Monday, December 29, 2014

Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge for 2015

I've decided to join Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge for 2015. I think I'll be able to complete most of it from books I already own (excluding the one published in 2015 for obvs. reasons) so I'm expanding the challenge to include the goal to read from my shelf.  Hopefully this challenge will be a good bridge to reconnect me with the world of book blogging once my house project reaches completion in the next few months.  Here are the 24 categories with my potential picks:

A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
     : The Heart is a Lonely Hunter, Carson McCullers

A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
     : All That Is, James Salter

A collection of short stories (either by one person or an anthology by many people)
     : Bark, Lorrie Moore

A book published by an indie press
     : The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure, C.D. Rose (Melville House)


A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
     : The Hours, Michael Cunningham

A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
     : We Are Not Ourselves, Matthew Thomas

A book that takes place in Asia
     : Please Look After Mom, Kyung-sook Shin

A book by an author from Africa
     : We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo


A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)
     : Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks

A microhistory
     : The Big Burn, Timothy Egan

A YA novel
     : Looking for Alaska, John Green

A sci-fi novel
     : The Killing Moon, N.K. Jemisin (from a Book Riot Quarterly Box)


A romance novel
     : The Girl You Left Behind, Jojo Moyes

A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
     : The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

A book that is a retelling of a classic story (fairytale, Shakespearian play, classic novel, etc.)
     : Mr. Fox, Helen Oyeyemi

An audiobook
     : Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe


A collection of poetry
     : The Portable Dorothy Parker

A book that someone else has recommended to you
     : The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy

A book that was originally published in another language
     : Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak

A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
     : Les Miserables, Stacy King (Manga Classics)


A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure (Read, and then realize that good entertainment is nothing to feel guilty over)
     : Where'd You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple

A book published before 1850
     : Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen (annotated version by Belknap)

A book published this year
     : ???

A self-improvement book (can be traditionally or non-traditionally considered “self-improvement”)
     : Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, Barbara Kingsolver


Monday, December 1, 2014

For the Record: November 2014

So, the year is racing through its final days.  Most years it seems to come too soon, but my house project has made this year seem twice as long (or more) so I'm ready for it.  Progress is good! On the home front we have paint, floors, and cabinets happening, which is much more thrilling than it may sound.

My blog has been nearly nonexistent this year. Multiple times I've considered dropping it altogether, but I've hung in there in hopes of being able to become more active once my house is finished. I really do love the friends I've made and the conversations I've had, on top of how much it helps my mental organization and thought processes in general. So I keep typing, and soon perhaps I'll be able to begin visiting again. I'm hoping to catch all of those delightful year-end posts—I love seeing that overview of the reading life.

My reading this month felt very scattered, partly due to the reread of All the Light We Cannot See, but also because many of the things I read were light in one way or another.

6 Books Read in November: (62 year-to-date)

2 Nonfiction:
  - What We See When We Read, Peter Mendelsund (4) Very simple to read, yet captivating all the same.  There isn't a large amount of text, nor is the main idea fully explored, yet it was pleasing to experience.
  - Judging a Book By Its Lover, Lauren Leto (2.5) I was hoping for either a) some insight, or b) some humor, but didn't find much of either.  As the text was really about the author's own experiences and opinions, it would have been much more enjoyable to read if it had been a series of blog posts instead of in book format. Since I didn't connect with it much, I found it only mildly entertaining.

1 Re-read:
  - All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (5) My book club read this with me this time. I found it just as enjoyable the second time around, and loved hearing other opinions about the story and writing style.  One in my group, a former science teacher, adored the science behind the light and radio waves discussed throughout the book.  At the National Air and Space Museum I saw an exhibit that touched on what she was saying: "Light allows us to see into the past and reveals the nature of things forever beyond our reach." Since only a small fragment of light is visible, there is a rather large portion of light that we cannot see.

1 Classic:
  - All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque (4) My 14yo is reading this for school, so I thought I'd get up to speed. I loved the perspective this was written from—not only because he was German, but because it was written so soon after the war. The years surrounding the Great War were such a pivotal time in modern history; reading literature written during that time has a unique tone that speaks more to me of the era than any current story I've read set in that time.

2 Others:
  - The Best of McSweeney's, Edited by Dave Eggers (3.5) Some good stuff, but a lot of boring (read: overinflated sense of self) stuff also.  This took me 11 months to get through.  Do you have any idea how good it felt to be done?  Mostly it served as a way to get a taste of McSweeney's. It was a beautifully made book, but that was its biggest strength.
  - Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein (3) Enjoyable, but a little silly and hard to believe. I enjoyed the focus on women in war, and bits and pieces about aviation, but the writing style clashed with the WWII setting, and the characters never became more than caricatures. Like a cheesy tv program you can't stop watching: good, but also not.


2 Current Reads:
  - The Goldfinch, Donna Tartt. My current audio book - I'm enjoying it but don't get many chances to listen to it.  It's a long one!
  - Nora Webster, Colm Toibin. I'm just barely into it, but am very ready for a virtual visit to Ireland!


On My Nightstand:
I've been toting around The High Divide by Lin Enger (because I need to read it for LibraryThing's Early Reviewers) and Main Street by Sinclair Lewis (because I loved Free Air).


Saturday, November 1, 2014

For the Record: October 2014 (plus Seattle!)

It's November! Congratulations everyone! We've made it to the end of the year.  If I thought life was crazy before, the next two months are sure to prove me wrong.  The weather has finally (FINALLY) cooled down around here.  It was in the high 80s for most of the summer and I am such a wimp in the heat/humidity that I was barely surviving.  Even with air conditioning.  That's how pitiful I am. What can I say...I'm a mountain girl that loves winter and living in SoCal can be rough.  It's so same/same all the time.

