
  2. There are 10 categories to be completed. Once you complete all 10, reading all of the books necessary to satisfy each category, you have won.
  3. You are allowed 2 rereads for this challenge in order to be considered the prizes.
  4. Switching around books from your preliminary list is fine, but you can only use a book once to satisfy one category.
  5. All books must be 200 pages in length. If you are listening to your books, be sure that it complies accordingly.
  6. The first 3 categories are mandatory. But if you do not like one or two of the other 7 categories you can skip it and replace it with one of our book club picks! You can do this twice.

Also, with this one you can win actual prizes! Although I couldn’t care less about those. I just want to read!
Here are the categories, along with my preliminary choices. I’m using this as an opportunity to cross off some more books from the BBC Big Read for my 35 before 35. Book titles link to Goodreads.

  • Read a Young Adult novel.
    Inkheart by Cornelia Funke. I was given it literally years ago so I should probably read it. But it’s so looong, and my copy is German!
  • Read a novel written by a Non-US author.
    The Sea Sisters by Lucy Clarke (British author – I should probably have gone for a Swiss one really but I already have this waiting to be read and I don’t want to buy too many books for this challenge)
  • Read a book recommended by a blogger (or instagrammer / you-tuber / goodreads-er).
    Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healy, recommended by Amanda from Rhyme and Ribbons.
  • Read a book that has been on your TBR list for a year or more.
    Amity and Sorrow by Peggy Riley – I bought  this one at the beginning of June last year – so just over a year ago – and it’s still sitting on my bookshelf unread!
  • Read a novel with a kickass female character.
    Well, I wanted to read the third book in the Tomorrow series by John Marsden for this but I can’t find a single copy on Amazon Germany that can be delivered to Switzerland so I’ll have to have another think.
  • Read a book that is or will be a movie (or TV show)
    Captain Corelli’s Mandolin by Louis de Bernières.
  • Read a book written by a comedian or celebrity – or even a memoir if neither of those are your jam.
    Umm, maybe Bonkers: My Life in Laughs by Jennifer Saunders. Or I might read Stephen Fry’s novel The Liar – I’ve already read and enjoyed another novel by him. I’ll just have to see what I can get hold of here.
  • Read a novel with a one word title.
    Persuasion by Jane Austen seems to be the only book on my shelf with a one word title that I haven’t read yet.

  • Read a suspenseful book – a mystery, a thriller, a book about revenge!
    I hope I’ll be able to tread The Girl on the Train for this, but it depends whether I can get it cheaply.
  • Read a book about summer, with summer in the title, or in any way related to summer (because this is a Summer challenge after all!)
    I Know What You Did Last Summer by Lois Duncan. Not sure it’s quite what they had in mind for a summer book, but it fits the category 😉

There are no points for the different categories in this challenge. Basically you just read them all in the time given and you’re a winner. Awesome! You can link up here.

Summer 2015 reading challenge: month 1

It’s the 1st of June, which means it’s time for the first check in for the summer reading challenge. And guys, I came *this* close to finishing (picture me with my thumb and finger positioned mere millimetres apart). I’m currently reading my final book for the challenge. One out of twelve not completed in time! And there goes my chance of being one of the first five finishers – I mean, there are bound to be people who actually finished this month. Oh, woe is me, etc. Anyway, here are the books I actually did manage to read this month. Some you’ll have seen already if you’re a regular reader. I will apologise in advance because this post is going to be long. I’ll understand if you skip it!

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks (244 pages). I read this book on the train on a day that I actually had to go into work. Managed to finish it in a 2-hour train journey so it’s a fairly quick read. It also drew me on, leaving me wanting to find out what on Earth was going on. warning: it’s fairly graphic/disturbing and the main character is clearly a sociopath, which for some reason didn’t stop me from liking him?? My main reaction to the “twist” ending was “What the hell just happened?” It was shocking, but somehow felt like it was shocking purely for the sake of being shocking. I mean, what did the ending have to do with anything? Sorry, that’s probably confusing. You’ll have to read the book to find out what I’m on about though. No spoilers here! Anyway, 3 stars.

