Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bout of Books 20

Bout of Books 20 is almost here! 
Bout of Books
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is
organized by Amanda Shofner and
Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is
a week long read-a-thon that begins
12:01 am Monday, August 21st and
runs through Sunday, August 27th in
whatever time zone you are in. Bout
of Books is low pressure. There are
challenges, giveaways, and a grand
prize, but all of these are completely
optional. For all Bout of Books 20
information and updates, be sure to
visit the Bout of Books blog. - From
the Bout of Books team

Updates will follow! 
Oh, by the way, I'll also be doing #TheReadingQuest because it starts on August 13. Check here for my progress and more details, but hurry. Once the quest starts, the sign-up closes. 

The Reading Quest: August 13 - September 10

Apparently, there are several million reading challenges that I'm not aware of. My reaction upon learning about #The Reading Quest:

The quest spans from Sunday, August 13 to Sunday, September 10. Sign-up closes on August 13, so go sign up right now if you haven't already!

Pick a character (Bard, Rogue, Mage, or Knight) and then start filling in the bingo board on that character's path. As you read, you'll earn points and level up, just like in a video game. I will be trying to fill the whole, board, but I'll start on the Bard's path.

Find the sign-up post and full information at Read at Midnight. All the artwork for The Reading Quest was created by CW of Read, Think, Ponder. Not only does she do book reviews, but she creates wonderful bookish art. Go check it out!

Here is my preliminary TBR. I'm waiting for a reading buddy so I can finalize.

I created my character card with an easy-to-follow tutorial by Glaiza at paperwanderer.
I went through my TBR again to add a few more diverse authors. Here's the revised TBR:

MOVIE/TV ADAPTATION: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (+10EXP, +37HP)
FAIRY TALE RETELLING: Belle by Cameron Dokey (+10EXP, +20HP)
STRIKING TOPOGRAHY: Tranny by Laura Jane Grace (+20EXP, +30HP)
TRANSLATED FROM ANOTHER LANGUAGE: The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel (+20EXP, +26HP)
BANNED BOOK: Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (+20EXP, +35HP)

BANNED BOOK: Kaffir Boy by Mark Mathabane (+20EXP, +35HP)
PARTIALLY OBSCURED FACE: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (+20EXP, +45HP)
Less than 500 GOODREADS RATINGS: Estrella's Quinceañera by Malín Alegría (+20EXP, +26HP)
SMALL PRESS: From Somalia, With Love by Na'ima B. Robert (+20 EXP, +16HP)
ONE WORD TITLE: Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (+20EXP, +12HP)

ONE WORD TITLE: Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson (+20EXP, +12HP)
CONTAINS MAGIC: Fairest of All by Serena Valentino (+20EXP, +25HP)
BASED ON MYTHOLOGY: Quiver by Stephanie Spinner ((+10EXP, +18HP)
SET IN A DIFFERENT WORLD: Shadow Scale by Rachel Hartman (+10EXP, +59HP)
FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES: Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez (+20EXP, +19HP)

FIRST BOOK IN A SERIES: Dead is the New Black by Marlene Perez (+20EXP, +19HP)
VERB IN THE TITLE: Before I Die by Jenny Downham (+10EXP, +33HP)
WEAPON ON THE COVER: An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg (+10EXP, +26HP)
RED COVER: Saving Red by Sonya Sones (+10EXP, +44HP)
MOVIE/TV ADAPTATION: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (+10EXP, +37HP)

Side Quests:
POTIONS (2+ authors): A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd (+10EXP, +21HP)
MULTIPLAYER (buddy read): The Midnight Star by Marie Lu (+20EXP, +32HP)
GRIND (500+ pages): Perfect by Ellen Hopkins (+10EXP, +62HP)
TIME WARP (past/future setting): When My Name was Keoko by Linda Sue Park (+20EXP, +20HP)
OPEN WORLD (free pick): Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden (+20EXP, +26HP)
RESPAWN (previously DNF): Red Scarf Girl by Ji-Li Jiang (+20EXP, +28HP)
EXPANSION (companion book): The Tales of Beedle the Bard by J.K. Rowling (+10EXP, +11HP)
MINI-GAME: (novella): Hiroshima by Laurence Yep (+20EXP, +5HP)
ANIMAL COMPANION (animal in title): A Sending of Dragons by Jane Yolen (+10EXP, 29HP) OR The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame (+10EXP, +6HP)


Me Before You by Jojo Moyes (+10EXP, +37HP)
Judging from the cover art, I thought this was going to be a fluffy romance. While there is some romance, Moyes takes on some heavy topics here. 

Louisa has worked at the same safe job and been with the same safe boyfriend for years. At 26, she still lives at home with her parents. They struggle financially and Louisa helps out as much as she can. After being let go when her boss decides to close his cafe, she gets a few awful jobs through the local job center. When none of these work out, she is hired as a companion for Will, who lost all interest in living after an accident made him a quadriplegic.

At first, I didn't like Lou all that much. She exhibits almost no curiosity about the larger world and has no aspirations beyond a steady paycheck. When Will challenges her (and she challenges him right back) she starts to become a more interesting character. They are both damaged, although some scars are more visible than others.

When Lou finds out that Will plans to seek out an assisted suicide, she sets out to show him that his life is not over and that he can still have a future. Along the way, she faces a few of her own demons and finds herself more invested in Will's happiness than she ever could have imagined.

Have plenty of Kleenex handy.


