Wednesday, December 13, 2017


Welcome to #ReadersCrossing, the latest reading challenge from Aentee over at one of my favorite bookish blogs, Read at Midnight. It's inspired by Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp, a charming free app available on IOS and Android. Pick a path (Cute, Cool, Sporty, or Natural) and start reading your way around the board. The challenge runs from December 10, 2017-December 31, 2017. Head over to #ReadersCrossing Sign Up Post for full details and to sign up to join in the fun.

Though I tend not to stick to a TBR, here's my initial plan. I'll be starting on the CUTE path.



GRAPHIC NOVEL: Beowulf by Gareth Hinds
(2 EXP)
The artwork in this graphic novel adaptation is absolutely gorgeous. The story as a whole (words and pictures combined) was easy to follow and definitely makes the story more accessible to younger readers. 
I found the large blocks of exposition a bit disappointing. They felt more like the summaries you might find in CliffsNotes and lost much of the beauty of the poetry.

PINK COVER: Riot Days by Maria Alyokhina
(3 EXP)
In vignettes based on her jail diary and courtroom transcripts, peppered with song lyrics, Masha describes Pussy Riot’s two minute protest at Moscow’s central cathedral and the two years of prison time that followed. 

“Power built on totalitarian principles cannot admit its mistakes. To admit a mistake is to show weakness, to back down. To lose. This power sees conspiracy everywhere behind its back, so it lives with its head turned backwards, checking that no one is following it, that no one is dreaming up a revolution.”

During her time in two different women’s penal colonies, she continued to resist, standing up for basic human rights and shining a light on desperate conditions that she and her fellow prisoners faced every day. 

Now more than ever, citizens have the responsibility to pay attention and to speak out. “Freedom doesn’t exist unless you fight for it every day.”

MAIN ROMANTIC PLOT: Month of Sundays by Yolanda Wallace
(3 EXP)
I don’t read much romance, but I enjoyed this light, breezy read. 

After a bad break-up, Rachel’s friends fix her up on a blind date with sexy celebrity chef Griffin. Rachel isn’t sure she wants another relationship, but Griffin persuades Rachel to spend the next six months of Sundays exploring local New York restaurants in a sort of culinary trip around the world. (One of the benefits of living in a big city is having access to diverse food.)

I liked the way their relationship evolved. The most awkward part was trying to visualize the sex scenes when both characters were “she/her.” I kept having to go back and reread to keep track of who was on top!

MIDDLE GRADE: Doll Bones by Holly Black
(2 EXP)
Zach, Alice, and Poppy have grown up together playing imaginative role-playing games with their dolls. Now that they are 12, Zach feels pressure to act more like one of the guys. His dad escalates the situation by throwing away Zach’s action figures, characters in a long-running game between the three friends. Zach feels hurt and betrayed, sure that the only solution is to focus on sports and leave his friends behind. 

But before he realizes what is happening, he’s been dragged along on a quest to return a creepy china doll to her grave. The creepy-but-not-gory vibe will keep middle grade readers turning pages, wondering if the doll is really haunting the children, or if Poppy herself is behind the mysterious happenings. 

A perfect book for middle grade readers—lovely writing, atmospheric and creepy, but without being too scary.

CONTEMPORARY: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
(3 EXP)
Marin, a college freshman, is spending winter break alone in an empty dorm. No one from home has heard a word from her since she left at the end of summer. Now her best friend/former girlfriend is flying from California to New York to visit her and Marin knows they will have to talk about what happened the day her grandfather died. 

The writing is gorgeous and evocative. Marin’s grief and loneliness is palpable and reflected in the cold New York winter and her bare dorm room.

That's it for the cute path. Five books / 1079 pages / 13 EXP
I'll just keep going to see how far I can make it around the board.



CONTEMPORARY: We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
(3 EXP)
See above (on the CUTE path) for review.