10 points: Read a book you have never heard of before.
The Bees by Laline Paull (343 pages). I went into the train station bookshop to see if there were any books that would fit into this category, spied a book called “The Bees”, realised it was about actual bees, as in the insect, and was instantly sold. This is the story of Flora 717, a bee born into the lowest class of the totalitarian hive society. However, Flora 717 is different to other bees of her kind. The book has been described as a sort of Watership Down but with bees, but I don’t entirely agree with that. Yes, it has animal (well, insect) protaganists, but Watership Down is a different kind of story to me. Anyway, I LOVED this book. Caps totally necessary there. I’m not even sure whether I actually liked the story or am just entirely biased because bees!! Either way, 5 stars.

10 points: Read a book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini (323 pages). Jan has been telling me I should read this book ever since he read it, which was a lot more than 2 years ago! For some reason, I never did get round to it despite hearing good things from other sources, so this category seemed like the perfect opportunity – especially since Jan owns the book and I didn’t have to spend more money. You can read my full review here, but basically I liked it well enough but didn’t love it the way everyone else seems to, was disturbed by a few scenes and hated the protagonist. 3 stars.

10 points: Read a book that won a Goodreads “Best Book” award in 2014.
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (225 pages) – won the Young Adult Fiction category. I chose this book for the simple reason that it cost less than Landline by Rainbow Rowell. To start with, this book felt like a pointless atory about a spoiled, rich teenager moaning about her petty, first-world problems. But then it somehow drew me in, mostly because it didn’t seem to make any sense and I was determined to figure out what was going on! Even after finishing it, I’m not entirely sure whether half the events really happened (other than the “main” one – I’m pretty sure that was real!). This probably has something to do with the protaganist being incredibly other dramatic and (in my opinion) not entirely sane. It was an okay book, but I’m not sure why it won the award. I’m sure there were much better YA novels released in 2014! 3 stars.

15 points: Read a book by an author who is completely new to you.
The Girl in the Photograph by Kate Riordan (438 pages). I had never heard of this book or it’s author until I spied it in the bookshop! Also,I found the title quite misleading – there is a point early on in the book where the sort-of main character (there are 2 stories each with their own protagonist) says to her mother “That’s the girl in the photograph”. However, the “girl” the story is about is not actually the one in that photograph! To be honest, I’m not sure which photograph is being referred to! Basically, this is the story of two people – Alice, who finds herself unmarried and pregnant in 1933 and is sent away to have the baby so there won’t be a scandal – and Elizabeth, the wife of a former owner of the house Alice is sent to, who nobody talks about. The blurb says of Elizabeth  that her “only trace remains in a few tantalizingly blurred photographs”, so maybe she is supposed to be the “girl”? The story was quite good and gave some interesting insights into attitudes towards mental illness and illigitimacy in past times. However, I felt like there wasn’t enough distinction between the two time periods – it was only the events and characters that made me realise I was currently reading Alice’s or Elizabeth’s story. Another three star read.

