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.

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.

Literary Ladies Summer Reading Challenge – final check in

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

In September, I completed two categories:

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

The other category I completed previously without realising was:

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

So here’s my final list:

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

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

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

Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge – Month 2

Hi all! Wow, I haven’t written a blog post since Monday! Poor bloggy. Today’s is going to be a short one, too, as we have our first overnight visitors since the move coming later and I have a tonne of things to get done before that. And my lunch break is already half over (thanks to that pesky actually having to eat thing!). But it’s check-in day for the Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge, so I wanted to at least get a quick post in.

Last month I managed to read a whole two books, and I’m afraid I can’t say I’ve done any better this month! In fact, it was another two-book month, at least as far as the challenge goes:

  • Read a novel with a kickass female character. The Third Day, The Frost by John Marsden. This is the third book in the Tomorrow series, and if Ellie and her friends aren’t kickass then I don’t know who is! Also, forget about John Green, it’s John Marsden everyone needs to be raving about!
  • Read a suspenseful book – a mystery, a thriller, a book about revenge. Without You by Saskia Sarginson. The blurb says “In a captivating blend of mystery, thriller and emotional family drama, Without You will leave you unsettled, even as it touches your heart”. Well, I can’t say I found it particularly thrilling, but there is a mystery and the story should have been thrilling, in theory, so it counts. The category didn’t say whether it had to be a particularly good thriller…

I have actually read other books since the last check in, but either they were too short to count even if I had been able to shoehorn them into a category or I just couldn’t see a way to fit them in. Here are some of my other recent reads:

  • The Twins, also by Saskia Sarginson and much better than Without You!
  • Anything But Typical by Nora Baskin Raleigh – excellent story told from the perspective of an autistic boy (and too short to count for the challenge at only 195 pages)
  • The Improbable Cat by Allan Ahlberg  – weird, in future I’ll stick to his books for younger children
  • A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz – an interesting take on fairy tales (Hansel and Gretel star in other Grimm tales), but I was annoyed by all the comments to the reader. Just shut up and get on with the story already! Also, very gory/violent so I’d be careful which kids you give this one too!

I am currently reading Zorgamazoo, which will definitely be my one-word title book for the challenge, but didn’t finish in time for the check in. I’m only two chapters in so far but it’s already excellent!

Literary Ladies Summer Book Challenge: Month 1

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

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

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