WRITTEN BY A CELEBRITY: You Can't Touch My Hair by Phoebe Robinson
(3 EXP)
I was familiar with Phoebe Robinson from her podcast, 2 Dope Queens, which she does with “werk wife” Jessica Williams. They’re hilarious, FYI. 

Some people will be turned off by this book in written form, as the tone is extremely casual and liberally peppered with hashtags and text message abbreviations. As I’m from the last generation to come of age before the Internet was a thing, I knew enough to pick this up in audiobook. 

A mix of personal and political, silly and serious, Robinson uses humor and lots of pop culture references to talk about the micro-aggressions she experiences every day as a black woman in America. Some of the book is about the politics of natural hair and why you shouldn’t touch it. She goes on to talk about serious topics like racism, privilege, and coded language. 

She ends with letters to her bi-racial niece about honoring both sides of her identity. Included in this section is a letter written and read by John Hodgeman, apparently the whitest white guy ever. To be honest, that bit about Mr. Rogers might have made me tear up just a little. 

This isn’t a perfect book, but Robinson adds to a timely and important conversation that more of us need to engage in. And if you’re the type of white person who would EVER walk up to a stranger and ask to touch her hair (or her pregnant belly), you NEED this book. And probably a more diverse circle of friends. Just sayin’.

BOOK AWARD WINNER (Nebula Award): Uprooted by Naomi Novik
RECOMMENDED BY A FRIEND: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
SET IN YOUR COUNTRY: Beezus and Ramona by Beverly Cleary
Beatrice (aka Beezus), who’s nine, wishes she had more time to read, but is asked to spend what seems like every waking moment of her life being responsible for her four year old sister, Ramona. While I get that Ramona is the fun, imaginative wild-child, she’s also a naughty little shit who throws a tantrum on the rare occasions she doesn’t get her own way. Possibly because I have two younger sisters, I really felt for Beezus.

Progress on the COOL path. Three books / 726 pages / 8 EXP



SEASONALLY INSPIRED: Gather 'Round the Sound: Holiday Stories from Beloved Authors and Great Performers Across the Globe an Audible collection
A free collection of short stories from Audible. By far, my favorite was “Zip Code 12345,” a nonfiction piece about children’s letters to Santa. “An Aussie Night Before Christmas” by Yvonne Morrison was a fun take on the classic poem and “The Music Coming from the House” was a heartwarming tale by Paulo Coehlo.

FRUIT IN THE TITLE: Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Sal and her mother go out to pick blueberries, and Little Bear and his mother come to the same patch to eat blueberries. The two little ones get mixed up and hilarity ensues. The parallels between Sal and Little Bear provide both structure and entertainment. 

Simple, expressive black and white drawings and charming, repetitive language makes this one a fun read-aloud. One of my childhood favorites!

TIMED (READ A BOOK IN 24 HOURS): Dancing Girls and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood
As a whole, this collection is not quite 5 stars for me, though many of the individual stories definitely are. 

I loved this collection when I read it years ago. As an angsty teenager, Atwood’s dark world view was right up my alley. Especially in the context of the world’s economic and political climate right now, her pessimism feels truer than ever. 

The women in these stories are mostly middle-aged and dissatisfied with the lives they are living. There is a pervasive sense of futility in their relationships and little sense that any significant change is possible. 
Anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship will recognize the miscommunications and words not spoken that pile up over the years.

This is not a happy collection, but I kind of like the way Atwood shines a light on the dark corners. 

My personal favorites:

“Betty” is almost a coming-of-age story, set against the backdrop of the neighbors’ imploding marriage. 

“The Grave of the Famous Poet” was hilariously dark. A couple bickers while exploring some ruins and later the woman muses that perhaps she could kill the man. “Instead I brush my teeth, wondering if he’ll ever know how close he came to being murdered....” Wrong? Perhaps, but I laughed out loud several times while reading this one. 