15 points: Read a book by an author you have read before. (No re-reads for this one.)
Tomorrow, When the War Began by John Marsden (276 pages). I bought So Much to Tell You by the same author from a second hand bookshop when I was about 14 or 15 – I think it cose me around 30p! Since then, I’ve read it at least once a year and cried every single time. I had heard the Tomorrow series is also good and bought the first in the series, but hadn’t read it until now. This book could also have worked for the “series with at least four books” category – there are seven! Which means I have another six books to go. In this first book, seven Australian teenagers go camping during the school holidays. When they return a week later, they find their houses empty and their pets starving. As I’m sure you can guess from the title, they quickly realise that their country has been invaded. Ellie (the narrator) and her friends face an impossible decision: they can flee to the mountains and try to survive or surrender. Or they can fight. Obviously they don’t choose the surrender option, otherwise there wouldn’t be much of  a story 😉 I really enjoyed this book. John Marsden somehow does an excellent job of getting inside the mind of a teenage girl and the dialogue between the characters always felt real. I even enjoyed the little romances that started to blossom between the teenagers – even though that’s something that tends to annoy me in YA distopian future novels (this is not a distopian future novel though, it’s a survivalist story set in the present, which at this stage is actually the past). My only minor criticism is that the book hasn’t aged too well – it’s set in the early 90’s (when it was written) and I’m not sure how well today’s teenagers will be able to relate to it. Examples of things that clearly date it: one character has a walkman and someone receives a fax. As I said, that’s a minor criticism though – John Marsden wasn’t to know that the future would contain MP3 players and smartphones! I thought this was a great introduction to the seires and gave it 5 stars. Can’t wait to see how it continues!

15 points: Read a book with “light” or “dark” in the title. (Or “lightness” or “darkness.”)
Light Shining in the Forest by Paul Torday (344 pages). This book could have fit into a few categories – it’s entirely new to me and I’d never heard of the author (although once I started reading I saw that he also wrote Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, which I at least knew was a film). However, the reaon I initially picked it up was because it had “light” in the title.  The story is that Norman Stokoe, who has spent his life climbing up through the ranks as a civil servant, is mad “Children’s Czar” and sent off to North-East England. Then two children go missing (there is also a third missing child who is important to the story, but he went missing before the book begins). Norman, who has spent his career being “strategic” rather than “operational” (i.e. doing as little as possible!), is forced to get involved when a campaigning journalist and distraught mother find out about his title and start pestering him. So, on the face of it it sounds like an interesting story. A bit of a mystery and a chance to address the issue of missing chlildren. I also found the North-East setting interesting – alot of it takes place in Kielder Forest, for example, it was nice to read about familiar places (also I am sick of all the British books I read being set in London!). The bit that lost me was the introduction of religious overtones and vague references to miracles/the second coming. Sorry if you consider that a spoiler but personally if I’d known about that before buying the book I wouldn’t have bothered! The author also breaks the cardinal rule of writing – so much telling instead of showing! And so many explanations! I know what “bait” and “bairn” mean, thank you very much – although I suppose that it was necessary for readers who aren’t familiar with the Northumbrian dialect. I did read the book to the end because I ended up caring about the children an wanted to know what happened to them, but I wouldn’t read it again. Two stars.

20 points: Read a book with the name of a city, state or country in the title.
The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez (375 pages). This is chicklit pure and simple, but it’s chicklit set in Afghanistan which at least makes it a little unusual. If you’re looking to get to know Taliban-conrolled Afghanistan and all the evils of war, this is not the book for you. But if you just want a quick beach read go ahead and pick it up. my full review is here. Three stars.

25 points: Read a book that is part of a series with at least four books.
The Testimony of the Hanged Man by Ann Granger (327 pages). I picked this book up because the title intrigued me, then I saw that it was the fifth book in a series. The shop didn’t have book one of said series, so I bought this one based on the blurb. The story is that Inspector Ben Ross is called to the police station late one night to hear the testimony of a man who is about to be hanged the next day. He reveals that he witnessed a murder 15 years ago. Inspector Ross is initially not allowed to investigate, but his wife, who has a talent for inofficial detection (so says the blurb) take a trip to Somerset House and then to Putney Heath, where they discover information that convinces them that a murder really did take place. by this time, the witness has been hanged, but Inspector Ross is finally allowed to investigate anyway. This book sounded so, so good. A perfect Victorian murder mystery – no modern-day technology to help, just good old-fashioned detection. And a Miss Marple type (only younger) to help things along. But (you knew there was a but, right?) somehow the story felt a bit… flat to me. There seemed to be something missing and it just didn’t draw me in. I probably won’t bother with the rest of the series. Disappointing. Three stars.

