Book Challenge by Erin 9.0 – Preliminary List

Hello! I am back in Switzerland and the categories have been announced for Erin’s next reading challenge, so today I thought I would bring you my tentative list. As always, this is subject to change depending on my mood once the challenge actually starts.

The rules in brief: all books must be 200 or more pages, one re-read is allowed, only books read between 1 July and 31 October 2018 count. And, the most important rule, HAVE FUN!

Now the categories, and my choices.

5 points: Freebie – Read a book that is at least 200 pages
I will decide this based on what I feel I absolutely cannot wait to read once July comes around.

10 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “N”
This one will be my re-read. I just picked up Needful Things by Stephen King while I was at my dad’s and it’s been about 15 years since I read it. I may change my mind though given it has 790 pages! I don’t actually currently own an unread book that starts with N though.

10 points: Read a book that has a (mostly) orange cover
I knew I didn’t have an orange book so I bought one at the airport yesterday. The History of Bees by Maja Lunde. I have the copy pictured below – I hope it’s orange enough!

history of bees

15 points: Read a book with an unlikeable character
I am trying to read books I already own and The Collector by John Fowles is on this Goodreads list of unlikeable characters.

20 points: Read a book from the list of 100 books that PBS calls “The Great American Read”. The list is here:
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon is on both this list and the BBC Big Read list so I suppose it’s about time I read it.

20 points: Read a book with something related to water in the title; i.e. ocean, sea, lake, river, waves, etc.
I have precisely two books with water-related titles on my shelves and both are over 600 pages long! I’ll probably go with The Glass Lake by Maeve Binchy (my other option is River God by Wilbur Smith)

25 points: Read a book you’ve owned the longest but haven’t read yet (or that has been on your goodreads “to read” list the longest, or has been sitting in your kindle the longest)…basically, read a book you’ve been meaning to read the longest but haven’t got to it yet.
I can’t remember which book I have actually owned for longest, so I went to my Goodreads “want-to-read” list, arranged them in order of date added and discovered that the very first book only has 109 pages. The second book is Un Lun Dun by China Miéville so I’ll be reading that.

30 points: Read a book with an emotion word in the title; i.e. joy, sadness, grief, love, anger, etc. (submitted by Megan)
I thought I would have loads of books for this category, but I actually only found two on my to-read shelf: Love Always by Harriet Evans. (The other one was Joyland by Stephen King but I’m already reading a King book for this challenge).

30 points: Read a book (must be at least 2 words in the title) where each word in the title of the book begins with the same letter (submitted by Vinay); examples: Magpie Murders, Gone Girl, Peter Pan, Love’s Labor Lost – conjunctions and articles count; for example, if the title has “and” in the title, all of the other words must start with “A” to count; or if the title has “the” in it, all of the other words must start with “T”
I have two options for this one. I will either read Red Ribbons by Louise Phillips or Little Lies by Liane Moriaty (for some reason, my copy misses out the “Big”, making the title alliterative)

35 points: Read a book featuring a character who shares your profession or similar one – basically the idea is the character does the same kind of thing as you do day to day – stay at home parent or student counts as a profession; yes, you may need to be creative with this one, stretch it, and make it work for you. (submitted by Bev)
As most of you know, I am a translator. I plan to read The Irish Cottage Murder by Dicey Deere. The main character is apparently a children’s book translator so she’s basically living my dream. So much more interesting than translating technical manuals and price lists for dental equipment (yes, really).
I chose this category and I know it’s difficult, so if anyone is doing the challenge and struggling with this one I will be happy to help you find a book featuring someone with your profession!

And those are all my choices. Now I just have to force myself to wait until July to start reading them! Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Are you joining in with this challenge? Let me know where your list is and I will come and have a look. If you think you might like to join in and would like more information there is both a Facebook and a Goodreads group where Erin provides lots of support and encouragement.

And now I’m off to buy milk so I can finally have a cup of tea!


Book challenge by Erin 7.0: Bonus round

Somehow I managed to be the first to finish round 1 of Erin’s reading challenge, so I’ve been waiting more or less patiently for half of July to be able to start the bonus round. Finally August has arrived and I can reveal what I will be reading for the rest of the summer.


For each of these categories, I get an extra 5 points if the book I read was previously chosen (and 5 of the books must have been previously chosen anyway), so I spent most of today going through all the books that had been used for the first round and trying to find ones that I either already own or can buy from Amazon at a reasonable price. Now I think I’ve managed to put together a list that consists only of previously chosen books  🙂 (Fellow participants… please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong).

So without further ado, here is my bonus round list:

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

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. The person who chose this in the first round had it as a book with a mostly yellow cover, but my copy is the same as the one in the link and it’s orange, not yellow, so freebie it is. I need to read this book anyway for my BBC Big Read challenge.