Belle by Cameron Okey

An interesting retelling of Beauty and the Beast in which Belle is a gifted wood carver. 

During a storm, Belle's father gets lost in the woods and stumbles into the Beast's home. All is fine until he picks up a branch from the mysterious Heartwood Tree. When the Beast gets angry that the tree would choose to bestow a gift (but not to him), Belle's father tells the Beast about her gift with seeing things in wood. The Beast insists that either Belle or her father remain with him until they can find out what the branch holds inside. 

Belle and the Beast don't even meet until about the last third of the book, so the development of their relationship is brushed over pretty quickly. I still enjoyed this version, especially the legend of the Heartwood Tree.

[SIDE QUEST] POTIONS ( A book concocted by 2+ authors) 
I also buddy read this with @raisinetta so she could use it for the [SIDE QUEST] MULTIPLAYER.

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd

This is the sort of book that is so sad and beautiful that it rips your heart right out. After you dry your ugly-cry tears, you hand it to everyone you love and say, "Read this! It's SOOOOOO good." Those words aren't enough, but they are all you'll have left. 

From the first line to the last, I was entranced. 

"The monster showed up just after midnight. As they do." 

Conor is struggling to deal with his mom's illness. Since she was diagnosed with cancer, he's been having the same nightmare every night. 

And then a different monster comes to call. This monster tells stories, but they are not stories with neat, happy endings. They are messy and complicated and sometimes unfair. And he wants A story from Conor, a true story. 

And that is the worst nightmare Conor can imagine.


Tranny: Confessions of Punk Rock's Most Infamous Anarchist Sellout by Laura Jane Grace 
I picked up this book after seeing an interview with Laura Jane Grace and wanting to hear more of her story. 

Most of the book deals with the band she started as Tom Gabel and the ups and downs of the punk rock scene. Punk fans will certainly find this stuff way more interesting than I did. 

Her coming out as transgender and her transition to living publicly as a woman was compelling to read, raw and real.


The Law of Love by Laura Esquivel, Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden 

Currently reading

[SIDE QUEST] MINI-GAME (Read a graphic novel, novella, or poem  collection)

Currently reading

Saturday, July 22, 2017

24 in 48 Readathon

Whew! It's the weekend of the overlapping readathons.  I've already been participating in the High Summer Readathon, despite having family visiting during the entire first half of it. I'm also finishing up one of my personal reading challenges, Alphabetically Yours. I wasn't going to sign up for 24 in 48, but now that I've dropped my visitors at the airport, I suddenly feel like I deserve to do little but read this weekend. I'm starting a bit late, but here goes.

My first book is Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Karen Zailckas. I like the writing style but the story itself--pampered white girl with a loving family regularly drinks herself into oblivion because, problems--seems a bit melodramatic so far.

Hour Zero Challenge: Intro

1. I'm reading in the lovely Pacific Northwest of the US this weekend.
2. This is my first time doing the 24 in 48 Readathon.
3. I found out about 24 in 48 through a post in the Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon Facebook group.
4. As I'm reading the last book in my stack for the High Summer Readathon, I'll be panting from here on in and reading whatever strikes my fancy in the moment.
5. My husband and I are starting a lavender farm, which leaves plenty of time to spend in the hammock during the hot, lazy afternoons.
6. I'll be posting updates right here. I may use the hashtag on Twitter, but I'd prefer to minimize the social media and spend more time reading.

Hour 12 Challenge: Hit the road

Three audiobooks I'd recommend for a road trip:
1. Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, read by the author. Though I'm (mostly) happily married, every time I reread this book, I fantasize about learning Italian in Italy. 
2. The No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith, read by Lisette Lecat. Not only is this first book in the series an engaging story, but the narrator's accent is utterly lovely.
3. The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, read by the author (or anything by Neil Gaiman, especially if he's reading it--swoon!). The story is thrilling enough to make you reluctant to get out of the car and Mr. Gaiman, well, he could read pages out of the phone book and I'd be all in.

Hour 18 Challenge: Diverse Book Stack

I've read (and loved) Warriors Don't Cry and The Women of Brewster Place. Perhaps I'll finally read another! This was a great challenge to get me to look for books I've been meaning to read, but haven't gotten to yet.

Hour 24 Challenge: Snacks and Stacks

My new stack for tonight and tomorrow. I had some popcorn, but I ate it already. Perhaps there will be a snack run on the agenda tomorrow.  

Hour 30 Challenge: Write Me a Verse

Since my first verse turned out so dark, I added a second to lift the mood. But I sure do have a lot of books with gloomy titles.

Hour 36 Challenge: Swagalicious
Too many t-shirts for one photo, but here are a couple of my favorites. The watercolor is a view of Hobbiton painted my a lovely artist friend, Jenny Matthews.

Hour 42 Challenge: Literary Dinner Party

Five authors I'd invite to a dinner party:
Margaret Atwood
J.K. Rowling
Libba Bray
Kate DiCamillo
Diana Gabaldon

Five fictional characters I'd invite:
Tuesday Next
Gemma Doyle
Hermione Granger
Mma Ramotswe
Claire Randall Fraser

Saturday, July 22, 2017
Reading Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Karen Zailckas.
10:00 am - 11:00 am: 37 pages
11:00 am - 12:00 pm: 50 pages
12:00 pm - 1:00 pm: 42 pages
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: 12 pages
2:00 pm - 3:00 pm: 39 pages
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm: 38 pages
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: 38 pages
6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: 34 pages
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm: 53 pages (Finished Smashed - 343 pages)
Reading Eyes on You by Kate White 

9:00 pm - 10:00 pm: 43 pages
10:00 pm - 11:00 pm: 41 pages
11:00 pm - 12:00 am: 57 pages

Sunday, July 23, 2017
12:00 am - 1:00 am: 45 pages
4:00 am - 5:00 am: 41 pages
5:00 am - 6:00 am: 48 pages
9:00 am - 10:00 am: 40 pages
10:00 am - 11:00 am: 21 pages (Finished Eyes on You - 336 pages)

Reading Time Temptress by Tianna Xander
What can I say, author names starting with X are in short supply. It should be a quick read!