25 points: Read a book that is longer than 500 pages long. — Submitted by winter finisher Kristen from See You in a Porridge.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (606 pages). Thanks for that one, Kristen!! I was so confused by this book. Parts of it were good, parts of it were just weird and most of the time I had no idea what the protagonist was even doing! Obviously I’m not philosophically minded enough. Full review here, and three stars.
30 points: Read a book with an alliterative title. (All words in the title must begin with the same letter; no exceptions for articles or prepositions. Examples: Gone Girl or Nicholas Nickleby.)
Ghost Girl by Lesley Thomson (466 pages). This is the second book in a series, but the first didn’t work for the category (The Detective’s Daughter – stupid the!). It took me a while to get into this one, possibly because I didn’t know the characters already from the first book and found them confusing. I ended up getting really into it though. I especially enjoyed the parts that took place in the past and were written from the perspective of a young girl – the author did a really good job of getting into the mind of a child. I didn’t guess whodunnit either or figure out the relationship between two of the characters. Full review here. Four stars.

So, that’s 180 out of 200 points (grrr!). And now I have a month to finish reading The Life of Pi. If you actually made it this far, you deserve a medal!

The 2015 Summer Reading Challenge – preliminary list

Megan has put up the categories for her next reading challenge. It doesn’t actually start until 1st may, but I’m impatient so I felt compelled to make a preliminary list. All my books are in Switzerland already, so I had to pick them from memory… meaning this list will probably end up changing when I discover that the books I’ve picked don’t actually have enough pages 😉 It will do for a start though.

First, as always, the rules:

  • The challenge will run from May 1, 2015, to August 31, 2015. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on May 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on August 31 will count.
  • Each book must be at least 200 pages long. Audiobooks and large-print books are fine, as long as the regular print versions meets this length requirement.
  • 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.
  • 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 for the fun part: challenge categories!

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
Captain Correlli’s Mandolin by  Louis de Bernières. It’s on the BBC Big Read and I need to get back on track with that.

10 points: Read a book you have never heard of before. (Just go to a shelf and pick a book based on the cover, the title, whatever you want!)
Well, this category will obviously have to wait because if I put something I’ve added to my TBR pile it obviously will be something I’ve heard of before 😉

10 points: Read a book that has been on your TBR list for at least two years. (If you’ve had a Goodreads account for 2+ years, this will be easy to figure out. If you don’t, do your best to pick a book you’re pretty sure you’ve been wanting to read for years.)
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. I’m sure it’s been at least two years since Jan recommended this book to me. It’s been sitting on the shelf mocking me ever since, so now seems like a good time to read it.

10 points: Read a book that won a Goodreads “Best Book” award in 2014.
Not sure yet. I’ll have to take a close look at the list and see which book sounds interesting and is available cheaply.

15 points: Read a book by an author who is completely new to you.
I’ll have to find one first, so passing on this one for now as well
*Update* I popped into the train station bookshop to see if I could find anything for this category. It’s surprisingly difficult as their tiny English book section mostly contains popular authors, but I managed to find one, so my book for this category is The Bees by Laline Paull.

15 points: Read a book by an author you have read before. (No re-reads for this one.)
Different Seasons by Stephen King. I was going to read this one for the last challenge, but then I replaced it because I wasn’t 100% sure it fit the category. I still haven’t read it and it definitely fits here!

15 points: Read a book with “light” or “dark” in the title. (Or “lightness” or “darkness.”)
I don’t think I have anything on my shelves that will fit, so I’ll have to have a look…

20 points: Read a book with the name of a city, state or country in the title.
Not sure about this one either. I can’t think of any book I’ve been wanting to read that names a place in the title, but I might get lucky..
*Update* The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul by Deborah Rodriguez – I’d forgotten I had this one! I was hoping to read it for the last challenge, but coffee wasn’t allowed to count as a food. Kabul is 1005 a city, though, so now I can actually read this book 😉

20 points: Read a book with an animal on the cover.
The Life of Pie by Yann Martel. At least I hope it does! I can’t see my copy right now, but it should have a picture of a tiger on the cover.

