Summer Reading Challenge Month 2

Well, I will definitely not be getting to pick a category for Megan’s next reading challenge since 5 people have already finished and I’m lagging behind. One month to go! Can I do it?

For now, here’s the progress I made in July:

challenge-books

10 points: Read an adult fiction book written by an author who normally writes books for children.

I read Telling Liddy by Anne Fine, who has written many children’s books, the best known of which is probably Madame Doubtfire (filmed as Mrs Doubtfire). Telling Liddy is the story of four sisters. The titular Liddy has a new boyfriend and when one of the other sisters hears a rumour about him, they have to decide whether to tell Liddy. One sister thinks they should, the other 2 agree but then when Liddy gets mad act like they never wanted to tell her, leading to the sister who thought they should tell being blamed for everything and ostracised. Anne Fine is an excellent writer, but this book just didn’t do it for me. It was kind of odd and I didn’t care about any of the sisters. The whole family dynamic was just weird to me. I only gave this one 2 stars – I think I’ll stick to her children’s books in future!

15 points: Read a book set in Appalachia.

I read The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison-Allen. This list says it’s set in Appalachia and it had already been on my to-read list for a while. I liked this book. It was cute and comforting – a bit like the literary equivalent of comfort food. Not a masterpiece, but a nice little read. Garden Spells is better though, so if you haven’t read this author before I would go for that one. I gave The Peach Keeper four stars based on my enjoyment of it rather than any particular literary merit.

15 points: Don’t judge a book by its cover! Read a book with a cover you personally find unappealing.The_Magus

Ah, this was the book I was struggling with last month! I read The Magus by by John Fowles for this. The first part of the book draaagged. It was so full of “clever” observations and unnecessary convoluted descriptions. About half way through it started to pick up a bit and I actually enjoyed the middle part. Then the ending was really confusing. Overall, the book left me feeling like I wasn’t not clever/intellectual enough to be reading it. Three stars because I liked it more than I thought I would. I won’t read it again though! (Picture included so you can see the cover I didn’t like).

25 points: Read a book with a punny title.

I read Faust Among Equals by Tom Holt for this one, the original phrase of course being “first among equals”. Apparently this is a sort of sequel to Faust, but you can read it without having read Faust (I haven’t!). This book was quite funny/clever in some places, but the humour often seemed forced or too much, like the author was trying really, really hard to be “punny”. The writing style reminded me of Douglas Adams, but not as good. It was a quick read though and I quite enjoyed it. Four stars.

40 points: Read two books that contain the same word in the title, but once in the singular and once in the plural.

I read Secrets by Jacqueline Wilson for my plural word and The Secret History by Donna Tartt for my singular word. Both are on the BBC Big Read list.

Secrets was okay, but it is very much a children’s book. There are obviously children’s books that adults can enjoy (even by this author!), but this one doesn’t fall into the category for me. I can see why a ten year old girl would like it though. I gave it three stars.

The Secret History was not what I was expecting! I’m not sure what I was expecting though. I bought it without reading the description purely to cross another book off the BBC Big Read. Turns it it’s a sort of murder mystery in reverse – we know who committed murder; the book explains the why. I really enjoyed this one, even though it was just as full of Greek references as The Magus. The difference is this one didn’t seem to be looking down on my non-Greek-speaking self. Five stars!

So that’s 105 points gained this month. Added to my 30 from last month gives me a total of 135. Four categories worth a total of 65 points to go. I’m actually part way through books for two categories, so hopefully I’ll complete the challenge in August.

I also read some books for Book Challenge by Erin 5.0, but that will get its own post.

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.

Ten fictional characters I would like to meet

Terry Pratchett booksAs a kind of follow up to last week’s list of ten fictional places I wish I could go, I thought it would be fun to also list some of the fictional characters I would love to meet. Notice that I didn’t say top ten! That would be an impossible challenge. Also, this list is in no order other than the order that they came into my head.