12:00 pm - 1:00 pm: 50 pages
1:00 pm - 2:00 pm: 60 pages
4:00 pm - 5:00 pm: 55 pages
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm: 12 pages + 45 pages (Finished Time Temptress - 177 pages)

Reading Hush by Kate White 

Having read several of her standalone thrillers recently, it kind of feels like I've read this book before. Her heroines and villains are pretty much the same in every book, but I'm determined to clear off my TBR pile.

6:00 pm - 7:00 pm: 59 pages
7:00 pm - 8:00 pm: 54 pages
8:00 pm - 9:00 pm: 45 pages

Total books started: 4
Total books finished: 3
Total pages read: 1059

Now that I'm done updating my blog for a while, I think I'll go read some more!

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

High Summer Readathon, July 17-30

Me, getting ready to join another readathon:
The High Summer Readathon runs from July 17-30, with a bonus "Christmas in July" event during the last weekend. The readathon starts at 12 AM on Monday, July 17 and ends at 11:59 PM on Sunday, July 30. Read whatever you like! Get full info and sign up here.

My TBR pile is still a mystery, as I'm just finishing up my Alphabetically Yours challenge. I will post a shelfie once I have a better idea about what I'd like to read.

The readathon overlaps with a family visit, but I'm hoping to tempt my visitors with some lazy time in the hammock instead of non-stop sightseeing.

Updates to follow. Add your goals/books in the comments or use #HSreadathon on Twitter.

***Update: July 16, 2017
TBR Pile to start the challenge. Still deciding whether or not to read Christmas stories. Since we've got family visiting, my reading has been very slow this week and I'm still trying to finish a previous challenge. I hope to finish these quickly and add a few Christmas titles.

***Update: July 17, 2017
Books started: 2 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Gang Leader for a Day)
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 500

***Update: July 18, 2017
Books started: 1 (Wherever Nina Lies)
Books finished: 2 (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows; Gang Leader for a Day)
Pages read: 549

***Update: July 19, 2017
Books started: 0
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 210 (Wherever Nina Lies)

***Update: July 20, 2017
Books started: 1 (Out of Orange)
Books finished: 1 (Wherever Nina Lies)
Pages read: 106

***Update: July 21, 2017
Books started: 1 (Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood)
Books finished: 1 (Out of Orange)
Pages read: 305

***Update: July 22, 2017
Books started: 1 (Eyes on You)
Books finished: 1 (Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood)
Pages read: 484

***Update: July 23, 2017
Books started: 2 (Time Temptress; Hush)
Books finished: 2 (Eyes on You; Time Temptress)
Pages read: 372

Books started: 8
Books finished: 7
Pages read: 2526

***Update: July 24, 2017
Books started: 2 (The Art of Horsemanship; Hush, Hush)
Books finished: 1 (Hush)
Pages read: 541

***Update: July 25, 2017
Books started: 1 (George Eliot)
Books finished: 2 (Hush, Hush; The Art of Horsemanship)
Pages read: 430

***Update: July 26, 2017
Books started: 1 (Tunnels)
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 148

***Update: July 27, 2017
Books started: 0
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 96

***Update: July 28, 2017
Books started: 1 (Deeper)
Books finished: 1 (Tunnels)
Pages read: 373 pages

***Update: July 29, 2017
Books started: 0
Books finished: 0
Pages read: 417 pages

***Update: July 30, 2017
Books started: 1 (Touch Magic)
Books finished: 1 (Deeper)
Pages read: 330

Final Stack
Books started: 14
Books finished: 12
Pages read: 4861

My goal was to read every day and stay focused on cleaning out books that have been languishing on my bookshelves. The downside of this goal was that most of these reads were ho-hum books that I wasn't all that interested in, but I am simply unable to get rid of a book if I haven't read it. Harry Potter and Touch Magic will keep their honored places on my shelves, but everything else can go to make room for books that make my heart sing.

I enjoyed chatting with other readers in the Facebook group and especially appreciated that this readathon is focused on actually reading and not so much on the social media and cutesy challenges that I've encountered in other readathons. Don't get me wrong--I do the challenges, but what I need most is LESS distraction and MORE concentrated reading time. Many thanks to Michelle at Seasons of Reading for bringing us together to celebrate reading. 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

2017 Readathons

As an avid reader who has gotten distracted by iPad games, Facebook, and the daily idiocies exploding from the White House like a bad case of diarrhea, I recently noticed that I was talking about books and recommending them to others, but not actually reading all that much. I'm so much happier when I make time to read every day, so I've set out to recapture my daily reading habit with the help of reading challenges and readathons.

Completing Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon, followed by Bout of Books 19, I've connected with a community of readers and rediscovered the joy of stepping away from technology and getting lost in a great read.

Here is a list of some other reading events that I'll be joining to keep the pages turning. Happy reading!