25 points: Read a book that is part of a series with at least four books.
Ooh, difficult! I think it will end up being something from a crime series – they always have loads! Maybe the new Flavia de Luce book, if I can get hold of it?

25 points: Read a book that is longer than 500 pages long. — Submitted by winter finisher Kristen from See You in a Porridge.
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami. I can’t currently check how many pages this had, but I know it’s long (which is why I haven’t read it yet – too big for my handbag) so I’m hoping it will work for this category!

30 points: Read a book with an alliterative title. (All words in the title must begin with the same letter; no exceptions for articles or prepositions. Examples: Gone Girl or Nicholas Nickleby. Yes, this is tough, which is why it’s worth the most points!)
She’s not wrong about this being tough! Most of the alliterative titles I can think of are aimed at 2-3 year olds so are obviously not 200 pages long. I’ll have a think… (Actually, I’m wondering whether Nicholas Nickleby is among the books my grandma bought Jan? I have a feeling David Copperfield is the only Dickens though).

Well, that’s five seven books so far. I don’t think I can force any of the other books I have waiting to be read into a category so I’ll have to go on a hunt. If you want to join in you can link up your provisional list or get inspiration from other people’s lists here.

2014 Winter Reading Challenge – month 2

I’m a day late with my check-in post because I’ve only just got back from Zurich. Another month of the winter reading challenge is over and I still haven’t completed it… mainly because I was waiting for my final book to arrive. I found it in my mailbox when I arrived home today though, so I’ll be done soon. On the meantime, here are the categories I managed to complete this month.

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that fits the general rules.
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley – This is the sixth book in the Flavia de Luce series and so far I’ve loved them all. In some ways, this book felt like a filler, or a kind of bridge between past events and what’s to come. There seemed to be less happening than in previous books in the series. But I love Flavia so I gave it five stars anyway. My full review is here.

15 points: Read a book that was originally written in a language that is not your native language.
Die Nacht des Zorns by Fred Vargas (original French title: L’armée furieuse) – My boss gave me this book for my birthday in August so it was about time I read it! It’s a crime novel, but the quirky characters make it different to your usual crime/thriller. I guessed the twist before I got to the end, but I still enjoyed the story and will probably pick up another book in the series at some point. I gave this one four stars out of five. You can read my full review here.

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).
Liebesfluch by Beatrix Gurian – I tried to read a book by a Karlsruhe author for this one, but when it turned out the one I had chosen only had 190 pages and I failed to find another one that interested me, I had to widen my search to all of Germany. Beatrix Gurian is the pen name of Beatrix Mannel, who was born in Darmstadt and now lives in Munich. Liebesfluch is a young-adult thriller novel. Sixteen-year-old Blue is overjoyed when she gets job as an Au pair in Germany. Okay, the Odenwald isn’t as exciting as her home city Las Vegas, but the twins are adorable and she’s excited to explore the village her grandmother came from. When she makes friends with Ju and Felix life seems perfect. But appearances can be deceiving and soon not only Blue but the twins lives are at risk…
This was another book that I really enjoyed. Each chapter started with an extract from a letter… but it wasn’t clear until the very end who the letter was from – or indeed to. Every time I thought I knew what was going on, the author managed to lead me in the wrong direction, but in the end everything did make sense. I also liked that the book was written mostly from the Au pair’s perspective – as a foreigner in Germany it was interesting to see things through similar eyes (although Blue is obviously much younger than me and I’ve never been an Au pair). Some parts were slightly less believable than others but overall the author did a good job. 4 stars.

That makes 35 points for this month. Added to last month’s 140, that gives me a total of 175 so far with one more category to go: “read a book from a genre you don’t usually read”, which is worth 25 points.

