Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Book Challenge complete!

Hi all! I hope you all had wonderful holidays (whether you celebrate Christmas or not) and made it to the new year healthy and happy!

For my first post of 2017, I am checking in for the Semi-Charmed Winter 2016 Reading Challenge, which I completed yesterday, managing to finish my final book while waiting for a delayed flight. Here’s what I read since the last time I checked in:

books2016

20 points: Read a modern retelling of a classic.

I read Splintered by A. G. Howard, with the classic being Alice in Wonderland. This book is kind of a mixture of sequel to Alice in Wonderland (the main character is a descendant of Alice who goes back to Wonderland) and a retelling of the original (the story discusses the original book as if it were real and C.S. Lewis had just misunderstood/got things wrong, and so retells the story as it “really” happened in this particular world). I thought this book was just okay. The discussion of mental illness was awful – for a supposedly modern-day story the treatment seemed very old-fashioned and harsh. The love triangle was unnecessary, Morpheus was such a caricature  of “bad guy” that I couldn’t take him seriously most of the time and Jeb annoyed me from the very start. But the actual writing was good and the reinterpretation of Wonderland was imaginative and interesting. I gave this one 3 stars.

30 points: Read a book with a character that shares your first or last name.

Thanks to fellow blogger Jamie I was actually able to find something for this! I read Enchanted August by Brenda Bowen. Interestingly, the character named “Beverly” (not my spelling, but oh well) is actually male in this book, which Beverley was before someone, somewhere decided it sounded more feminine. This was a quick read and nothing particularly special. I liked the descriptions of the scenery on the island and the changing relationships between the four main characters. The storyline with the two husbands annoyed me though – both couples had been having problems, but the minute the husbands appeared on the island all the wives wanted to do was have sex and forget anything else had ever happened. Uhh, no! Apparently this is a modern retelling of The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Armin (which I had never heard of!) so I may give that one a go. Enchanted August gets 3 stars from me.

30 points: Read two books: a nonfiction book and a fiction book with which it connects.

I had started reading The Once and Future King for this, but I realised that will be one I need to pick up and put down a lot over a longer period of time so I changed my mind. Instead I read The Asylum by John Harwood (fiction) and Bedlam: London and Its Mad by Catharine Arnold (non-fiction). The connection is asylums, or mental illness, or treatment of mental illness in Victorian times. You pick!

I really enjoyed The Asylum. It’s a little sensationalist maybe and there are a lot of events crammed in at the end with lots of complicated links between characters and weird coincidences. But while reading it I had no problem with suspending my belief and taking all the action at face value. Despite the subject matter (person incorrectly imprisoned in an asylum), it’s a surprisingly fun read and I got through it pretty quickly. 4 stars.

Bedlam had some interesting information and provides a starting point for people who want to know about Victorian treatment of mental illness and the history of asylums, but overall I felt like the author had tried to fit too much subject matter into a short book. Just as I started to get interested in something that topic was finished with and it was on to the next one. Particularly the final case studies and discussion of madness in literature section felt rushed and incomplete. 3 stars.

And that’s it. Done! Erin’s latest book challenge started on 1 January so I will be moving on to that now, starting with The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas.

Oh, and speaking of reading challenges, I’ve set my Goodreads goal for this year as 78.

What reading goals have you set yourself for 2017? Will you be taking part in any challenges?

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?

 

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 – complete

I actually did it! I finished Erin’s book challenge.

At the end of last month, I had read five out of ten books. This month I didn’t have any Shoguns to read so I got through the final five relatively quickly. Here’s what I read in October:

challenge-books

5 Points: Freebie

I was originally going to read Outlander by Diana Gabbaldon, but I ended up changing it (sorry Erin!). I just couldn’t face historical fiction right now after the epic that was Shogun! Instead I read Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, which was mysterious and magical and somehow very English (with its bluebells and woods and a cup of tea for any and all problems). The continuous switching of viewpoints without warning was annoying though, so I gave it 3.5 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Barbara A. Wild; she’s a twin and is a mother to twins.) Read a book with twins as characters.

The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy is beautifully written and very readable, but very, very dark and also very confusing. I felt like I didn’t really “get” it the way I was supposed to, so while I liked it well enough I only gave it 3 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Christina Mapes) Read a book from the following list of books made into movies: http://www.popsugar.com.au/…/Books-Being-Adapted-Movies-327…

I read Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. It was much easier to read than a lot of classics and I powered my way through it in two days (thank you two-hour train journey!). Jan had already warned me that Victor Frankenstein spent most of the time whining , so I was at least prepared for that, but Captain Walton was just as bad. Ohhh, poor little me, I have no friend to love me and sympathise with me. And then I finally found a friend but he’s been through so much and I can’t persuade him not to want to die. Ohhh.. woe is meeee! Even the damn creature was whiny on the few occasions we actually got to hear from him – admittedly he had a good reason for it, but still, So. Much. Whining. Plus, whatever else this book may be, it isn’t horror! I enjoyed it though, despite all that, and gave it 4 stars. Also, I’m impressed that Mary Shelley was only 19 when she wrote it. I wanted to be an author at 19, but the drivel I produced doesn’t bare thinking about!

30 points: (Submitted by Ericka Blankenship) Read a music related book.

I read I Am Ozzy by Ozzy Osbourne and really, really enjoyed it. Some of it I knew already from watching documentaries about Black Sabbath/Ozzy, but a lot was new. Somehow Ozzy seems very down to earth despite his fame. And credit has to go to Chris Ayres for turning Ozzy’s drug-addled memories into something coherent, readable and compelling. 4 stars – not perfect but really good!

