2017 Reading Challenges: Halfway Update

The end of September must mean time for a challenge update!  I’ve moved forward pretty well in most challenges, with sporadic focus on them…but that’s been enough for most.

PictureNewbery Medal Winners
Goal: 20 Newbery Medal Winners, halving the number remaining
Host: Smiling Shelves

I’m right on track here, with five new ones added–a good amount for a quarter.  I didn’t have great success with the books, though.  I particularly disliked the main character in MC Higgins the Great (he thinks it’s fun to jump girls walking alone–not okay) and particularly disliked the writing style of The Dark Frigate (written in 1923, but reads like 1823 and not in a good way).  The others were better, but cross fingers for some stand-out good ones in the last quarter?

  1. Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  2. The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
  3. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  4. Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz
  5. Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI
  6. King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
  7. Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
  8. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
  9. Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorenson
  10. The Wheel on the School by Meindert De Jong
  11. A Visit to William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard
  12. The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth
  13. I, Juan de Pareja by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino
  14. MC Higgins the Great by Virginia Hamilton
  15. The Dark Frigate by Charles Boahman Hawes
  16. The Summer of the Swans by Betsy Byars

Continue reading “2017 Reading Challenges: Halfway Update”

2017 Reading Challenges: Halfway Update

With six months of the year come and gone, it’s time to see how Reading Challenges are going.  I’ve felt like I wasn’t really focusing my reading lately, and that plays out in the books I’ve read–plenty of good books, but not targeted ones, so challenges haven’t moved very much.  Here’s what we have though!

PictureNewbery Medal Winners
Goal: 20 Newbery Medal Winners, halving the number remaining
Host: Smiling Shelves

Only a few new ones here, though since I read so many in the first quarter I’m still good overall.  It’s been harder lately to find audiobooks (I’m running through the ones the library has!) so that’s slowed me down.  These are mostly shorter reads though, so I should be able to do better in the next six months with a little focus.

  1. Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  2. The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
  3. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  4. Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz
  5. Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI
  6. King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
  7. Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
  8. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
  9. Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorenson
  10. The Wheel on the School by Meindert De Jong
  11. A Visit to William Blake’s Inn by Nancy Willard

Continue reading “2017 Reading Challenges: Halfway Update”

2017 Reading Challenges: First Quarter Update

Three months into the year can only mean it’s time for my quarterly update on reading challenges!

PictureNewbery Medal Winners
Goal: 20 Newbery Medal Winners, halving the number remaining
Host: Smiling Shelves

A good start to the year, although I think I must have read these in a clump–it felt like I was doing constant Newberys for a while, yet it’s not actually that many for the year yet!

  1. Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  2. The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
  3. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
  4. Good Masters, Sweet Ladies by Laura Amy Schlitz
  5. Crispin: The Cross of Lead by AVI
  6. King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry
  7. Joyful Noise by Paul Fleischman
  8. The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron

Continue reading “2017 Reading Challenges: First Quarter Update”

2017 Reading Challenges

Welcome to a bright and shiny new year!  There are wide empty metaphorical bookshelves to be filled with this year’s reading, so let’s dive in to new plans.

PictureNewbery Medal Winners
Goal: 20 Newbery Medal Winners, halving the number remaining
Host: Smiling Shelves

It’s probably no surprise I’m returning to this one.  It went very well last year, and besides–now I feel invested.  With 41 to go, I can’t quit on this list now!  Not every book on here has been good, but I’m intrigued by what they all are and I like the challenge of reading down a specific list.

Diverse Reading
Goal: 20 books with non-Caucasian protagonists
Host: ???  Haven’t found an official challenge yet

Now more than ever, this feels important.  I’m setting the goal at 20, which is what I read last year, and hope to exceed. I may expand this to minority groups of categories other than race, but we’ll see.  For the moment, I’m looking for books–recommendations of titles or helpful lists very welcome!

Continue reading “2017 Reading Challenges”

2016 Reading Round-Up

Now that we’ve officially closed the door on 2016, time to look back at all that reading and see what emerged as the best, the worst, and sometimes the most baffling.  I read 172 books this year, slightly down from last year but more than I expected!  Here’s what was particularly noteworthy…

1) Best of…
I’ve been splitting my “Best of” books for the past few years, so that I can highlight the ones that were best in very specific ways.

1A) Best Premise/World Building: The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
This was my favorite of the many parallel universe novels I read this year, with one of the most fascinating and best put together concepts.  I loved the deft handling of the timey-whimeyness of it all, and the clever, practical ways Harry and his friends handle something as utterly bizarre as reliving your life over and over.