2014 Winter Reading Challenge – Month 1

It’s the first day of December today (how did that happen?!), which means it’s also time for the first monthly check in for the Semi-Charmed 2014 Winter Reading Challenge. You’ve probably already noticed that I’ve reviewd a few of the books I’ve read, but this post is the place for a roundup of the categories I’ve completed so far. And points, of course. Points are important!

10 points: Read a book written by an author who has published at least 10 books.
Coastliners by Joanne Harris – Joanne Harris has written 16 novels (plus 3 cookbooks). I always enjoy her novels, so I knew I would like this on as well. It’s not as good as The Lollipop Shoes or Blue-eyed Boy though, so I’m giving it 4 stars.

10 points: Read a book of short stories
St. Lucy’s Home for for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell – I was originally going to read Different Seasons by Stephen King for this, but I was worried a book of four novellas might not quite count as short stories, so I chose this one instead. All the stories in this book are set on the same strange island, and all are surreal/not quite normal. I really enjoyed some of the stories, a few just confused me – it seemed like they ended too soon. 4 stars, because the good ones were really, really good but I can’t justify giving 5 for stars when a few of the stories bored me.

10 points: Read a book with a food in the title
The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier – I’ve already written a full review of this one, so I won’t say too much here. it’s shocking and disturbing and well worth a read – not only for the teens it’s aimed at. 5 stars (rounded up from 4.5).

15 points: Read the first book in a series that is new to you.
The Various by Steve Augarde – I’ve already reviewed this one as well. It’s basically a children’s fantasy adventure along the lines of Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood/Faraway Tree series, but more modern and much better written. A full 5 stars for this one – I LOVED it!

20 points: Read a “bookish book” (in which books play an important role).
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Schaffer and Annie Barrows – Hey… it looks like I’ve already written a review for this one, too. I’m on a role here! Another book that I really enjoyed… 5 stars.

20 points: Read a book with a direction in the title.
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea – Ah, no review for this one yet 😉 This is the story of nineteen year-old Nayeli who works at the taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to “the beautiful North” – the United States – to find work. When it dawns on her that almost all the men have left, Nayeli decides to go North herself and recruit some men who are willing to come back to the village with her. I found this story really interesting, mostly because I know nothing about Mexico and life there. It was also interesting to read about crossing the border (illegally) from the perspective of the person trying to cross. Some parts of the story were a bit far-fetched and my Spanish unfortunately isn’t good enough to understand all the Spanish interjections that cropped up (and not all of them were explained!), but overall this was a pretty good read. 4 stars.

25 points: Read a book with a song lyric in the title.
A Room with a View by E.M. Forster – Part 1 of this book is the story of Lucy Honeychurch, a young English woman visiting Italy for the first time with her older cousin as chaperone. While out there, she meets two young men, one totally unsuitable for her and one who she has been acquainted with for years. In part two, she gets engaged to one of the two men, but then has to decide which of the two to actually marry. I had mixed feelings about this book. I found the first half of the book fairly boring (with one or two more interesting moments), and half the time I wanted to slap Lucy (the main character), but then in the second half things picked up and towards the end I really enjoyed reading this. By the way, if you pick up the version of this book with a foreword/description of the novel, do not read it! The one in my copy contained a major spoiler for the plot. I’m giving this one 3 stars.

30 points: Read two books with a different meal in each title
The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams – You can read my full review here, but basically there are Norse gods, exploding check-in desks and a strangely intelligent eagle… what’s not to love? Five stars for this one.
Lunch Money by Andrew Clements – I mostly found this book boring, although it did have some funny moments.Admittedly it is a children’s book, and 10-12 year olds might like it, but it was not to my personal taste. My full (although not much longer than this) review is here. Three stars.

And that’s all I’ve read so far. If I’ve calculated correctly, that leaves me on 140 points so far. It would have been more, but the book I read for my local author turned out to only have 190 pages so it’s back to the drawing board with that one!

Finally, here’s the song that the lyric “a room with a view” was taken from. It’s by Danish singer Tina Dico and bears the same name (I hope this works…).