Posted in Booklists, Reading Challenges

TBR Challenge 2017 Update #5

After the last update, I’ve decided I’ll spare you all the duds from my list and just share the books I like!  This will help with tallying how many books I actually manage to *read* off of my TBR list, and not just sample.  Also, it will keep the atmosphere here at the Readers’ Corner a bit more chipper, I think!

For this, the fifth update, I realized I’ve been doing that thing.  That thing where I have already started books and then forgot about them.  I picked up a couple during this round and quickly realized I’d begun them before.  Some I kept, some I did not.

Here are the books I read!  For-real read, all the way through!  Or nearly there, in the case of the last one.

The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor.  A tightly focused novel in seven stories, this book tells the story of both a neighborhood and different black women who live there.  I enjoyed reading about these people, and Naylor’s style is simple but beautiful–there are some amazing descriptive passages here.

20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill.  I’m combining this challenge with Horror Month prep!  I loved this collection of short stories, and it is most definitely part of this year’s scary book installment!

Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz.  Oh yeah, my mid-century cooking and food phase!  Child was cool and is fun to read about.  I enjoyed this biography very much!

Somebody With a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill.  A collection of essays, including a lot of book reviews.  Gaitskill’s writing is elegant, and she’s deeply intelligent.  I especially enjoyed the title piece, which is about Chekhov’s short story Gooseberries.  The one about Bleak House is also great, as is the piece about the movie Secretary (you can tell I gravitated toward the book and movie reviews!).

The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen.  I’ve had this on my list ever since I read his collection The Boilerplate Rhino.  I finally suggested it for my nonfiction book club.  The book is all about island biogeography (namely, the study of distribution of species).  There’s historical background, contemporary science, and a broader message about how ecosystems are decaying and species are disappearing all over the world due to human activity.

There!  I have 795 titles on my TBR list now.  I’m not terribly optimistic about the next set–looking forward, I see lots of nonfiction.  However, there’s also Laura Moriarty’s The Chaperone (about Louise Brooks, and soon to be a major motion picture!).  A couple of new titles that I’ve had on the list since I first heard about them are also coming out soon, so those will count!

–Marie

Posted in Book Challenge, Reading Challenges

TBR Challenge 2017 Update #4

I’ve hit the wall, folks.

Why, why do I have all this nonfiction on my TBR list?  What was I thinking? I read nonfiction sooooo sloooooooowly!  It’s insanely frustrating.  I’ll be five years completing my to-reads at this rate.  Ugh.  Also 100 pages before I give up?  Why on earth did I feel the need to be so generous?  Particularly with 820 books to read?  Sorry, dumping that guideline, too.

Gloves are off.  I need to deal with this list Kondo-style because life is too short to have a TBR list this long.  I will focus on the books that make me spark with joy and can be vertically folded and stored in a dresser.

Whining out of the way, here’s the update:

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey.  I’m glad I finally got around to this one.  I enjoyed it more than I enjoyed the movie.  And yet, it still left me a little cold.  There are some inspired passages, but on the whole it didn’t do much for me.

The Decline and Fall of the British Aristocracy by David Cannadine.  I just couldn’t!  I’m sorry!  It’s huge and I’m slow and I have a life to live!

A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer DuBois.  I’m not sure why this was on my list, to be honest.  I mean, it looks like a novel with an interesting hook, good characters, and from what I read it’s got a nice style, but it’s just not my thing, and it didn’t grab me.  The story is about a woman whose father wrote a letter to a Russian chess champion, and never received a reply–so she sets out to find the chess champion to get her father’s questions answered.

The Uninvited Guests by Sadie Jones.  I remember why this one was on the list.  It got a ton of attention and positive reviews when it first came out, with a lot of praise given to the cracking dialogue and inventive storyline that gets wilder and wilder.  I could not get into it at all, I’m afraid, even though it has the tone and feel of Edward Gorey.