“A Travel Piece” features a travel writer, bored with being pleased, who finally finds herself in a situation she’s never encountered. 

“The Resplendent Quetzal” paints a depressing picture of regret, blame, and words not spoken. 

“Lives of the Poets” explores a woman’s rage. 

“Giving Birth” was the jewel in this collection, possibly because so much of it felt like TRUTH (yes, TRUTH in all caps). “She remembers the way women who had babies used to smile at one another, mysteriously, as if there was something they knew that she didn’t, the way they would casually exclude her from their frame of reference.”

INSECT ON THE COVER: Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
I've been reading this one slowly, savoring the beautiful writing and Janie's journey to self-empowerment. So far, I have read to page 90. Will finish, but not in time for this challenge.

SHOVEL STRIKE (FRIEND PICK): Warcross by Marie Lu 

SET AT SEAS OR BEACH: The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
(2 EXP)
In many ways, this was similar to Girl on the Train. The unreliable narrator witnesses a murder and no one will believe her story. 

Lo Blacklock is a travel writer who never gets the good assignments, mainly because of her history with anxiety and depression. One night, she wakes up in the dark to find a masked man standing in her apartment, stealing her purse. What is really terrifying is that he is wearing latex gloves and the thought spiral she goes down when she sees them had me terrified along with her. In the aftermath of the break-in, her anxiety gets ramped way up,  she stops sleeping, and ends up having a huge fight with her boyfriend, right before leaving on a luxury cruise assignment that dropped in her lap because her boss is pregnant. 

She is determined to prove herself on this assignment, the chance she’s been waiting for. The ship gets underway and things are not going all that well for her. When she is awakened by a scream and a big splash, things get worse. She calls security, convinced that she’s witnessed a murder. Of course, no one believes her once it comes out that she regularly combines anxiety meds with lots of booze, on top of her recent trauma. She keeps insisting that she’s telling the truth, which leads to some real danger. 

There were some suspenseful moments, but also some tedious and repetitive ones. I thought this one started out well, but I didn’t care for the ending.



Progress on SIDE QUESTS. Four books / 795 pages / two SM quests / 13 EXP

Twelve books / 2600 pages

While I had the motivation to read, I did get sidetracked by the combination of a more demanding work schedule than normal and the gaming aspect of the challenge. My husband just shook his head and snickered at me every time I got excited to catch my campers reading. I had a great time and will continue to follow Read at Midnight for more great book recommendations and (hopefully) more reading challenges.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Litsy A to Z Challenge


When a fellow Litsy user suggested that I join the #LitsyAtoZ Challenge, to give myself a good reason to read Uprooted by Naomi Novik, I immediately followed the hashtag to get more info. @BookishMarginalia created the challenge. Basically, readers choose 26 books, one for each letter of the alphabet. Choose by title, author, or a combination of the two. Since I just did my own A-Z challenge by author's last name, I'll do titles this time. It started in January, so we'll see how far I get before the end of the year.

I'll fill in as I go. Happy reading!

A--And Every Morning the Way Home Gets Longer and Longer by Fredrik Backman ☆☆☆☆☆
B--Beartown by Fredrik Backman ☆☆☆☆
C--The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer ☆☆☆☆
D--Dancing Girls by Margaret Atwood ☆☆☆☆✩
E--Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman ☆☆☆☆☆
F--The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life by Lauren Markham ☆☆☆☆
G--Granny by Anthony Horowitz ☆☆✩
H--Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay ☆☆☆☆☆
I--I heart You You Haunt Me by Lisa Schroder ☆☆☆
M--Magpie Murders by Anthony Horowitz ☆☆☆
N--N-W by Zadie Smith ☆☆☆
P--Pemba's Song by Marilyn Nelson & Tonya C. Hegamin ☆☆☆
R--Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ☆☆☆
T--Today I Will Be Different by Maria Semple ☆☆☆
V--Vanishing Girls by Lauren Oliver ☆☆☆
W--What Happened by Hillary Clinton ☆☆☆☆
Y--You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie ☆☆☆☆

Ran out of time on this one. I thought about continuing into the new year, but will instead leave this as is and jump into new challenges for a new year. They're stacking up already!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

FrightFall Readathon - October 1-31

If a month of scary stories sounds like a great time, join me for the FrightFall Readathon. I pulled a huge stack of frightening reads off my bookshelves and then found a few more at the library. I know I won't get to all of them, but I like to have lots of choices to honor my moods as my cravings shift.

