TBR Challenge 12th and Final!

I’m calling it here: I’ve completed the 2017 TBR Challenge.  By which I mean I am done, not necessarily that I completed the challenge fully or anything.

Here are the last books I read:

Lady of the Snakes by Rachel Pastan.  This novel is about an academic trying to balance her research and her family life.  It’s got nice details about academia and the fictional writer’s wife she’s devoted her work to is really well-fleshed out.  Though I have to admit the story hits a bit too close to home for me at this point in my life (minus the brilliant academic doing groundbreaking research part).  The characters were easy to identify with, the style flows nicely, and the hook of the research into a famous Russian writer and his wife is great.

A Dark Matter by Peter Straub.  I feel like Straub has been on my to-read list for a million years and I’ve never quite gotten around to him.   I like his style–it’s compelling and always has the feeling that there’s a lot lurkingn under the surface.  This particular novel is about a writer trying to work out (and through) a mysterious and deadly event which occurred involving his wife and group of friends decades ago.

Orphans of the Carnival by Carol Birch.  I learned about the main character of this novel, Julia Pastrana, years ago when I read a book about medical curiosities.  Hers is a heartbreaking story, both in life and after death.  But at the same time, she had such a rich, full life.  I didn’t think the contemporary storyline was entirely necessary, but I get why Birch did it.  The writing is lyrical and absorbing, and Julia really does come to life as a full, real person.  Knowing what was going to happen sure did lend a lot of melancholy to it, though.

I’ve got a few more round-up posts coming your way this month–the tally of what I’ve read in 2017, my favorite reads of the year, and the Most-Circulated at the Library, which I promise I will not forget this time.

In closing, here’s the official list of books I read off of my TBR list in 2017.  Not too bad!  Though I wish I’d enjoyed more of the ones I had once wanted to read.

TBR Challenge 2017, Completed:

The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
The Father of the Rain by Lily King
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
This House is Haunted by John Boyne
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor
The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland
The Small Hand: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
Medieval Women by Eileen Power
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
Somebody With a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill
The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice
The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker
Deception by Denise Mina
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill
A Sudden Light by Garth Stein
The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller
Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich
House of the Lost by Sarah Rayne
Company of Liars by Karen Maitland
The Thing About December by Donal Ryan
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart
Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville
The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier
The Lives They Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penny and Peter Stastny

Stay tuned for 2018, when I’ll probably decide to do this or something like it to myself again.

–Marie

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TBR Challenge Update #11

Only a little over a month to go in 2017, and there are 715 books still on my To Be Read List.  I managed to eliminate quite a few just by ruthlessly trimming the titles which no longer held interest.  There were a surprising number that, on closer investigation, I realized I’d already started and then discarded.  Off the list they went!

Here are three I actually managed to read:

Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville.  A strange yet moving novel, about two very different young women in two time periods.  In 1899 Vienna, a psychiatrist is drawn to a girl with a mysterious past.  In 1940’s Germany, a troubled little girl lives with her doctor father at the “hospital” where he works.  At the end, the two narratives converge in a surprising way.  Deeply influenced by fairy tales, and very much about the power of storytelling and the way the stories we tell shape us and allow us to cope with life.

The Birds and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier.  I picked this up on a whim and then realized it was on my TBR list!  Probably from back when I read Rebecca.  Anyway, these were fun.  Dark and creepy to varying degrees.  du Maurier is great with atmosphere.

The Lives they Left Behind: Suitcases from a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penny and Peter Stastny.  I’m not sure where I heard about this, but I’m glad I picked it up.  Hundreds of suitcases filled with patients’ belongings were found when Willard Psychiatric Center closed in 1995 after 125 years of operation.   They’d been abandoned in the attic, never reclaimed.  This is a really sad, moving look at the very real lives which usually ended at Willard.

When I began this challenge back in March, I had 831 books on the old to-read list. 116 eliminated, yay!

Only 32 of those actually read.  Heh.  I suppose I’m doing pretty well when judged according to the letter of the TBR Challenge, if not the spirit.

Let’s see how many I can read for real by the end of the year!

–Marie

TBR Challenge Update #9

A Sudden Light by Garth Stein.  A sad sort of ghost story, more about loss and keeping families together than anything else.  Now an adult, Trevor tells the story of the summer he was fourteen and visiting his family’s ancestral estate on Puget Sound.  Nicely atmospheric and some lyrical writing, there’s a melancholy sense of loss but also growth about this story.

The Year of the Gadfly by Jennifer Miller.  I’m a sucker for stories about outsider kids and outsider teachers coming together, so I liked this a lot.  I was reminded very much of Special Topics in Calamity Physics.  Iris is a budding journalist at an elite prep school in Massachusetts, and she’s recruited by a secret society to get some dirt on her science teacher (who has secrets of his own).  There’s a great mystery element, as Iris begins working to uncover Mr. Kaplan’s secrets, and as the past collides with the present.  It’s funny and smart and on the quirky side–a nice coming of age tale, too.  It’s also very self-aware, complete with references to Dead Poets Society.  A really fun read!

Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.  Her scholarship really can’t be topped–Ulrich makes the past feel real and tangible, and she presents her arguments and research incredibly well.  This book examines women’s lives and work in colonial New England, considering in particular what it meant to be a “goodwife.”

House of the Lost by Sarah Rayne.  I’ll be saving this haunted house tale for Halloween.  Check back then!

Slowly (oh so slowly) but surely, I am whittling down my TBR list!  It feels great to clean house.

–Marie

 

TBR Challenge Update #8

Here’s the latest batch of books I’ve read from my To-Be-Read list, for the TBR Challenge 2017!

Mercy Snow by Tiffany Baker.  I think I put all of her books on my TBR list as they came out, and am only now getting to them!  This story is about three women connected by long-buried secrets in a New Hampshire mill town.  Atmospheric and compelling!

Aaaaand that’s it.  Lots of duds this time around.  So I thought I’d pad out my content here with a list of the books I’ve read for the challenge since I began in March!  As in, completely read, not just begun and abandoned.

TBR Challenge 2017, Completed:

The Man in the Picture: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
The Father of the Rain by Lily King
Bittersweet by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
This House is Haunted by John Boyne
She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth by Helen Castor
The Owl Killers by Karen Maitland
The Small Hand: A Ghost Story by Susan Hill
Medieval Women by Eileen Power
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
20th Century Ghosts by Joe Hill
Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child by Bob Spitz
Somebody With a Little Hammer by Mary Gaitskill
The Song of the Dodo by David Quammen
Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice
The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker
Deception by Denise Mina
The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
Delicate Edible Birds and Other Stories by Lauren Groff
Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero
The Various Haunts of Men by Susan Hill

You can click on the TBR Challenge tag to see all of the updates for the challenge.  I’m at 753 to-read, somehow only two less than last time…

–Marie

 

 

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

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

 

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