Monday, May 8, 2017

Bout of Books Readathon 19

I must say, I am loving the readathon thing right now. As an avid reader who hasn't been reading all that much lately, it feels amazing to get a shot of book excitement and to connect with other book lovers. 

The readathon goes from today, May 8, to Sunday, May 14. You can find out all of the details at the Bout of Books website. I'll be playing along here and updating as the week progresses.  I'll also be posting updates using #boutofbooks on Twitter. 

Goals for the week:

I will read one book every day. I will read for (at least) two hours every day.

Books to read (subject to change):

Challenge #1: Introduce yourself #insixwords.

Introverted reader, writer, teacher, atheist, feminist #insixwords



Pages read today: 1064
Total pages read: 1064
Books started: 10
Books finished: 9
Books read: Lunch Lady series (books 1-9) by Jarrett J. Krosoczka; (Cress in progress)


Pages read today: 530
Total pages read: 1594
Books started: 2
Books finished: 2
Books read: This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen; Cress by Marissa Meyer; (Persepolis and Fairest in progress)

Challenge #2:  #notafont

My book covers are extremely font-y. Here's as close as I can get to #notafont.


Pages read today: 631
Total pages read: 2225
Books started: 2
Books finished: 2
Books read: The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi; Fairest by Marissa Meyer; (The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar and Winter in progress)

Challenge #3:  #shelfie4boutofbooks


Pages read today: 1251
Total pages read: 3476
Books started: 2
Total books started: 16
Books finished: 2
Total books finished: 15
Books read: The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar; Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice by Mike Maihack (Winter and Women, Food, and Desire in progress)

Challenge #4:  #characterdatingprofile

Laird of Lallybroch, looking for love, likes kilts (James Alexander Malcom MacKenzie Fraser, Outlander)


Pages read today: 239
Total pages read: 3715
Books started: 1
Total books started: 17
Books finished: 1
Total books finished: 16
Books read: I Could Chew on This and Other Poems by Dogs by Francesco Marciuliano (In progress: Winter; Women, Food, and Desire)

Today was a flailing, not failing day. I didn't get nearly the amount of reading done that I'd planned, but I still read a cute book of poetry that I would recommend to animal lovers. And check out the companion book, I Could Pee on This, with poems by cats. 

Challenge #5:  #bookspinerainbow


Pages read today: 207
Total pages read: 3922
Books started: 1
Total books started: 18
Books finished: 1
Total books finished: 17
Books read: Winter by Marissa Meyer (In progress: Gaia's Garden)

Challenge #6:  #seasonsofbooks

Spring: Green Angel and Green Witch by Alice Hoffman--magical realism all about healing and new life
Summer: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald--a summer vacation that's all about books and helping people bloom
Fall: Sleeping Freshmen Never Lie by David Lubar--back to school time
Winter: Lisey's Story by Stephen King--death and madness (Guess which season is my least favorite.)


Pages read today: 414
Total pages read: 4336
Books started: 3
Total books started: 21
Books finished: 3
Total books finished: 20
Books read: The Graduation of Jake Moon by Barbara Park; Gaia's Garden by Toby Hemenway; Celtic Night by Bridget O'Dwyer (In Progress: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo)

I just started reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Amy Schumer. Though I'll be able to keep reading for another hour or so, I have family coming into town and won't have time to update later. I've had a blast reading with the Bout of Books community this week and the readathon pushed me to read more than I would have on my own. 

Here's my final stack. Until next time!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon

A couple of days ago, a link to Dewey's 24 Hour Readathon popped up in my Facebook feed, providing a happy distraction from all of the horrifying political news. I can't believe I never heard of this event before, as it's been going on twice a year since 2007. I would have had a blast with this when I was still teaching English. On the upside, now that I'm no longer under the constant pressure of being a teacher, taking 24 hours out of my life to do nothing but read and talk about books is easy and natural. My husband hasn't officially joined the festivities, but he baked some cookies to make sure I won't run out of snacks and has said he "might pick up a book for a while" tomorrow. The more excited I am about it, the more willing he is to see what all the fuss is about.

Go to the official website or this concise and comprehensive post for full details, but here it is in a nutshell: Try to read as much as you can in 24 hours.

Participants also track and discuss their reading across a wide variety of social media platforms. Look for #readathon wherever you hang out online. In order to focus primarily on reading, I'll be most active before and after the readathon itself, though I'm sure I won't be able to resist occasional updates. I'm already not reading nearly as much as I'd like to, so MORE distraction isn't what I need.

This challenge on Instagram looks fun (and there are bookish prizes).

I've seen a lot of people looking at this as an all-or-nothing proposition, but you can still participate if you have work or family obligations. Even with the best of intentions, most people aren't going to read during ALL of the 24 hours. Any reading we do during the readathon, especially if it is over and above our usual reading routine, can be counted as a win.

So, stretch out, grab a great read and a snack, and join a vibrant community of readers. Just for the fun of it.


