Somewhere in May or so, I was handed a reading challenge for 2015, and I thought ‘hey, why not?’ and I’ve been slowly chipping away at it ever since. I wasn’t strict with myself, I didn’t quite finish and I bent some rules, which I’ll note below. But I got quite far, so I thought I’d share with you, as well as some cursory notes from me! I’ve been listening to a lot of audiobooks on my commutes and car trips, so I noted those that I found particularly good as well.
This was fun! Because I wasn’t being strict, I didn’t feel any pressure from it, and I started out with one book per prompt, but then decided if they applied to multiple prompts, then so be it. It didn’t really change any of my reading choices, except giving me a little incentive to finish books that dragged on a bit (Handmaid’s Tale, I’m looking at you), and inspiring me when I was in between books.
1. An author you’d never read before: (14 new authors by my count, I won’t bore you with a list)
2. A book that takes place in your hometown: (None of the books I read took place in my state, much less my hometown.)
3. A banned book: Persepolis, Slaughterhouse Five, Handmaid’s Tale have all graced the list of frequently banned books.
4. A book originally in another language: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Originally published in French. This was a re-read; I loved it the first time 10 years ago, and I still love it now)
5. An LGBTQ book: Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan (Non main character Tiny Cooper is truly the shining star of this book)
6. A book written by someone under 30: Let’s Get Lost by Adi Alsaid (This is surprisingly difficult to verify, but this was his first book and he looks really young, so… I’m counting it.)
7. A non-fiction book: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson.
8. A book with non-human characters: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. (Featured some dragon characters. This was a truly excellent audiobook.)
9. A classic romance: North & South by Elizabeth Gaskell. (Also a re-read. I love this book, and I am moderately obsessed with Richard Armitage’s portrayal of Mr. Thornton. Hand me my fan, ladies, I feel a swoon coming on.)
10. An author of the opposite sex: John Green, Gary Schmidt, Kurt Vonnegut, etc.
11. A mystery or thriller: Heist Society by Ally Carter.
12. A book longer than 500 pages: Heir of Fire by Sarah Maas.
13. A book that became a movie: Paper Towns by John Green (I didn’t see the movie though. I heard mixed reviews. Anyone want to weigh in? Also: listened to the audiobook of this, which was pretty good.)
14. A funny book: Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by Mindy Kaling (Totally recommend, I loved this. Can’t wait to read her newest!)
15. A book with a number in the title: Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut (My first Vonnegut! So much funnier and more surreal than I expected. I listened to the audiobook, which was excellent and read by Ethan Hawke)
16. A book published this year: Ms Marvel Vol 2-3 are the only titles published this year that I read. There’s several titles I’m very excited to read published in 2015, but they keep getting de-prioritized for other titles.
17. A book with a one word title: Attachments, Winger, Unraveling, etc.
18. A book you own but never read: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier (I’ve been meaning to read this for quite awhile, as it has been a noted influence on many things I love. I had a really really difficult time being so immersed in the head of a protagonist I wanted to slap out of inaction for the majority of the book. That having been said, the atmospheric creepiness was wonderful, and this did end up being a book where the end justified the means, and that isn’t something I say very often.)
19. A graphic novel: Wicked + the Divine, Ms. Marvel, Lumberjanes (I actually read scads. September inadvertently turned into a graphic novel month for me!)
20. A book you were supposed to read in school but didn’t: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. (I actually don’t remember which assigned books I skipped out on, so I just assigned this one a ‘classic’!)
21. Based on a true story: El Deafo by Cece Bell. (Wonderful mid grade graphic novel based on the authors experiences growing up deaf but desperately wanting a normal childhood.)
22. A friend’s recommendation: Several!
23. A memoir: Yes Please by Amy Poehler
24. A play: N/A
25. A trilogy: Raven Boys, Dream Thieves, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, by Maggie Stiefvater. (Not technically a trilogy, but I counted three in the same series as pretty much the same thing. I adore this series. The final volume will be out in March, and I am looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measures. Oh, the audiobooks for this series are seriously wonderful.)
26. A retelling: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress by Marissa Meyer (Based off of Cinderella, Red Riding Hood, and Rapunzel. Really fun series, and the final book was just released, but I couldn’t remember many details, so I had to re-read! Listened to the audiobooks, which were very well done!)
27. A book you can finish in a day: Any of the graphic novels were easily finished in a day.
28. A sad book: And We Stay by Jenny Hubbard and Impossible Knife of Memory by Laurie Halse Anderson (Anderson gets major props for handling tough subjects delicately and beautifully)
29. Pulitzer Prize winner: N/A
30. An author with the same initials as you: Story of Owen by E.K. Johnston (shockingly difficult to find an author with the initials EJ! Haven’t tested if this is hard in general, or if I just have a less frequently used combination of letters)
31. A book set in the future: This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meghan Spooner. (I love this series, the third one was just released, and I went to a signing by the authors at the beginning of the month!)