1B) Best Romance(s): Pivot Point by Kasie West and Maybe in Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
No (good) Marissa Meyer romance to sweep this category this year, so I’m splitting it between two parallel universe ones.  Addie and Trevor are a sweet couple who manage to find each other twice in Kasie West’s two-book series, and I liked Hannah’s romance with childhood sweetheart Ethan too, especially the ways their young romance had influenced their later lives.  I didn’t like Hannah’s alternate life romance as well, complicating the overall book, but half the story had an excellent romance.

1C) Best Hero(ine): Hazel in Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu
Not an epic figure, Hazel is an ordinary, socially-struggling girl who has to deal with an extraordinary (fantastical) situation and I just loved her.  It also doesn’t hurt that she looks at a snowfall and thinks it’s too deep for a tauntaun (a la Star Wars).

1D) Best Series: Fairyland series by Catherynne M. Valente and Magic Ex Libris (Libriomancer series) by Jim C. Hines
I actually did not start and finish any new series this year–or even read more than two books in a new series.  So I’m giving this one to two beloved series that I finished this year–I think.  Unless Hines comes back for Book 5.  I’m never quite sure with him!

1E) Best Nonfiction:  SuperBetter by Jane McGonigal
A very cool book, McGonigal combines life goals with game theory, and explores how to gamify, say, a commitment to eat healthy–and why it can really help to do so.  I highly recommend her TED talk on the subject, which sent me to the book.

1F) Best Audiobook: As You Wish by Cary Elwes
A strong contender for best nonfiction, this look behind the scenes at the making of The Princess Bride is simply delightful.  It’s read on audio by the marvelous Cary Elwes (Dread Pirate Roberts himself) with generous use of audio interviews with other castmembers.

1G) Best Individual Passage: The Girl Who Raced Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
The sly narrator’s final farewell…I underlined a good two pages, and it may well be the best single passage I’ve ever read.

2) Worst Book: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
Granted the bar was set high–but this book really was a mess, from the wish fulfillment, conflict-free author storyline, to the badly-written novel-within-a-novel.  I just…don’t even know.

3) Most Disappointing: Heartless by Marissa Meyer
Meyer has landed on my best-of list repeatedly, making the iffy-romance, bizarre character arc and thematic disaster of this book especially, well, disappointing.  And angry.  It kind of made me angry.

4) Most Surprising (in a Good Way): The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
I picked this up at random at the library because, hey, Albom, why not.  And then it was surprisingly wonderful, deep and engaging.  I don’t always love Albom but he has his moments, and this was one them.

5) Can’t Believe I Waited Until 2016 To Read It: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling
I know, I know–but I really never read this as a kid.  I started it several years ago and couldn’t get into it.  I’ve had a friend badgering me (nicely!) to read it for a couple years now.  And I finally did.  I still don’t get all the “thee’s” and “thou’s” in here, but I liked it!

6) Most Hilarious Read: A Blink of the Screen by Terry Pratchett
Because, you know, Pratchett.  This could go to either Thud! or Maskerade which were really my most hilarious ones, but those are rereads.  So it goes to the short story collection, mostly for the story involving Carrot investigating a murder by Punch and Judy puppets, and a long story about Granny Weatherwax deciding to be nice (it goes badly).

7) Most Satisfying Read: Sidewise in Time by Murray Leinster
I loved reading the very first parallel universe story.  It’s not often you get to read the beginning of a genre.  Plus, Leinster was incredibly prescient in many ways which was just very cool to read.

8) Surprisingly Great Reread: The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo
I reread this one after many years and the book was good, but didn’t blow me away–except for one story-within-the-story that I remembered vividly, thought of often, and really liked…without remembering that it was in this book.  It’s a story very near the end, about a man with two sons, one of whom will speak words that will be remembered for millennia.  It’s not the expected one–but we all have a role to play in the cosmic story, and often we don’t know what it is.  I love that.

9) Most Looking Forward To in 2017
A conundrum: there’s no Fairyland book to look forward to!  I’ve also quite dropped off in tracking upcoming books, in part because I’ve finished a lot of series recently.  Well…maybe Robin McKinley will finally release Pegasus 2?  Or Tamora Pierce will give us the long-awaited next Tortall book?  I’ve been looking forward to those for…quite a long while now!

And that’s the story for another year!  What was your best read in 2016?  Or do you have a book to fit any of the other categories?  I’d love to hear about it!

2016 Reading Challenges – Final Update

We’re coming up on the end of a very long, very strange year, in which I did a lot of reading.  So let’s get down to it!