35 points: (Submitted by Ferne Merrylees) Read a book originally published over 100 years ago.

Kim by Rudyard Kipling is surprisingly readable despite the fact that I felt like I was missing something. The language was really hard to understand at first, but it gradually got easier. 4 stars.

I certainly read a range of books for this challenge, and with The Diary of a Nobody, Artemis Fowl, The God of Small Things, Frankenstein, Shogun, The Clan of the Cave Bear and Kim I managed to make quite a dent in the BBC Big Read as well! And now I have a few days to read whatever I want before Megan‘s next challenge starts.

Previous check in posts for this challenge are here, here and here.

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0 Month 1

Yes, two posts in one day… and both are about books. Sorry! If book reviews aren’t your thing go and guess what I’m stitching instead.

So, you may remember that I was taking part in two book challenges in July. I’ve already checked in for month 2 of Megan’s summer reading challenge, now I want to tell you about month 1 of Erin‘s challenge. My preliminary list was here in case you want a reminder of the categories.

I only managed to read two books for this challenge during July, one of which was on my original list. Here’s what I read:

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “R”.

I accidentally changed the book I planned to read for this category (ahem. Sorry Erin!). What do you mean, “accidentally”? I hear you ask. Welll… after all the heavy/long books I’d read for the summer reading challenge, I felt the need to read something slightly easier. Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell had been waiting patiently on my shelf for over a month so I picked it up, read it, and only realised when I got to the end that the title starts with an R! Since I haven’t got round to tracking down my original choice yet I decided to use this one for the challenge.

This book is beautiful somehow magical – but without actually involving any magic. My only problem with it was the ending, which seemed a bit abrupt. Things were moving along nicely, pace picking up then suddenly I’d reached the last line and it was just… over. I gave it 4 stars for that reason (although it’s really more like 4.5).

15 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) blue cover.

ArtemisYou may remember (or have just read) that I was hoping to read Artemis Fowl by Eion Colfer for this category, providing the copy I had ordered actually turned out to have a mostly blue cover. Well, as you can see from the picture, it did.

This book was okay. It was fairly entertaining and a quick read. I think this particular one would appeal mostly to young boys (how many jokes can you make about flatulence?!) but it’s well written and the characters are mostly believable (as much as fantasy creatures can be believable anyway ;-)). I gave it three stars on Goodreads. I probably won’t go out of my way to read the rest of the series, but if book two happened to fall into my hands I would give it a chance.

That makes 25 points, which isn’t much but not bad considering all the reading I was doing for the other challenge. Bring on month 2!

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.

Summer Reading Challenge Month 1 + Read My Books

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

So, checking in for the #SCSBC16:

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

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

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

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

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

Amity & Sorrow by Peggy Riley

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

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

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

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

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

Book Challenge by Erin 5.0

books

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summer Book Challenge 2016 preliminary list

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

As usual, we start with the rules:

General rules:

  • The challenge will run from June 1, 2016, to August 31, 2016. No books that are started before 12 a.m. on June 1 or finished after 11:59 p.m. on August 31 will count.
  • Each book must be at least 150 pages long. Audiobooks and large-print books are fine, as long as the regular print version meets the length requirement.
  • A book can only be used for one category, and each category can only be completed once.
  • The highest possible total is 200 points, and the first five people who finish the challenge will be invited to contribute a category for the winter 2016 challenge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winter Reading Challenge – final check in

The 2015 winter reading challenge ended last night, so it’s time for my final check in. Aaand… I actually managed to complete it! I finished reading my final book on 24 January, So here are the books I read for the last few categories:

10 points: Read a book that someone else has already used for the challenge. Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery (read by Emma from Ever Emma). I read Anne of Green Gables years ago, but never got round to reading any of the other in the series, although I’ve wanted to for a while. So when I saw that Emma had mentioned this in her check in, I decided to take the opportunity. Nothing much really happens in this book, but I enjoyed it anyway. I love Anne and her imagination. I gave it 4 stars.

30 points: Read a nonfiction book and a fiction book about the same subject. Megan said she would be fairly lenient with this category, so I’m hoping my “subject” counts.

Non-fiction book: Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine by Anna Reid. Long-term readers may know that my grandad was Ukrainian. A few years ago, I decided I wanted to learn more about his country, but barely any books came up when I searched Amazon. Then the whole Russia taking back Crimea thing happened and suddenly there were loads of books! This one was actually originally written in the 90s (so why didn’t it show up before?!), but has been updated to include everything up to 2014. I thought it was a good introduction to the history of Ukraine for those who know zero about it (which, much to my shame, includes me!). I also liked that the author was actually there and included a lot of personal anecdotes – I just can’t get on with history books that are all about facts! I gave this one 4 stars.

Fiction book: Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov. This is a weird book about a Ukrainian writer/journalist who lives in Kiev with his pet penguin. When the book begins, he’s struggling to find work, but then a local paper recruits him to write obituaries… for people who are still alive (so the newspaper has then on hand instantly when they actually do croak). When the subjects of his obituaries start to die, thing begin to get really strange… I actually enjoyed this book, weird as it was. There’s just something about it that makes it fun. And I loved Misha the penguin. 4 stars.

The subject, in case it wasn’t obvious, is Ukraine.

So, that’s that. Now I shall read whatever I want until it’s time for the summer reading challenge.