Young Lonigan by James T. Farrell.  Another case of why did I want to read this?  Did I hear about it because it influenced another book?  Was I reading a lot about tough neighborhoods in the early 20th century?  Because it was considered an offense to morals when it was published and I was curious?  Never mind, it doesn’t matter–it didn’t grab me at all.

So yeah.  Sorry to be a Debbie Downer this time around, but man.  No wonder some of these have been on my list for so long.  I’ll give Mark Haddon’s The Red House a try next, along with a biography of Julia Child called Dearie.

According to Goodreads I’ve got 819 books to go.  I have lost track of which ones I’ve actually read, which ones I didn’t like and gave up on, and which ones I’ve just booted without a second thought.  I’ll tally at the end of 2017 and not bother thinking about it now.

Surely I must be coming up on books I’m just dying to read!  Or happy surprises!  I really do want to read more than I discard.  We’ll see how it goes.

–Marie

 

Posted in Reading Challenges

Welcome to a New Year of Reading!

Happy New Year, all!  I’m currently devouring several great titles which I hope to talk about soon here at the Readers Corner (the recent Man Booker nominee His Bloody Project is making me realize how much I miss good juicy murder mysteries!), but I’m not there yet.

So in the meantime, here at the start of a new reading year, let’s talk about 2017 Reading Challenges!

I’ve vowed to attempt to read 100 books again this year over on Goodreads (nearly made it in 2016, clocking in at 96!).

BookRiot is hosting their Read Harder Challenge for the third year running.  The goal is to get you out of your reading comfort zone and to try new genres, authors, or themes.

For the waaaaaaay more ambitious than I am: 52 Weeks, 52 Books!  Just like it says on the tin: read one book per week on a given theme.  Said themes include a Harry Potter Re-Read, A Book with “Some” In the Title, and Feminist Sci-Fi Novel.

For readers who just wanna have fun: Modern Mrs. Darcy is pitching a 2017 Reading for Fun challenge.  Click here to see the list.

Need more ideas?  Tanya Patrice has you covered (alphabetically!) over at GirlXOXO.com.  Click here to check out her master list of 2017 Reading Challenges!

Happy Reading!  I’m not sure I’ll be joining a challenge given the Great Challenge Fail of 2015, but I might use a few of these lists for inspiration.

–Marie

 

 

Posted in Book Challenge, Reading Challenges, Uncategorized

26 Books to Read in 2015

This is the way the challenge ends
Not with 26 randomly chosen books read
But with…not that

So I failed at the Reading Challenge, everyone.  Though I didn’t do all that badly, if I do say so myself.  I certainly did better than I ever have before at a reading challenge.  Out of 26 titles I managed 20.  With a little cheating here and there.  You can look under the “Reading Challenges” category archive, or go here, to see all the books I read for the challenge.

And the challenge was a great way to get me motivated to blog in a year where I found I had very few books that I couldn’t wait to tell you about.  I also read a few titles that I normally wouldn’t have picked up, thanks to 26 Books to Read in 2015.

Last, if nothing else, I’ve learned my lesson.  Way back in February of 2015 I admitted that I never learn.  I was sure I would “[slink] away in defeat, belly to the ground and grumbling that I’ll never attempt a reading challenge again.”   And what do you know, I was right!

Now that I’ve experienced the reality of blogging along while I try to fulfill a reading challenge, maybe I can finally admit that I can read broadly enough on my own.  The whole reading/book blog challenge thing just isn’t for me.

Ooh hey what’s this? http://www.bustle.com/articles/132630-9-reading-challenges-for-adults-to-take-in-2016

–Marie

Posted in Reading Challenges

26 Books to Read in 2015: # 16

#16 is: A book you learned about because of this challenge.

Does it count if I learned about this book specifically because I was doing a search on NoveList in order to fulfill this challenge point?  And does it still count if I didn’t so much learn about this book but was rather reminded of its existence because of this challenge?

Why am I asking when I’ve already decided that it does?

shining girls

I knew of this one, of course.  The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes was published back in 2013, where it kept coming up on a lot of readalike lists and blogs, and was quite well-reviewed.