15 points: Read a book that starts with the letter “B”

Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause. Before I discovered Goodreads, I had a physical handwritten list of books I wanted to read. This one was on that list, so it’s probably about time I actually read it!

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

I have ordered a copy of Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky, so hopefully when it turns up the cover will actually be yellow.

20 points: Read a book that has a picture of an animal on the cover

The Dog Who Came in from the Cold by Alexander McCall Smith looked really interesting. There seem to be a few editions, so hopefully the copy I’ve ordered will turn out to actually have a dog on the cover!

25 points: Read a book that was published in 2017

Every time I log on to Goodreads someone else seems to have reviewed One of Us Is Lying by Karen McManus and every time I see it my brain starts playing the ABBA song! Please tell me I’m not the only one? Anyway, the concept sounds really interesting and I’m excited to read this one.

25 points: Read a book with a compass or cardinal direction in the title

I’m sure I saw East of Eden by John Steinbeck in the Goodreads group for the challenge? This is another one that I have to read for the BBC Big Read, and if I failt to complete the bonus round I have a feeling it will be because of this book.

30 points: Read a book from this list of the most commonly banned books in America:

Olive’s Ocean by Kevin Henkes. Somehow I’ve never come across this book before, but it sounds like something I will like.

35 points: Read a fictional book about mental illness

I recently bought Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk without even realising it would qualify for this category. Now I don’t have to wait until the challenge is over to read it. Yay!

35 points: Read a book with a non-human main character; i.e. animals, elves, gods, robots, merpeople, etc.

We’ve had American Gods by Neil Gaiman sitting on our bookcase for far too long! Usually it would be something I would read with Jan, but we have loads of books to read and no time to read them together, so I’ll just have to go it along with this one.

40 points: Read a book a Disney movie was based on OR a book based on a Disney movie

(Ha, my British English spell-checker doesn’t recognise movie as a word!)
I really wanted to read The Fox and the Hound for this category, but both Amazon Germany and Amazon UK are only selling it as either a Kindle edition (“not available in your country”) or a really, really expensive hardcover… and I am not paying over 100 euros for a book! So I’ve chosen A Whole New World by Liz Braswell purely because it was cheaper than As Old As Time 😉

And those are my choices for the bonus round. Who else is playing? Show me your list!

And while I’m here, have a photo of last night’s fireworks over the Rhine as a reward for getting this far 😉 Today is Switzerland’s national holiday so happy birthday Switzerland!

Swiss national holiday

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

When the 2015 summer reading challenge started, I decided my first book should be the one for the category “Read a book with more than 500 pages” (thanks for that, Kristen) to make sure I actually had time to get through it! The Wind-up Bird Chronicle had been sitting on my shelf for months and has 606 full pages (plus one paragraph on page 607). This category is worth 25 points.

Wind-up BirdThe plot: Toru Okada’s cat has disappeared, which has unsettled his wife so much that she insists he go out looking for it every day. Meanwhile, his wife is herself becoming more and more distant. On the search for the cat (and his wife), Okada gets involved with a succession of increasingly bizarre characters, each with a tale to tell, and finds himself on a journey that he never really seems to understand.

My review: This book has so many high ratings on Goodreads that I can’t help but feel like I’m missing something! I didn’t hate the book (as evidenced by the fact that I managed to get all to the end), but I mostly found it bizarre and confusing. Most of the characters’ actions make no sense and while all the individual stories do eventually kind of come together, I still felt like things weren’t fully explained. I’m sure there’s some deep, philosophical meaning that I’m missing, but oh well – I don’t mind being an idiot! 3 stars.

I’ve read two more books for the challenge since I finished this one, so look out for more reviews soon. And if you want to join in with the challenge, you can find more information here on Megan’s blog. Any book you’ve read since 1st May that fits into a category can be counted and the first check in is on 1st June. Good luck!

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 3

July is over, which means it’s time for my third monthly check in for the 2014 Summer Reading Challenge with Megan over at Semi-Charmed Kinda Life. I’ve read a lot of books this month, but only two for the challenge. Every little helps, though, right? Here are the categories I completed in July:

25 points: Read a book written by a blogger
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. I loved this book! But I knew I was going to because I adore the blog and a lot of the stories were from there. I’m still sad that the Alot was missing, though. You can see my full review on this one here.

25 points: Read a biography, autobiography or memoir
Captain James Cook by Richard Hough – 445 pages. Another book that I really enjoyed. Usually I’m slow at reading non-fiction books, even if I find the subject interesting. I have to take them to work with me so I’m forced to read them on the train (it’s that or be bored for the entire commute), but with this one I got through pretty fast. I think it’s because it’s written more in the style of a story about someone’s life, so it’s less dry. I’ve been interested in Captain Cook ever since I went to a museum (somewhere in Yorkshire) about his life and voyages when I was little, and it was nice to find out even more about him and fill in the gaps where I’d forgotten some of things I’d learned when I was 10. If you’re interested in Captain Cook’s voyages, I would certainly recommend this book.