Books started: 8
Books finished: 6
Pages read: 1802

      The Robe of Skulls     The Haunting of Hill House
Vivian French                    Shirley Jackson
☆☆☆                               ☆☆☆☆

          Gothic! Ten Original Dark Tales      The Woman in Cabin 10
                   Deborah Noyes (Ed.)                         Ruth Ware  
                           ☆☆☆☆                                     ☆☆☆  

                      Full Tilt                          Heart-Shaped Box
                Neal Shusterman                          Joe Hill
                        ☆☆☆                                  ☆☆☆

WEEK 2 TOTALS (October 8-14):
Books started: 3
Total started: 11
Books finished: 4
Total finished: 10
Pages read: 1667
Total pages: 3469

                Picture the Dead                     The Fireman
                   Adele Griffin                            Joe Hill
                       ☆☆☆                                 ☆☆☆ 

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
Roxane Gay

Books started: 10
Total started: 21
Books finished: 11
Total finished: 21
Pages read: 3026*
Total pages: 6495
Thanks to Dewy's 24 Hour Readathon!

   What Happened          The Case of the Missing Marquess
Hillary Rodham Clinton               Nancy Springer
         ☆☆☆☆                              ☆☆☆☆

        Vanishing Girls              Today Will Be Different
         Lauren Oliver                       Maria Semple
            ☆☆☆                                  ☆☆☆

 And Every Morning the Way                          Beartown
Home Gets Longer and Longer
Fredrik Backman                                     Fredrik Backman
    ☆☆☆☆☆                                               ☆☆☆

The Adventures of Superhero Girl    You Don't Have to Say You Love Me
Faith Erin Hicks                                            Sherman Alexie
☆☆☆☆☆                                                         ☆☆☆

  The Case of the Left-Handed Lady            Pemba's Song
                  Nancy Springer          Marilyn Nelson & Tonya Hegamin
                    ☆☆☆                               ☆☆

Anthony Horowitz

Books started: 6
Total started: 27
Books finished: 6
Total finished: 27
Pages read: 2051
Total pages: 8546

    When Breath Becomes Air       I Heart You, You Haunt Me
Paul Kalanithi                      Lisa Schroeder

                     A Good Idea                            Wild
                  Cristina Morocco               Cheryl Strayed

                  The Word is Murder       Magpie Murders
                    Anthony Horowitz       Anthony Horowitz

A fun month of reading a bit outside my comfort zone. While it didn't go as planned, I enjoyed the readathon. My scary pick generally didn't turn out to be be scary, and the nonfiction and more realistic fiction choices I made turned out to have more scary moments. The formatting for this post gave me nothing but trouble, so it looks wonky and I've decided it's good enough. And done. Until next time!


Book Riot's 2017 Read Harder Challenge

I'm late to the party on this one, since the Read Harder Challenge started in January, but I'm going for it anyway. Because why the hell not? Who couldn't benefit from a little stretch?

Looking through the list of reading prompts, I have 18 covered already with what I've read so far this year. However, finishing the few that are left seems a bit too easy, so I'll be starting fresh and attempting to complete all 24 reading prompts between now and the end of the year.

Woo hoo! Here we go!

