Book Challenge by Erin 6.0: Bonus round

I know, I know… you were hoping for a break from book challenge posts now that I completed Erin’s challenge within a month. Unfortunately for you, there’s a bonus round, and I’m here to share my preliminary list. I do have some travel posts planned as well (need to tell you about New Year!) and I promise they will be coming soon, but for now it’s back to books.

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The categories are the same as for the initial round, but you get an extra 5 points per category this time. Here are my picks. I’m fairly sure I won’t get through them all again, but it’s worth a try.

10 points: Freebie – I’ve already started reading American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis, so that’s my freebie. Apart from being generally disturbing (which I was expecting), it’s full of references to Donald Trump. What’s that all about? I’d never even heard of Donald Trump in 1991, which is when this book came out. Although to be fair I was only 7/8 in 1991 and hadn’t heard of most people 😉

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “W” – I have two choices for this. Either Where She Went by Gayle Forman (sequel to If I Stay) or We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa DIffenbaugh.

15 points: Read a book with six words in the title – I’m trying to read books that are already on my shelves this time round, so my choices seem to be Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (which the lovely Kerri sent me) or All the Truth That’s in Me by Julie Berry.

20 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) green coverThe Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson is the only green book on my shelves.

25 points: Read a book with a homonym in the titleThe Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. Homonym is obviously tale/tail. Imagine a book called “The Handmaid’s Tail”? I would definitely read that!

25 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author – As I said last time, I don’t have a favourite author! And a good job too, otherwise I would have to read another book by Tana French and I’ve read all hers now. This time round I’m choosing Stephen King, who is definitely up in my top 5, and tentatively saying I’ll read The Stand. No promises though – much as I love King’s writing, this book is long!

30 points: (Submitted by Christina) Read a book set in the city/town/state/territory/county/province where you live – Hahaha, this is just hilarious. I couldn’t even find a book set in Basel the first time round! I’m going with just Switzerland again as the closest I can get and plan to read Banner in the Sky by James Ramsy Ullman. It sounds ridiculously cheesy, but what can ya do? I hope it will at least be a quick read.

35 points: (Submitted by Peggy) Read a “Rory Gilmore” book – Again, I have two choices. Either The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco or Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. neither sounds like a particularly easy read though.

35 points: (Submitted by Stef) Read a book from a genre that you’ve never read (or rarely read)The Day of the Jackal is a spy thriller, apparently. Since I didn’t even know that was a genre, I think it’s safe to say I rarely read books from it 😉

40 points: (Submitted by Ferne) Read a book with time travel – Maybe I’ll finally get round to reading Outlander? A second option is The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North.

And that’s it for this round. Have you read any of these? Any suggestions for what to read once I’m done with American Psycho?

 

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Book Challenge By Erin 6.0: Complete

I woke up early this morning and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to make the most of my time and read the last remaining book I needed to complete Erin‘s latest reading challenge. My preliminary list was here, for those who are interested. I did end up changing my picks for one or two categories…

challenge-books

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages.

The Disappearance by Annabel Kantaria (382 pages). I guessed most of the twists in this one before the end, well kind of at least… one event didn’t go down exactly as I thought it had. Parts of the story felt vaguely familiar as well, which spoiled my enjoyment a bit. I ended up giving this one 3 stars.

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

Without a Trace by Lesley Pearse (406 pages) – which I forgot to include on the photograph with the others. I quite enjoyed this, although it wasn’t as good as other books I’ve read by the same author. Everything seemed to come out too well in the end. It was an intriguing mystery though. 4 stars.

10 points: Read a book with six words in the title.

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez (434 pages). I’m not sure I’d call what I was reading about here “love”… obsession maybe? And – trying not to give too much away – there was one extremely disturbing aspect of the storyline. The writing was good though. 4 stars.

green-book

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

I was stuck on this one, but then the lovely Alison who blogs at View from the Teapot sent me a green book – The Conjuror’s Bird by Martin Davies (305 pages). Part love story, part mystery, part historical fiction, this is not a book I would have picked up myself but it turned out to be really enjoyable. My only complaint is that there were three stories within the book and I felt like none of them got the attention they deserved in such a short book. 4 stars. Photo to the left to prove it’s green 😉

20 points: Read a book with a homonym in the title.

The Secret by the Lake by Louise Douglas (410 pages), with the homonym being by (buy/bye). I really wanted to enjoy this book. It was spooky and atmospheric with a family tragedy and a mystery from the past… but somehow it didn’t really suck me in. I got through it quickly enough but ended up feeling unsatisfied. And I guessed one of the big things that was going on way before the end. A rather meh 3 stars.

20 points: (Submitted by Linda) Read a book by your favourite author.

I don’t have a favourite author (although I might say Terry Pratchett if absolutely forced to choose), so I read a book by one of the authors I can’t get enough of: The Trespasser by Tana French (468 pages). I have enjoyed all of her books, although the first one disappointed me slightly, and each one seems to get that little bit better. I LOVED this one and gave it 5 stars.

25 points: (Submitted by Christina) Read a book set in the city/town/state/territory/county/province where you live.

Yeah, it doesn’t say country anywhere here, but I’m hoping Erin will let this count anyway. I did find one book that was set in Basel but it turned out not to be long enough, so I read And Both Were Young by Madeleine L’Engle (238 pages). It is set in Switzerland, but in the French-speaking part, somewhere near Lake Geneva. It’s a boarding school book, and I do love a good boarding school book (I’m still trying to collect all the Chalet School books!). This one is quite a sweet one and has all the “traditional” ingredients – awkward or unlikeable girl realises things aren’t so bad and manages to make friends. It takes place just after World War 2 and I felt like the events of the war were glossed over a bit, despite being a major plot point, which is why I only gave it 4 stars.

30 points: (Submitted by Peggy) Read a “Rory Gilmore” book.

I read High Fidelity by Nick Hornby (245 pages) just this morning. It was a quick and fairly easy read, full of fun pop culture references (I’m sure you all know the story). However… and pay attention to this  next bit because I doubt I will ever say/type it again… the film was better! Something about the story just seemed to work better on the screen… Only 3 stars for this one.

30 points: (Submitted by Stef Read a book from a genre that you’ve never read (or rarely read.)

The Cruel Sea by Nicholas Monsarrat (444 pages) is a war story and I really don’t like war stories… usually. This one surprised me by actually being quite readable! It’s basically a story of the British navy’s part in World War 2, focusing on a particular ship that had the job of escorting non-navy ships to their destinations. 4 stars.

35 points: (Submitted by Ferne) Read a book with time travel.

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terril (360 pages). I absolutely loved this book! The writing style, the characters. And even though it’s about time travel, it wasn’t too sci-fi-ish (if that makes any sense?). It was basically an action/adventure/romance that just happened to involve travelling back in time. Highly recommend! 5 stars.

And that’s all. I’m amazed that I actually managed to read all my books within the first month of the challenge! And 3 of them also count for the BBC Big Read, which is nice. Now I shall await the bonus round…

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:

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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:

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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.