Hourly Updates

 5:00 AM  -  6:00 AM: Hate that Cat by Sharon Creech (152 pages - #1 done)
 6:00 AM  -  7:00 AM: Stickman Odyssey by Christopher Ford (200 pages - #2 done) 
 7:00 AM  -  8:00 AM: People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks (40 pages - in progress); The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro (26 pages - in progress)
 8:00 AM  -  9:00 AM: Love That Dog by Sharon Creech (86 pages - #3 done); The Buried Giant (24 pages - in progress)
 9:00 AM  - 10:00 AM: The Buried Giant (34 pages - in progress)
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM: The Tale of Despereaux - The Graphic Novel (126 pages - #4 done) 
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM: The Buried Giant (52 pages - in progress) 
12:00 PM -  1:00 PM: People of the Book (33 pages - in progress)
 1:00 PM  -  2:00 PM: As the World Burns by Derrick Jensen and Stephanie McMillan (220 pages - #5 done) 
 2:00 PM  -  3:00 PM: Green Angel by Alice Hoffman (62 pages - in progress) 
 3:00 PM  -  4:00 PM: Green Angel by Alice Hoffman (54 pages - #6 done) 
 4:00 PM  -  5:00 PM: Green Witch by Alice Hoffman (81 pages - in progress)
 5:00 PM  -  6:00 PM: Green Witch by Alice Hoffman (54 pages - #7 done); People of the Book (44 pages - in progress)
 6:00 PM  -  7:00 PM: Dinner with hubby and back at it! The Buried Giant (15 pages - in progress) 
 7:00 PM  -  8:00 PM: The Buried Giant (35 pages - in progress) 
 8:00 PM  -  9:00 PM: The Buried Giant (30 pages - in progress)
 9:00 PM  -  10:00 PM: People of the Book (71 pages - in progress)
10:00 PM -  11:00 PM: People of the Book (14 pages - in progress); The Buried Giant (16 pages - in progress)
11:00 PM -  12:00 AM: People of the Book (30 pages - in progress)
12:00 AM -  1:00 AM: The Buried Giant (30 pages - in progress)
 1:00 AM  -  2:00 AM: The Buried Giant (18 pages - #8 done); March, Book 1 by John Lewis (121 pages - #9 done)
 2:00 AM  -  3:00 AM: March, Book 2 by John Lewis (192 pages - #10 done) 
 3:00 AM  -  4:00 AM: March, Book 3 by John Lewis (200 pages - in progress)
 4:00 AM  -  5:00 AM: March, Book 3 by John Lewis (56 pages - #11 done); The Wide-Awake Princess (14 pages - in progress)


Books in the stack (11) are finished and the two in front are in process. I had to end with The Wide-Awake Princess!
My final stats from Bookout don't quite match with my running page totals, but I'm an English major. You do the math. I only remembered to start using the app later in the day, after seeing several cool infographics that other users had posted. So there's that.

I thoroughly enjoyed my first readathon and will look forward to participating in many more. Happy reading, everyone!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

YALSA Hub Reading Challenge 2017

As generally happens, I'm off to a late start again this year, but whatevs, I'm always up for another reading challenge. I'm still working on another one. Since I still have a ways to go with that one, I'll just dovetail the two together.

My other challenge is called Alphabetically Yours and the idea behind it is simple: Read whatever you like, as long as you read at least one fiction and one nonfiction book for each letter of the alphabet (by author's last name). I haven't been able to limit myself to two books per letter, so it's taking longer than I had originally planned, but I am making room on my bookshelves for some new books. You can see my progress (currently working on H) and add yours in the comments for that post (linked above).

ANYWAY, on to the fabulous YALSA Hub Reading Challenge. I do this one every year because I love the diverse selections that always help me stretch out of my normal reading habits. I try new books and authors. While I don't necessarily enjoy every selection, I have found many new favorites over the years.

I will update my progress below and I hope you'll join me in discovering some great YA reads! I'd love to see what you are reading in the comments.


1. The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Four teenagers come of age in Alaska in the 1970s.  

There's Ruth, looking for love and connection in all the wrong places. Her loving parents are gone and she lives with her fundamentalist grandmother in a home where any hint of pleasure or joy is a sin. 

Next we meet Dora, trying to escape from an abusive home and looking for someone she can trust to keep her safe. 

Alyce's parents love her, but since their divorce she's felt like her life has been torn in two and she lives her life to make them happy rather than pursuing her own dreams of being a dancer. 

Finally, there's Hank, who runs away from home with his two younger brothers in tow. Their dad is missing, presumed dead, and his mom has a new boyfriend. 

It took me a while to get into the story, but once it hooked me, I was good and hooked. This is my favorite kind of story. It features several main  characters who each have their own journey, but somehow their paths weave together in the end, showing the deep connections that exist in our lives, whether we are aware of them or not.

2. The Diviners by Libba Bray

The Diviners (the first in a new series, hooray!) is my favorite type of book--a blend of genres, fun to read and difficult to classify. It's a mix of fantasy, historical fiction, mystery, and suspense, with a dash of romance thrown in for good measure. Bray has painstakingly researched the Roaring Twenties and her gorgeous prose brings the period, and her characters, vividly to life. 

After getting in trouble back in Ohio, Evie O'Neill's parents send her to New York to stay with her uncle. An expert in occult matters, he runs The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--known by the locals as The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies. When Uncle Will is asked to help the police investigate a series of brutal, occult murders, Evie comes along for the ride. Will her ability to "read" objects help her solve the crimes or make her a victim?

Evie is not the only character with a special gift. There's also a pickpocket on a mission to find his mother, a Ziegfeld girl hiding from a dangerous past, a numbers runner with healing powers, and a museum employee who is more (and less) than he seems. Despite the supernatural elements, these characters are well-developed and realistic.

Highly recommended! Finished the second in the series, Lair of Dreams, and have pre-ordered the third book, Before the Devil Breaks You (set to be released in October 2017). 