32. A book that came out the year you were born: A Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (I really liked this! It was a bit difficult for me to get immersed in, as the style automatically holds the reader at arm’s length, but once I got used to that, this was quite interesting. Definitely a different version of ‘dystopian novel’ than that phrase currently connotes.)
33. A book with magic: Kiss of Deception, The Raven Boys (and sequels)
34. A book of poems: N/A
35. A book with a color in the title: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.
36. A book with a protagonist of color: Ms. Marvel, This Shattered World, and if you count memoirs Persepolis and Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?
Accomplished: 32/36 ~88%
Not every book I read fell into one of these categories, so there are a few titles on my goodreads 2015 shelf not mentioned here. I may finish another book before the end of the year, but I sincerely doubt any of them will check off another category from this list. I really enjoyed having the structure of this challenge to encourage my reading habits, so I found another one for next year. I might prioritize some of the prompts that are similar to the ones I missed this year, but other than that, I don’t plan on changing my approach.
Did you read any great books this year? Anything I should definitely check out?
i decided that the hexagon blanket needed another pale color, which i honestly don’t have any of, so i had to go out and buy this lovely ballerina pink koigu. i think i’m done crocheting hexagons, and i have commenced crocheting all of the hexagons together in chunks. i’m just the teensiest but worried that i’ll want one more column in the end, so i’m crocheting together portions around the area i would most likely add another column.
the third from the left is the one i took home, the second from the right is the color i might go back for. if you look back at where i was before i added the pink, you can see that the warm pinky tones are the spectrum least represented. thoughts?
i’ve been trying to take advantage of the absolutely beautiful weather we’ve been having, and while we were dog sitting, we also took advantage of the lovely backyard and ate outside. the potatoes in the middle of the table, by the way, were from this ridiculously simple and ridiculously delicious recipe.
and because reading at coffee shops (or in this case bakery with good coffee) is one of my very favorite things to do, i inevitably have to document it. i’m currently on the third book in this YA fantasy series about a female assassin (why yes, that does have my name written all over it).
another attempt to take full advantage of the weather, i went for an extremely fantastic walk in a prairie preserve, and filled my head with the feeling of the sun on my skin, the wind in the grass, butterflies flittering about, the buzz of bugs going about their lives. it was lovely in the extreme.
ah, this picture also exemplifies my (quite mild) obsession with photo editing apps, most recently, the double exposure feature of afterlight. i could do a whole blog post about photo editing apps, but i have no idea if any of you would find that helpful or interesting at all?
what have you been doing to take advantage of the season?
gift hat – thrift tank – talbots hand me down skirt – old navy sandals
this skirt was my grandma’s. i have inherited a chunk of her wardrobe (you may have noticed if you’ve been reading my outfit descriptors), and let me tell you, the lady had good taste. i now possess a much higher percentage of talbots than i did before. although the actual amount of space i have for my wardrobe has been pushed to its limits. and now i’m rethinking what i own versus what i wear. what needs work or mending versus what i’m likely to actually do. these are tough topics of thought for someone as materialistically sentimental as i am. but i really dislike the pile that has no home on my bedroom floor.
on a completely different topic, do you need a summer book?
we were liars by e. lockhart
Cadence Sinclair Easton comes from an old-money family, headed by a patriarch who owns a private island off of Cape Cod. Each summer, the extended family gathers at the various houses on the island, and Cadence, her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and friend Gat (the four “Liars”), have been inseparable since age eight. During their fifteenth summer however, Cadence suffers a mysterious accident. She spends the next two years—and the course of the book—in a haze of amnesia, debilitating migraines, and painkillers, trying to piece together just what happened. from school library journal
that’s the synopsis i like best. if you are looking for a quick, engrossing read for the beach, may i recommend this? it is twisty and turny and pull-at-your-heartstrings-y. i read it twice in one day. when i finished, i had to go back to the beginning to revisit many of the scenes again. this is also one of those books where it is probably best if you go in knowing less rather than more. so thusly ends my extremely brief review.
i’ve been on a reading streak! it has felt really good. i owe you so so many reading posts, including about dreams of gods and monsters, pictured above! also, that mug? i tried the sharpie mug craft that you see everywhere on pinterest. i tried the version with oil based sharpies, but even with those, the edge around the top rim is already chipping a bit. ah, well.
i love ranunculus! i’ve been eying them in the store for months, but up until recently, they were all pretty rough and battered looking. i totally bought them the first time they looked healthy and lovely, though!