  1. Death from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
    Actually, there are many Discworld characters I would like to meet, but Death is definitely right up at the top! I would like to go to his realm (a place that I sadly didn’t have room for on the other list), pat Binkie then sit down and have a long conversation with Death himself. Hopefully he would also bring Death of Rats with him.
  2. Raistlin and Caramon Majere from the Dragonlance series
    Okay, I’m cheating a little here, but the twins really are two halves of a whole and to understand either of them you would have to meet both. And I still believe deep in my heart that Raistlin was never really evil. He just had to go to the darkside for the sake of balance.
  3. Aslan from the Narnia series
    Well, obviously I would like to meet all the talking animals, but Asland tops the list! I would bury my hands in his fur and give him a massive hug. And maybe I would even be lucky enough to get to ride him.
  4. Lucy from the Narnia series
    Sticking with a theme for the moment, of all the children who featured in the Narnia series, Lucy was always my favourite. Despite being the youngest, she was always brave and she was open-minded from the start (unlike her brothers and sister who didn’t believe her at first!)
  5. Katy from What Katy Did
    I think I would like to meet her before she had her accident and became so sickingly good 😉 But seriously, throughout the entire book (and the two follow ups) she always means well, even before she learns to control her temper. I would like to sit and plan a Christmas celebration with her and help her write poems for all the members of the family.
  6. The BFG from the book of the same name
    He would take me dream catching and we would drink Frobscottle together, then go whizzpopping around. I don’t think I would like to try Snozzcumer though. Bleurgh!
  7. Marina from So Much To Tell You by John Marsden
    I would just want to hug her and tell her everything is going to be okay, except I know she wold hate that, so I would be like Cathy and just be kind to her in subtle ways while trying not to scare her away.
  8. Ellie from the Tomorrow series by John Marsden
    Actually, I want to meet all of ellie’s group of friends, but as the narrator Ellie is the one I feel like I know best. I want to tell her how absolutely amazing she is – and also maybe learn some survival skills from her.
  9. Sherlock Holmes
    I want him to do his deduction thing on me! I wonder what he would come up with? Then, once he had told me everything I never knew about myself, we would settle down and he would tell me about some of his cases that Watson never got round to writing up.
  10. Paddington Bear
    He’s my favourite fictional bear – I love him even more than Winnie the Pooh! We would get up to all sorts of mischief together and I would provide him with all the marmelade sandwiches he wanted.

And, of course, a million and one other characters who I didn’t have room for. I didn’t even manage to include any from films, TV series or or anything! So I feel compelled to give honorary mention shout-outs to Cecil Gershwin Palmer from Welcome to Night Vale (could we maybe transport him here so I don’t end up being killed off along with the interns in Night Vale?) doctors Mark Greene and Abbey Lockheart from E.R. and The Metatron from Dogma.

Which fictional characters would you like to meet? Let me know in the comments, or write your own blog post!

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 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…).

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!

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.

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…

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!

Summer Reading Challenge: Month 2

BooksI am going to start telling you all about Vienna soon, but right now it’s the start of a new month and time to check in with the Summer 2014 Book Challenge over at Semi-Charmed Kind of Life. I’ve been useless at writing reviews recently, but I have been reading and I’ve managed to complete another four categories of the challenge.

As a reminder, here is my check-in post from last month: The Summer Reading Challenge: Month 1 when I completed 5 categories for 90 points.
And now here’s what I read in June 2014:

5 points: Freebie! Read any book that is at least 200 pages long.
The Night She Disappeared by April Henry– 229 pages. I have no idea how I came across this book, but I’m glad I did. I do want to write a proper review on it, so I won’t say too much here, but basically it’s a young adult mystery/thriller/crime novel. Having swapped shifts with co-worker Gabie, Kayla goes out to deliver a pizza and never comes back. When Gabie finds out that the caller originally asked for her, she’s plagued with guilt and, convinced Kayla is still alive, becomes determined to find her. I really enjoyed this book and though April Henry did an excellent job of getting inside the teenage characters’ minds. The various emotions they went through (guilt, fear, etc.) all rang true. You even got the occasional glimpse into the kidnapper’s thoughts, which was pretty creepy. This was a short read, but a good one. I’m just sorry it wasn’t around when I was a teenager! 5 stars (rating books is difficult! I really want to give it 4.5, so I’m rounding it up…).