3. The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

This book sums up why I do the YALSA Hub Reading Challenge every year, even now that I'm retired and no longer have students to share books with. I would never have picked this up if it hadn't been on the list because it's so far out of my reading comfort zone. But I loved it. 

Dolssa is a Catholic mystic who believes that her beloved is always with her and is able to work miracles through her. Healing and sharing her passion for her beloved brings the horror of the inquisitors upon her. After watching her mother burn at the stake, she escapes. Scared and alone, she is near death when Botille (the true heart of this story) rescues her and brings her home to the tavern she runs with her sisters. 

They try to keep Dolssa hidden, but she starts healing people and soon the inquisitors descend on the town, putting everyone in danger.

The setting and the characters were rich and detailed. A fine example of well-researched and beautifully-written YA literature that adults will enjoy and possibly even learn a few things from.

4. Girl Mans Up by M-E Girard

Penelope, who prefers to be called Pen, is the first genderqueer character I've encountered in a YA book. I love how she knows exactly who she is right from the beginning. The problems she encounters are with the way other people see her or expect her to behave, not with any self-doubt. 

Cody and his fragile masculinity provides a counterpoint to Pen's much more secure sense of self. Pen takes a while to see him in all his douchey splendor, but thanks to the support of her amazing brother, old and new friends, and a girlfriend who accepts her just as she is, she gets there in the end. 

This is such an important book, especially for kids who are gender non-conforming. Definitely worth a read.

5. Keeping the Moon by Sarah Dessen

Nicole Sparks (Colie) used to be overweight, and still feels like the fat girl she used to be. When her mom, who has become a fitness guru, heads out for the summer on a world tour, Colie goes to stay with her aunt. At first, she feels just as out of place in Colby, North Carolina as she's felt everywhere she's been the new kid. But before she knows it, a few special people in town are teaching her about the transformative power of friendship, music, and faking it until you make it.  A touching story for anyone who's ever felt like they didn't quite fit in.

6. This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen  

Watching her mother's string of failed marriages, Remy, who keeps every aspect of her life neatly organized, vows never to let herself love someone who will only let her down in the end. And then Dexter, messy, clumsy, and impulsive, stumbles into her life. 

I enjoy the sensitive and realistic way that Dessen writes about love. Too bad she's about my age because I would have really loved her books when I was a teenager!

7. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

A memoir of the author/illustrator's life growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  

Those who don't believe in the importance of the separation of church and state should really read books like this to see how horrible life is when religious fundamentalists are in charge. 

The difference between public and private life (especially for women) is an eye-opener. The pure ridiculousness of some of the laws made my jaw drop. For example, the author recounts that art students were not allowed to sketch female models unless they were wearing the full chador and female students were expected to sketch male models without looking at them!

8. March: Book Three by John Lewis 

This volume covers the Birmingham bombing, the marches at Selma, and the voting rights act. The bravery of the people fighting for civil rights in the face of such brutality absolutely astonishes me. We've made progress, but there's definitely more work to do. I hope stories like this will inspire our next generation of leaders.

(I bought the lovely boxed set and read the whole trilogy. I highly recommend it, especially for anyone who thinks the fight is over.)

9. The Wasp That Brainwashed the Caterpillar by Matt Simon

Focused on the grossest and most creative ways organisms have evolved to survive long enough to reproduce, this book will certainly generate interest in further study for kids with strong stomachs who are curious about biology.

10. Asking for It by Louise O'Neill 

Emma is gorgeous and knows it. She's not a particularly likable character--she shoplifts and is a crappy friend. 

She gets roaring drunk at a party and her parents find her unconscious on the front steps when they return from an overnight trip. She is bruised and doesn't remember how she got home. 

Before long, she sees a Facebook page with photos showing her being gang-raped by several guys. Of course, the page is full of vile comments about what a whore she is. 

Things go downhill from there. Ugh. This is a depressing read that all too accurately depicts the experiences of women all over the world.

11. Die Young with Me - A Memoir by Rob Rufus

A memoir from a cancer survivor/punk rock drummer.  Rob writes candidly about his battle with cancer and its effect on every aspect of his life. His account is raw and sad, angry and hopeful.

12. The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey  

The Monstrumologist, book one.

After the deaths of his parents, Will Henry is taken in by his father's employer, Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a scientist who studies monsters. Will Henry has become used to visitors in the dark of the night, but when a grave robber stops by with some especially gruesome cargo, Will Henry and Dr. Warthrop embark on a terrifying quest to find and kill the rest of the monsters before they kill again.

Very well done gothic horror set in Victorian England.  Gory details and high-level vocabulary make this one a good choice for more mature readers.

13. Just One Day by Gayle Forman

Allyson has every detail of her life planned in advance, even her post-graduation European tour. But when she meets Willem, a free-spirited, traveling actor, all those carefully laid plans go right out the window. Acting extremely out of character, she leaves her tour group and jumps on the train to Paris with charming Willem. They spend a single glorious day and night together, filled with risks and intimacies that sends Allyson's head spinning. 

When she wakes up in the morning, alone, her next adventure begins. She returns home and then heads off to college, depressed and feeling lost, but still determined to figure out who she is and what kind of life she wants to create for herself. 

I LOVED, LOVED, LOVED the locations, which brought up many fond memories of my own European adventures. Can't wait to read the sequel!