Newbery Medal WinnersPicture
Goal: 15 Newbery Medal Winners, to bring myself to half of the total list
Host: Smiling Shelves

This has continued to be my most successful challenge in terms of numbers.  These are mostly fast reads, and so convenient to listen to on audiobook (and not every type of book is) that I’ve blown right through my target number and read 22.  That brings me up to 54 total, out of 95 Newbery Medal Winners.  So that means 41 to go…because my secret goal of course is to read all of them.  Just, not within one year… Continue reading “2016 Reading Challenges – Final Update”

2016 Reading Challenges – Three-Quarters Update

I was on vacation half of September, and this three-quarters update snuck up on me slightly!  Fortunately, I’ve been doing a lot of challenge reading anyway…

Newbery Medal WinnersPicture
Goal: 15 Newbery Medal Winners, to bring myself to half of the total list
Host: Smiling Shelves

I continue to do better with the Newberys than I did in the first quarter, in terms of enjoying the books.  I’m also racking up large numbers of these.  It helps that they’re relatively easy reads, and also that they tend to be brilliant for audiobooks.  I try not to do anything too intense or complicated on audio (driving, you know) so children-friendly Newberys have gone well that way.

Just for fun, this quarter I thought I’d note the year of the Newberys I’ve read.  I need to work on the earliest ones still.  Maybe next quarter!

  1. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry (1990)
  2. The Grey King by Susan Cooper (1976)
  3. The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (2013)
  4. The Door in the Wall by Marguerite de Angeli (1950)
  5. Up a Road Slowly by Irene Hunt (1967)
  6. A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (2001)
  7. Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (2014)
  8. The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare (1962)
  9. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli (1991)
  10. A Gathering of Days by Joan W. Blos (1980)
  11. Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos (2012)
  12. Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (1992)
  13. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (2002)
  14. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (2000)

Parallel Universes
Goal: 12 books

I’m on track right now to exceed this goal, with so many really interesting parallel universe stories.  I’m fascinated by how different these books can be, while all being within what I thought was a fairly narrow criteria!

  1. Pivot Point by Kasie West
  2. A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
  3. Parallel by Lauren Miller
  4. Here, There and Everywhere by Chris Roberson
  5. Maybe In Another Life by Taylor Jenkins Reid
  6. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
  7. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
  8. Sidewise in Time by Murray Leinster
  9. The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood
  10. A Crack in the Line by Michael Lawrence

Diversity On the Shelf
Host: The Englishist
Goal: 18 books

I did not do as well on this challenge this quarter.  But I’m still on track, and I managed a few double-challenge books by reading Newberys with minority leads.  I’m actually a little sad to be on track, though…I was hoping 18 books was a low bar, and I’m coming to the conclusion it wasn’t!

  1. Otherbound by Corrinne Duyvis (Hispanic)
  2. Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley (African-American)
  3. Stars Above by Marissa Meyer (Unspecified Asian)
  4. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld (Indian)
  5. Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (Pakistani)
  6. Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana (African-American)
  7. Breadcrumbs by Anne Ursu (Indian)
  8. Scarlett Undercover by Jennifer Latham (African-American Muslim)
  9. Bridge of Time by Lewis Buzbee (Chinese)
  10. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (Native American)
  11. Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen (Vietnamese)
  12. Join by Steve Toutonghi (various)
  13. A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park (Korean)
  14. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (African-American)

The Bardathon: Shakespeare Plays
shakespeare400Host: Samantha Lin
Goal: 5 plays read or seen (but ideally, read 5 comedies, read 5 tragedies, and watch 5 movies)

Sadly, not much Shakespeare this quarter, although while on vacation I went to see a live play at the Globe theatre…that counts double, right?  😉  I’ve exceeded my low goal, not feeling strong about my stretch goal, but will hopefully get a bit more of the Bard in before year’s end.

  1. Much Ado About Nothing (Joss Whedon production)
  2. Comedy of Errors (read)
  3. Comedy of Errors (BBC production)
  4. Measure for Measure (read)
  5. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1996 production)
  6. Coriolanus (Gerard Butler production)
  7. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (live performance at the Globe)

Carl’s Seasonal “Challenges”: Readers Imbibing Peril somehow began three weeks ago when I wasn’t paying attention…  Focused on horror, this one never fit my reading interests as well as the others, and I’m sitting it out this fall.  Back onto these with the Sci Fi challenge in a few months!

With just a few months left in the year and lots of non-reading things planned for that time (NaNoWriMo, anyone?) I’m still feeling pretty good about my reading goals.  A few more reads at the end of the year and goals are looking pretty attainable.  And after ten parallel universe novels, I’m still really looking forward to reading more… 😉

How has your reading been going for 2016? Are you pursuing challenges?  How are they going?