15 points: Read a book that is on The New York Times’ Best Sellers List.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – 313 pages. I had to change my book for this category because the one I had originally intended to read was no longer on the best seller’s list by the time I got round to it. The Fault in Our Stars in at number 1 in “Young Adult”. I’m just assuming any category of the best seller list counts to get the points! And now, to the book…

The way everyone’s been raving about it, I expected to love this book, but I’m afraid I didn’t. I liked it, I read it all in one sitting and, of course, I cried…. but nowhere near as much as I was expecting to. I cried a lot more at P.S. I Love You! I did like Hazel. She was occasionally mean, argued with her parents, and you could feel her desire to be a normal teenager shining through. Gus, on the other hand, was way too perfect. Always knowing exactly what to do and say in every situation. He just didn’t feel real to me, and I couldn’t identify with him (okay, I’ve never had cancer, but I have been a teenager and I have been in love… I should have been able to relate to him on some level). It’s still a good book, but despite what everyone else thinks I’m afraid, for me, it just isn’t a great book. 3 stars.

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, so I was really excited to read this book. Sadly I ended up being very, very disappointed. I am planning to write a full review of this one at some point so I won’t say much here, but let’s just say it wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I wanted to get an insight into Chinese history and customs (as I had from the other book), instead I got a few glimpses into Chinese culture but mostly a weird teen love story.  2 stars for this one.

15 points: Read a book another blogger has read for the challenge.
Bedknobs and Broomsticks by Mary Norton – 189 pages. There were a few books other partcipants had read that I found interesting, so I decided to order a few and see which arrived first… this one was the winner. The copy I read was actually a compilation of two books: The Magic Bedknob and Bonfires and Broomsticks. The first omnibus edition (released in 1967) was called Bed-Knob and Broomstick, but I got the newer copy which was named after the Disney Film. Before I saw this title on the first check on for the challenge, I had no idea that the Disney film was based on a book… let alone one by the author of The Borrowers, one of my childhood favourites! I got very excited and had to order a copy straight away. The book is actually completely different to the film, and this is one of very few instances where I actually liked the film better (although it’s an unfair comparison because the only things the film seems to have taken from the book are the idea of three children meeting a witch and getting an enchanted bedknob that then causes their bed to fly). The war effort is a big theme in the film, whereas it isn’t even mentioned in the book. The children do wonder at one point whether it would be fair to use magic in wartime, and Carey (the eldest) has the idea that magic could be used to help with the war, but is promptly shushed with a warning about everything that could go wrong (“imagine if all the soldiers were turned to white mice!”). Generally, the book is a bit of a mixed bag. There are some good parts, but the first book seems to end rather suddenly before it really gets going. I would have liked one more adventure! It is a children’s book though, so maybe the author was thinking of short attention spans. There’s more action in the second book, and a bit of a gentle history lesson 😉 Overall, this a fun little read with some interesting characters (I liked everyone but Charles, the middle child, who was boring and a bit flat – probably because his sister and brother got all the good lines – Paul was the only one who could work the magic bedknob and Carey makes all the decisions and isn’t afraid to stand up to the adults in the book). I think I would have liked it better if I’d actually read it as a child though… the “scary bits” just aren’t as scary when you’re in your 30s! Also, this book was published before The Borrowers (1943/1945 for the Bedknobs books vs. 1952 for The Borrowers) and I would venture to say that Mary Norton’s writing improved somewhat in that time. From what I remember, The Borrower’s was better written. I’ll still give this one 4 stars though. If you’re interested, here’s the review by the blogger who inspired me to read this book (click on the purple writing).

So, that’s 50 points for month two of the challenge. Added to last month’s 90, that makes a total of 140 points. I still have 3 categories to complete: A book I failed to finish the first time I read it, a book by a blogger (I’m waiting for this one to arrive) and a biography/autobiography/memoir (I’m almost finished!).