14. Dreamland by Sarah Dessen 

Caitlin has always felt like she lived in the shadow of her perfect older sister, Cassandra. Cassandra, tired of feeling trapped by her parents' expectations, runs away from home. Caitlin misses her sister, but sees her absence as a way to finally blaze her own path, without constantly being compared to Cass. Rogerson Biscoe, a mysterious bad boy, attracts Caitlin's attention and she is soon deeply in love with him. Though her friends try to warn her about him, Caitlin is stunned when he first hits her. Caitlin doesn't think she can live without Rogerson and starts to change her life to keep him happy, and herself safe. Meanwhile, her family is so caught up in her sister's disappearance that they fail to notice the changes in Caitlin.

Caitlin is a sympathetic character and Dessen shows how easy it is to get sucked into an abusive relationship--and also how hard it is to get out again.

15. Scythe by Neal Shusterman

In a utopian world where humans have conquered death and disease and people can "turn the corner" as many times as they please, what keeps population from overwhelming the planet's resources? Scythes live on the fringes of society and mete out death as they choose (though they do have quotas to meet and are disciplined if their "gleanings" show bias or laziness). 

Scythe Faraday does something out of the ordinary and takes on two apprentices--Citra and Rowan. Neither actually want the job, but take the apprenticeships, party out of curiosity and partly because their families will be immune from gleaning as long as they are scythes. 

While I tagged this as a dystopian novel, it really isn't one. The world is actually pretty great, if a bit boring. Citra and Rowan are in the center of plenty of action and adventure as they learn the art of taking a life, but what I found more interesting were the ethical questions they grappled with. 

I'll be on the lookout for the next books in this series.

16. EXIT, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Hermione Winters is the quintessential perky cheerleader, not only a flyer, but also a co-captain of her team. It's her final year and she's determined to enjoy her last summer cheerleading camp with her team and her best friend, Polly. 

But then someone hands her a drugged drink at a party and she wakes up in the hospital with no memory of what happened. 

Unlike many rape victims, Hermione has an incredible support system, from her family, friends, and teammates to the police and doctors who treat her with respect and care. 

What I loved so much about this book is that Hermione isn't a one-dimensional victim. The characters are all very well written and the dialogue is spot-on. 

E.K. Johnston has handled a difficult and all-too-common subject with admirable grace and damned fine writing.

17. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Alex Craft isn't like other girls. And after her sister is raped and murdered, Alex refuses to let the murderer go unpunished. 

Revenge doesn't make her whole. Instead, it highlights a darkness that she's always recognized in herself, but could never name. Now she knows she can't be trusted with normal people and isolates herself to protect others. 

However, through her volunteer work at a local animal shelter, she forges a friendship with Peekay, who in turn opens Alex up to the possibility of other relationships. Jack, a popular and talented athlete, is fascinated with Alex and sets out to get to know her better. 

Told through the alternating voices of Alex, Peekay, and Jack. All of the characters are well-drawn, but Alex is especially compelling. You'll root for her even when you know she's crossing a line and you really shouldn't be on her side. 

A page-turner for sure and a brilliant look at rape culture. Dark and, at times, surprisingly funny. Even though this is probably not a book I would reread, it's a book I'd recommend to every young person I know. And I will absolutely be looking for more from this author.

18. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen

After her father's sudden death, Macy Queen deals with her grief by stuffing her feelings away and pretending that she is fine. She has a "perfect" boyfriend and pushes herself to be flawless enough to deserve him. 

When Jason leaves for a prestigious summer "Brain Camp," Macy feels lost. She hates her summer job at the library, but soon finds herself working for Wish Catering, a job her mother thinks is beneath her, but one where Macy finds new friends and a sense of deep connection that helps her finally begin to work through her grief. 

Moving and hopeful.

19. The Invisible Life of Ivan Isaenko by Scott Stambach

One of many severely disabled children born after the nuclear accident in Chernobyl, Ivan has lived his entire 17 years in the Mazyr Hospital for Gravely Ill Children in Belarus. Despite his physical limitations, he has a keen and active mind. His emotional maturity is severely lacking, especially during the first half of the novel, where he plays mean-spirited "games," often involving bodily excretions and fake seizures, to pass the time and to give himself a sense that he has some control over his environment. Though his games tend to be mainly gross or mean, his sessions with the revolving door of psychologists made me laugh out loud.

When an orphan (otherwise normal, but battling leukemia) arrives who is about his age, he makes a real connection for the first time. Nurse Natalya is great, but she's paid to care for him. Polina is different. 

As Ivan learns to care for Polina, he starts to become a character who readers will root for.

20. What Happened to Goodbye? by Sarah Dessen

After her parents' bitter divorce, Mclean is angry at her mother and decides to live with her dad. He moves a lot for his job and in each each new city, Mclean assumes a new name and a new personality. Then, when she leaves, she sheds each persona so she can start fresh in a new place.  

Not one of my favorite Dessen books, mainly because I found it difficult to connect to Mclean.

The characters in this book were not as well-developed as I would have liked.  Lots of snappy dialogue, though.

Reread for 2017 YALSA Hub Challenge. 

21. Just Listen by Sarah Dessen

Annabel is used to being looked at. Growing up with her mother's depression, she is also used to hiding her own feelings and avoiding potential conflict at all cost. When one of her friends, Sophie, gets mad at her and ends their friendship, Annabel starts the new school year alone, with no one to confide in about what really happened. Her family is no help, as they are all dealing with their own issues, and not one of them is perceptive enough to recognize any changes in Annabel. 