It’s a really great readalike for Tana French (Dublin Murder Squad) in terms of literary style.  Great turns of phrase, beautiful descriptions (even in the goriest places), and a lyrical style really elevate this thriller.

As does the intriguingly original plot: in 1931, Harper Curtis finds a time-travel portal in a nondescript Chicago house.  He also finds the names of women scrawled on the wall in an upstairs room–in his own handwriting.  From there Harper feels compelled by destiny to find each of these women wherever they are in time, and murder them.

(Aside: My husband made a good point: does it really count as a serial killer if the murders are non-linear?  Something to ponder.)

But Kirby, a young woman attacked in the early 1990’s, survives.  And she sets out to find the killer, using her internship at a Chicago newspaper to hunt for clues.

Chicago is practically a character in this novel, so great is the sense of place in every time period.  Though the snapshots are sometimes brief, Beukes still manages to create a perfect sense of time and location with three-dimensional characters.  The feel of The Shining Girls is gritty and realistic, even with the sci-fi elements.

If you stay alert for the intricate plotting and shifting perspectives, you’ll be rewarded with an immersive, compelling, sometimes disturbing blend of thriller and crime.

–Marie

 

 

Posted in Reading Challenges, Uncategorized

State of the Challenge

Happy Thanksgiving a day early, American readers!  As the holiday season kicks off in earnest and 2015 begins its close, I thought it would be a good time to chart my progress with the 26 Books to Read in 2015 Reading Challenge (hosted by Bringing Up Burns).

Here’s where she stands:

Book Challenge

Neat, better than I thought!  So what does that leave?

8. A book at the bottom of your to-be-read pile
9. A book with a color in the title
14. A book set in the summer
16. A book you learned about because of this challenge
21. A book with a great first line
25. A book that is more than 10 years old
26. A book based on a true story

Seven books to go.  Thirty-six more reading days in 2015.

Let’s.  Go.

–Marie

Oh, and P.S.:

Posted in Book Reviews, Reading Challenges

26 Books to Read in 2015: #11 & #12

That’s right!  The year is swiftly getting away from me, and I need to hurry to catch up.  So here’s a two-fer!

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett fulfills challenge points 11 and 12: it contains a lion (does Greebo count?), a witch, or a wardrobe, and it’s a book I started but never finished.  Though it’s so much fun and such a great story, and features my very favorite Discworld characters, I can’t imagine why I set it aside.

Witches Abroad

For those who don’t know, the Discworld is a world very much like ours.  It’s on the very edge of unreality, a giant disc balanced on the backs of four elephants who in turn stand on the back of a great turtle.   Stories matter a great deal, Death is a frequent visitor, and you can always spot the Australian.

Witches Abroad is a story about stories.  Also about mirrors.  And fairy godmothers and witches. And fairy tales and magic and power and right and wrong and good and evil.  It’s funny and quick and bursting with Big Ideas and vivid characters.

It’s hard to describe the plot of a Terry Pratchett book.  It’s like trying to describe all the bits of some intricately engineered German engine.  The big storyline is that the three witches, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, and Magrat, must go to the kingdom of Genua to stop a young woman from marrying a prince.  There’s a fairy godmother in charge there who is twisting reality to suit stories…and that’s not so good.

Pratchett’s style is extremely dialogue-heavy, and yet somehow even with only a sentence (sometimes just a word or two!) of description, there’s depth and atmosphere and an incredibly vivid picture.

Savvy readers in on the joke get the most out of the Discworld books.  Those keyed in to satirical parallels will, too.   In this particular book, the references are to stories and fairy tales.  Cinderella is the primary one, but many many others make appearances.  I especially love Granny Weatherwax, so I enjoyed the fact that this is, in many ways, her story.  The brief scene of her in the maze of mirrors says all you need to know about her character.  The scenes of Granny being a grumpy tourist are gold as well.

If you enjoy Neil Gaiman’s work and somehow have never tried Terry Pratchett, do pick up a Discworld book.  You can also find an annotated list of Terry Pratchett Readalikes here.

–Marie