So, that’s another 50 points, meaning I’m now up to 190. I have just one more category to complete – read a book you didn’t finish the first time. I’ve chosen The 13 and a Half Lives of Captain Bluebear and I’ve already got further than I did the first time (Jan and I were reading it together before and we managed the first two chapters… I’ve now read four!). Unfortunately, I can’t take this one too work as it’s too big for my handbag, so I’m having to find time for it at home, in between everything else that needs doing around here! I have all month though, so hopefully I’ll make it. I’d hate to fail the first ever reading challenge I take part in 😉

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!).

The Summer Reading Challenge: Month 1

It’s 1st June, which means it’s time to check in for the reading challenge! I’m a bit behind on my reviews, but for those I actually have got round to reviewing, I’ll make the book title a link so those who missed them can read my thoughts, okay? Here’s what I’ve read so far for the challenge:

10 points: Read a book that was written before you were born.
Flowers for Algernon by David Keyes (published 1966) – 311 pages. I absolutely loved this book! The subject matter is fascinating… and I want an Algernon 😉

10 points: Read a book from the children’s section of a library or bookstore.
The Mysterious Woods of Whistle Root by Christopher Pennell (Age range: 8-10 or 9-12, depending on where you look) – 215 pages. My review on this isn’t up yet, but it will be soon. I wish this book had been around when I was a child. I would have loved it right around the time I was into the Enchanted Wood books. I still enjoyed it as an adult, but chuld me definitely missed out!

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. I wanted to love this book, but in the end it was just okay. It started off well, but once the two girls were grown ups I lost interest. I felt like the author understood children’s emotions and struggles perfectly but then wasn’t really sure what to do with her characters once they became adults. Neither of them ever seemed to move forward or develop in any way (despite one of them getting married and having children!). Disappointing, especially considering I’d had it on my to-read list for years.

20 points: Read a book that will be/was adapted into a film in 2014
The Internet tells me that A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby – 256 pages. This was another one that I wanted to like but just couldn’t. I should have felt sorry for the characters, but most of them just annoyed me. Click the book title for my full review.

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: Death and Birth). I loved The Death of Bees and wil be looking out for more books by this author. Birthmarked started off brilliantly then became a bit meh, but I liked it enough that I will considerbuying book 2 in the series to find out what happened next. Again, you can click on the book titles for my full reviews.

So that’s 90 points so far. Up to now, I’ve pretty much stuck to the books I’d originally chosen (well, Birthmarked wasn’t on the original list… I chose it because it was the first vaguely interesting book I saw with “birth” in the title). I have 7 categories left to go, one of which is read a book that another blogger has already read for the challenge. I’m looking forward to seeing what everyone else is reading and hopefully finding something amazing for this category!

You can still join in with the challenge (and even count any books that you’ve read since 1st May retroactively). Click on over to Megan’s blog to find out what to do!

Summer 2014 Reading Challenge – an update

I wrote a post the other day about the Summer 2014 Reading Challenge I’m taking part in. That challenge has now started, and I’ve also managed to come up with books to fulfil a few of a categories I was missing. So here are four more books that I plan to read between now and August:

15 points: Read a historical fiction book that does not take place in Europe
I was checking my bookcase for ideas when I came across Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. I really enjoyed that book (although I had completely forgotten about it!) so I took to the Internet to see whether she’d written any other books set in China. She had, and so I shall be reading Peony in Love by Lisa See for this category.

20 points: Read a book that will be/was adapted into a film in 2014
The Internet tells me that A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby is to be released as a film in 2014. I’ve never actually read anything by Nick Hornby, although High Fidelity is one of my all-tike favourite films, so I thought I’d give this one a try. (I was actually torn between this one and The Giver by Lois Lowry, so that one has also been added to my to read list, although maybe not for this summer…)

25 points: Read a book by a blogger
I’m not sure why this didn’t occur to me when I was writing the original list… Hyperbole and a Half has been released as a book! Obvious choice, really.

30 points: Read a pair of books with antonyms in the title
I really want to read The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell for this, so now I’m looking for a book with life in the title. Or birth – actually, birth might be the more accurate antonym. Suggestions?

And that’s it. I still have to wait until the other participants have read some books before I can choose one that somebody else has read for the final category. I haven’t actually started reading any books for this challenge yet, but I’ve ordered four which I hope will be arriving soon! In the meantime, I’m working on finishing the three that I already have on the go. Have I ever mentioned I read a lot? 😉