Last weekend we took a mini vacation with our daughters (10 & 14 yo) to Seattle.  It was my first time in the city (well, as an adult) and I almost melted from the adorableness of the whole thing.  The mountains and hills, the trees and water, the art and technology, the rain.  Even the downtown areas are so cozy.  I loved it terribly. Though, now that I'm thinking about it, I did just confess how starved I am for weather.  So there's that.

6 Books Read in October: (56 year-to-date)

3 Read Aloud to my 10yo:
  - The Whipping Boy, Sid Fleischman (3.5) Cute, simple, and short.  Perfect way to start our school year.
  - Master Cornhill, Eloise Jarvis McGraw (3.5) Slow to start, but ultimately captivating.  Great for solidifying a picture of London during 1666 with the plague and fire and all.
  - The Gate in the Wall, Ellen Howard (3) Provides a picture of canal life in Britain.  It was enjoyable, but the author was too heavy handed with the dialect to make it truly enjoyable.

1 Audio Book:
  - Burial Rites, Hannah Kent (4.5) Really solid, poetic, biographical fiction. Well written and well read.  This portrayal of the last woman executed in Iceland (close to 200 years ago!) was a fascinating peek at the country while under the rule of Denmark.

2 Others:
  - The Good Lord Bird, James McBride (3.5) This was a National Book Award winner, and I can see why.  It presents a history of abolitionists (namely John Brown of Harpers Ferry fame) in an accessible, enjoyable manner.  Having read Cloudsplitter a few months ago, on the same topic, I found myself thinking that McBride had written the "True Grit" version of the real story. The lack of seriousness was both enjoyable and grating. It was often repetitious, both in story and in writing, which was mildly irritating.  That being said, if I hadn't had recent experience with the topic, I might have enjoyed it more.  As it was, it didn't compare to Cloudsplitter.
  - The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne (2.5) I remember seeing the trailer for this movie and thinking it looked good, so when I happened across it in the B&N YA section, I picked it up.  It's super short, and I feel a little terrible for not loving it, but there was just too much left wanting. The end was a bit of a shock, but since I didn't care much for any of the characters, I wasn't hugely impacted. There were a lot of things that were improbable and unbelievable, but instead of feeling magical (like Life is Beautiful) it felt contrived (like The Alchemist).


1 Current Read:
  - All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. Rereading for book club, and it is just as wonderful this time around.


On My Nightstand:
These are the books that are actually, literally, on my nightstand. Whether they'll be the next ones I read or not, I don't know.
  - Stillwater, Nicole Heglet. Impulse buy at my local book shop, set in Minnesota during the Civil War.
  - The High Divide, Lin Enger. From LibraryThing's Early Reviewers, this novel takes place across the plains, post Civil War.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

For the Record: September 2014

I guess the big news this month is that our house project finally feels like it's progressing. We have tile going in and cabinets being built.  I, quite simply, am more than ready for it to be complete and put the whole construction event behind us.

Other great news is that my book club will be reading All the Light We Cannot See in October, so I'll have some people to really discuss it with (yay for book clubs!) and an excuse to re-read it.

I have a great thirst developing for classics, and no wonder.  When looking at my list of books read in 2014, I see only 4 classics.  Four.  This is a reflection on the quality and quantity of available reading time I've had this year in general.  All the more reason to get that house done! And go on more vacations!


5 Books Read in September: (50 year-to-date)

2 Nonfiction:
  - MFA vs. NYC, edited by Chad Harbach (4) I enjoyed this collection of essays, as it shined a light on the general state of publishing in America today.  I heard about it on GoodReads from Carrie (NomadReader) and am glad I had my local book shop order it for me. The variety of writing styles and opinions kept me interested and let me draw my own conclusions.
  - The Boys in the Boat, Daniel James Brown (3.5) I read this with my book club, and thought the last 100 pages (and the pictures) were fascinating.  However, the 275 preceding pages were repetitive and somewhat dull.  I continually compared it to Unbroken and thus didn't enjoy it as much as I could have.  It also fell a little short in the organization. Still, it was a nice little look at Seattle in the 1920s and 1930s, and introduced me to George Pocock: the real star of the story. I'd recommend it if you have a hankering to round out your view on the era leading up to WWII.

1 Read Aloud to my 10yo:
  - Misty of Chincoteague, Marguerite Henry (4) My second (third?) time reading this story.  It never gets old.

1 Audio Book:
  - Brooklyn, Colm Toibin (3.5) A few minor issues (and the fact that my feelings hinged on the ending) weren't enough to detract from the loveliness of visiting Ireland for a few brief moments.  The narrator did a wonderful job with that wonderful Irish lilt.

1 Other:
  - The Impossible Knife of Memory, Laurie Halse Anderson (3.5) Loaned to me from a book club friend, and better than some YA (most notably Please Ignore Vera Dietz) in many ways.  Quick but serious.


2 Current Reads:
  - The Good Lord Bird, James McBride. Bought at my local book shop with no prior knowledge about it, except that it's about John Brown (of Civil War/Harpers Ferry fame) just like the tome Cloudsplitter that I finished earlier this summer.  This one is written in a very different tone and style, and from a different perspective.
  - Burial Rites, Hannah Kent. My current audio book - another wonderful narrator capable of speaking the dialect.


On My Nightstand:
Where to start? I just bought The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I'll be rereading All the Light We Cannot See, and I've a hankering to dive into We Are Not Ourselves.  I'll also be on the lookout for a new audio book pretty soon here? Any recommendations?