  1. Read a book about sports. Beartown by Fredrik Backman ☆☆☆☆⭒ (A dying town that has pinned all its hopes for the future on the junior hockey team grapples with issues of loyalty after its star player rapes a classmate.)
  2. Read a debut novel. Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill ☆☆⭒ (Decent writing, but not my cup of tea.)
  3. Read a book about books. Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie & Folklore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen ☆☆☆☆☆ (Loved this collection of essays. Yolen lays out the many ways that fantasy literature is developmentally crucial to children, our sense of history, and society as a whole.)
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez ☆☆☆☆ (Compelling historical fiction about the Mirabal sisters, Las Mariposas, and their fight for freedom during the reign of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic.)
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. The Far Away Brothers by Lauren Markham ☆☆☆☆ (Combines the personal story of a family's struggle for survival and the larger political and economic factors that drive illegal immigration.)
  6. Read an all-ages comic. Moon Girl & Devil Dinosaur Vol. 1: BFF by Amy Reeder ☆☆ (I enjoyed the artwork, but there was too little story in the first volume.)
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey  ☆☆☆☆☆ (A childhood favorite! Simple, repetitive story and lovely black and white drawings.)
  8. Read a travel memoir. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed ☆☆☆☆ (A woman, alone and ill-prepared, hikes a portion of the PCT to prove  she can. Raw and honest.)
  9. Read a book you’ve read before. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson ☆☆☆☆ (Creepy classic ghost story/psychological thriller.)
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. The Legend of Indian Mary and Umpqua Joe by Percy T. Booth ☆☆⭒ (Interesting local history of Southern OR with a dash of racism.)
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho ☆☆☆ (A young Slovenian woman decides to commit suicide because her life is boring and wakes up in a mental hospital.)
  12. Read a fantasy novel. The Robe of Skulls by Vivian French ☆☆☆ (Cute fantasy-adventure for upper elementary readers.)
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline ☆☆☆☆⭒ (I may be pushing this category a bit. The war in the story is not between nations, but instead between everyday people and an evil corporation attempting to seize control of the Oasis, an online virtual reality. Super fun 80s nostalgia and nonstop action.)     
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour ☆☆☆☆ (Evocative writing about grief, loneliness, and family.)
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. A People's History of the United States by Howard Zinn CURRENTLY READING
  17. Read a classic by an author of color. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston CURRENTLY READING
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks ☆☆☆☆☆ (Utterly charming artwork and story featuring an angsty, 20-something superhero struggling to save the world and still pay the rent.)
  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey (From Daniel José Older, author of Salsa Nocturna, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and YA novel Shadowshaper)
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean, author of ten bestselling historical romance novels) Month of Sundays by Yolanda Wallace ☆☆☆ (Light and breezy contemporary romance.)
  21. Read a book published by a micropress. (From Roxane Gay, bestselling author of AyitiAn Untamed StateBad Feminist, Marvel’s World of Wakanda, and the forthcoming Hunger and Difficult Women) The Legend of Indian Mary and Umpqua Joe by Percy T. Booth (B&B Publishing, Coos Bay, OR) ☆☆⭒ (Interesting local history of Southern OR with a dash of racism.)
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. (From Celeste Ng, author Everything I Never Told You and the forthcoming Little Fires Everywhere) Dancing Girls and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood ☆☆☆☆ (Several stellar stories about relationships and how we wreck them.)
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. (From Ausma Zehanat Khan, author of the Esa Khattak/Rachel Getty mystery series, including The Unquiet DeadThe Language of Secrets, and the forthcoming Among the Ruins)
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. (From Jacqueline Koyanagi, author of sci-fi novel Ascension Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward ☆☆☆☆☆ (Beautiful writing and a haunting story; a perfect example of why I'm reading more books by women and POC this year; highly recommend.)
I loved this challenge because it lead me to stretch out of my comfort zone. Though I bought some new books in order to cover every category, I ran out of time to read them all this year. I'm currently in the middle of Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, reading slowly and savoring the gorgeous writing. Looking forward to a productive and informative reading year in 2018.