mirah just released a new album, and i got to see her in concert for the first time in a decade! you can hear the new album on spotify. i’m listening to it right now! you guys have spotify, right? because it is the BEST.
jake and i inadvertently had a night of local beer appreciation! both are really excellent, if you happen to see them!
the current state of the hex blanket! it’s slowly pushing all of the other things off of the coffee table. this has 13 rows and 10 columns pictured. i have two more rows worth of colors on hand, so i need to figure out what the last five will be, as well as two more column colors… i borrowed some leftover fingering weight yarn from a friend only to bring it home and realize they were almost exactly the same as some colors i already have represented here.
this robin just made it’s nest at my grandfathers!
i was there helping to pot some geraniums and other pretties for the summer.
not pictured but also happening: i’ve been getting into podcasts recently! i’m totally in love with radiolab (their sound editing is soooo good!) and 99% invisible, but also casually trying welcome to night vale. are any of you fans of podcasts? do you have any suggestions for me?
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.
Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what. (from goodreads)
i do now and always have absolutely loved fairy tales. it seems so innate and natural to me that there is more to this world than we can manage to perceive. whether you call it magic or science, i don’t really mind, but i lean a little more towards magic. one of the things neil gaiman does so well is exploring things at the edge of our understanding, and just dipping into the other side. this book is just a perfect example of that.
it is a daydream of mine to imagine hayao miyazaki making this into a movie (even though he’s technically retired… but he’s retired before and come back to makes movies, right???). it has several hallmark features of his movies: a sassy and powerful grandma, a sensible and resourceful girl, an eerie and unsettling villain, and scads and scads of adventure. anybody got an in with hayao miyazaki? wanna pitch him my daydream?
(EDIT: oh my gosh! whilst searching for an image of the book cover after writing this post, i found out that focus features bought the rights to this story, and joe wright is going to direct it!!! ahhhhh! excuse me while i run around fangirling and squealing! it’s still technically in developement… hopefully it doesn’t get backburnered and forgotten about.)
i’ve been in an awful drought in terms of reading recently, and it was really starting to weigh down on me. i kept starting books and never finishing them, through no fault of their own, which can get to feeling fairly oppressive for me.
there are two sure fire ways to break a drought for me: a mid grade novel, or a bodice ripper. this time i chose mid grade novel. one i actually read before, back when i was very much the target audience. but, obviously, it’s been a little while. i remember ruby in the smoke as being quite good, but when i revisit things i loved as an early adolescent, the results are pretty… mixed. but then thea of the book smugglers reviewed it and that rekindled my memories of it. and then i actually won the giveaway for it! (true story: it was kind of thrilling. ok, totally thrilling!)
so i figured now was a great time to revisit it. and it was fabulous to re-read it. have i ever mentioned that i am a total sucker for victorian mysteries?
a few quotes:
“Lodgings, in the East End, is a word that covers a multitude of horrors. At its worst, it means a room steaming with damp and poisonous with stench, with a rope stretched across the middle. Those far gone in drink or poverty can pay a penny for the privilege of slumping against this rope, to keep themselves off the floor while they sleep. At its best, it means a decent clean place where they change the linen as often as they remember. Somewhere in between, there is Holland’s Lodgings… You were never alone at Holland’s Lodgings. If the fleas disdained your flesh, the bedbugs had no snobbery; they’d take a bite out of anyone.”
“Jim looked up and released a jet of language that might have blistered a battleship. He was no respecter of clerks: they were a very low form of life.”
“He shrugged. ‘What d’you think, Jim?’
‘She’s mad. Best leave her be, in case it’s catching.'”
based on my selections, you’d think jim was the main character. sally is a great main character (thea says more on the subject, and i happen to whole-heartedly agree, to the point where i’d feel a bit redundant telling you about it), but i do love a well-meaning rapscallion, and jim is a good one.
here’s hoping the drought is over! (incidentally, it’s storming outside at the moment)
now…. to finish some of these half-read books? or cut my losses and start something fresh? have you read anything fantastic recently? any books you think i should for sure/definitely/have to read?
(make believe for me, will you, that the book shown is north and south?)
i just finished north & south, and i loved it! when i finish reading something that had me so immersed, i tend to obsess over it for a while afterwards. it’s nice for me when it’s something that has been around for a while, or is popular, because i can usually find some places on the internet to feed my obsession… here’s what i’ve found so far:
clickety-click on through the pics to find the sources!
these images are a little thornton-heavy, i know (because, um, richard armitage ain’t too hard on the old eyeballs.), but i actually really liked margaret hale as a heroine. i love a sure minded, confident, outspoken heroine who may not always find herself in the best of circumstances, but always tries to make the best of her circumstances.
i might have to watch the mini series again…