Then she meets Owen, another outsider. He's a little scary (having a reputation for fighting), a loner obsessed with weird music. But he listens and he tells the truth, something Annabel needs more than she realizes. 

Like Dessen's other work, the characters are well-drawn and the dialogue is spot-on. My only gripe is the resolution of Will (unrealistic if you ever watch the news) and Sophie's (out of character) plot lines. Can't say more without spoilers. 

Another book about being true to yourself and listening to your own heart that (especially) teen girls should read.

22. The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner 

"How was it possible for love of a place and hatred of it to exist so comfortably side by side?"

Dill, Travis, and Lydia are unlikely friends in a small, Southern town. Each a misfit, they've banded together to find a way to survive lives that seem too confined. This is their senior year of high school, a time of firsts and lasts, when they are plotting out their futures, or lack thereof. Their story is told in alternating perspectives. 

Dill, the son of a disgraced preacher, longs to break away from the legacy of his family name and follow the secret desires of his heart, but his sense of duty to his family and the path set out for him is a narrow one. 

Travis, the son of an abusive asshole, is weirdly obsessed with a fantasy series and carries a wizard staff around with him. But his loyalty to his friends and his mom never wavers. He has the golden heart of a knight and a quiet bravery that goes unnoticed, even by those who know him best. Like Dill, he feels trapped by circumstances and finds it hard to even imagine a life beyond the borders of his small town. 

Lydia, an Instagram-obsessed fashion blogger, has the advantage of wealth and knows from the start that she is meant for bigger and better things. Her obliviousness to the suffering of her closest friends makes it harder to care that much about her, at least in the beginning. She does change throughout the course of the story, and I genuinely cared about her by the end. I loved her dad. 

I had a hard time getting into the story and came close to abandoning this one. The writing style just didn't engage me right away. I think I was a good 100 pages in before I was really hooked. 

Travis brought me in when he used his favorite book quote as his graffiti on The Column. In my small mid western town, we left our teenaged words of wisdom spray-painted on a silo near the high school. And from that point, I couldn't put the book down. 

The author's handling of Dill's depression and suicidal thoughts were both moving and utterly realistic and some of the language, especially in descriptions of the setting, was lovely and poetic. And male characters who cry without making a big deal about it, I mean just because they are human and feel things? That, I loved. 

Tragic, hopeful, and bittersweet.

23. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

I'm not a believer in love at first sight (lust, certainly) but I enjoyed watching a relationship develop between Natasha (an undocumented immigrant from Jamaica) and Daniel (American, but part of a traditional Korean family). 

Natasha goes to the immigration office in a last-ditch effort to keep her family from being deported. Several coincidences later, she's on the way to an appointment with a lawyer who specializes in immigration issues. She meets Daniel as he is on his way to his favorite barber and a meeting that will set him on the path to a life that he doesn't really want.

Daniel is instantly smitten, but Natasha is just not having it. Thanks to a few more coincidences, though, she gives him a chance to prove that he can use science to get her to fall in love with him. As their day progresses, toward its inevitable conclusion, they share more and more about themselves and their lives. 

What I actually liked even more than the insta-love that strained credibility on more than one occasion were the snippets of random facts and the behind-the-scenes peeks into the lives of random strangers who influenced the main story in large and small ways.

24. Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen 

Auden is a pretty typical overachiever--she is book- smart, but has missed out on a lot of her childhood because her parents are too wrapped up in their own drama to let her be a child.

When she decides to spend the summer before college at the beach (Dessen fans will recognize Colby and some familiar characters from other stories) with her dad and his new wife and baby, she finally starts to take a look at her family and how they have affected her. And with the help of a handsome stranger dealing with his own demons, she embarks on a quest that's all about second chances.

25. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys

Refugees caught between German and Russian troops toward the end of WWII flee their homes in the hope of finding a safe haven. 

Emilia is all alone until she crosses Florian's path. Even though he knows he'll have a better chance on his own, she reminds him of his little sister, who he hopes is still alive--somewhere. Soon, they join up with Joana and her small group of traveling companions. 

The story is told in the alternating perspectives of Emilia, Joana, Florian, and Alfred (a Nazi who they meet later). At first, I found the narrative hard to follow, as the perspective is constantly changing and each character has very short chapters. I felt sympathy for the characters right away, but it was a while into the story before they felt real, rather than merely generic placeholders for the plot to act upon. 

They are headed for the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship that they hope will take them to safety. 

Flawlessly researched historical fiction based on a real, and little-known, maritime tragedy.

Whew! Another challenge done. As always, this year's challenge once again pushed me to get a bit out of my comfort zone and try books that I wouldn't normally pick up. 

As an added bonus, since I'm no longer spending every waking minute trying to tempt teenagers with no attention spans to read, I actually got to peruse the list with my own enjoyment in mind. And I finally read the Sarah Dessen collection that has been on my shelf forever--that was a bit of housekeeping. Now I can donate those to a local classroom where they can be enjoyed by teens who aren't my responsibility. 

Some choices I enjoyed more than others, but I don't regret a single one of my picks this year. The highlights that I've already been recommending (in no particular order):

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Just One Day by Gayle Forman
The Diviners by Libba Bray
The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

I'd love to see others' favorites in the comments. Though I usually try for the whole list, I'm going to stop at 25 this time, mainly because the library in my new town isn't nearly as good as the one where I used to live. If I have to buy a book in order to read it, I want to be pretty sure I'm going to like it before I plunk down my hard-earned cash.