Reading Challenge Finale 2017

December is coming to a close and alas, so is the 2017 reading challenge I joined, hosted by the Redolent Mermaid. During September’s update, I was doing dismally. Although I’ve since finally finished the Harry Potter series (feels), I was only halfway through the challenge goal of 24 books at 12 (Sad). Since then, I’ve picked up the pace and picked up shorter books with reduced reading segments to rally up to 20 (Yay). 

Do I feel brilliant about not completing the challenge? Nope! Am I embarrassed as my chosen library profession is based upon this very aspect of life? Yep! Am I pleased I did it anyway? Delighted! Thanks to some of Julie’s inspiration and the participation of our blogging friend, Sandra, I read many excellent stories this year. Previous reviews are linked and favorites highlighted in bold:

20170621_1606271. Re-read a beloved book or series: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Returned to this epic to remind myself where I left off before finishing the beloved series. I enjoyed the darker edge, but found a few issues, reviewed here.

20170921_1826402. Art and literature. Julie provided lots of options for this, as long as art was involved, it counted. I went literal, with, They Drew as they Pleased: The Hidden Art of Disney’s Musical Years The 1940s by Didier Ghez. I’m experiencing a real Walt Disney appreciation phase; his dreams, successes, failures, and creative genius are on display in this enchanting volume. For those interested in the creative process and the early artists that made Disney studios what it has become, this is a joy to read. 

3. Magic. The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg. This light adventure take on an apprentice falling for her teacher set in a befuddling magical world was a miss for me

4. A book gifted or loaned to you. Fail.

20170829_1437085. A book that has been in your TBR pile but overlooked time and again. Watership Down by Richard Adams. The type of book that causes envy when hearing others are reading for the first time because you want to experience it anew all over again. This heartwarming fable reviewed here

20171013_1202086.  A library find. Through the Woods, Stories by Emily Carroll. Many of my reads are library finds, but I literally did not want to put this one down as it came across my desk for a customer’s hold. Creepy graphic renderings accompany old-fashioned scary tales. More macabre than horrific. 

7. A book to learn something from. The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate MooreThis non-fiction exposé has acquired heavy buzz since it’s summer release. The powerful story supersedes the simpler writing. I expect a movie version at some point, it’s tragic events are too astounding to pass up, reviewed here.

8. Cool book cover art that lures you in like bait. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley. An unpredictable strange tale in the steampunk genre. Automatons and clockwork technology form a futuristic-historical fiction mystery fusion. Previously reviewed.

9. A story that takes you to another place and time, real or imagined. The Raven Boys by Maggie StiefvaterOne of the best written YA series debuts, and a favorite of people I esteem, including my boss, Julie at The Redolent Mermaid, and now thanks to me, my sister. Hard not to fall in love with these characters, check out my thoughts here.
10. A book from a favorite author that you haven’t gotten around to reading yet. Speaking of incredible YA or teen novels, John Green is a master at capturing the inner voices of authentic teenaged characters and breaking your heart as only he can. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green. The only reason I hadn’t gotten around to reading a bit sooner is because I had to wait my turn on the library hold list. An enlightening tale about the resilience of young people dealing with loss and mental illness. 
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 11. A book with an animal on the cover or in the title. Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase. My low opinion of this story is owed in part to the annoying audio narrator, but also the rehashed V.C. Andrews-style plot line posing as a contemporary British mystery. 
12. A memoir. WTH? Memoirs are one of my favorite genres, yet I let it fall through the cracks this year. Fail.
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13. A fluff read. (Easy, fast, or cheesy). Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I’d catch holy hell in literary circles for describing this book as a fluff read, thankfully, I’m not in any. First, I don’t actually read fast, cheesy stuff (although Black Rabbit Hall veered pretty close). I intentionally choose books with what I think to have literary merit and according to several best-of book lists, this has merit in spades. So why the fluff category? For one, it was an easy read for a book with seemingly weighty topics of family, racial and wealth politics. I enjoyed the numerous (weirdly superfluous) references to Northeast Ohio’s Shaker Heights community. As I have family in the surrounding area, I’ve actually traveled these streets, shopped these malls and eaten in these restaurants. It’s just…I couldn’t shake the feeling I was reading the script of a sensationalized movie of the week. We’re talking after-school special material. I know I’m in the minority and must be underestimating this award-winner, I’d love to hear different opinions. If you’ve read it, bring it, I can take it. 
14. A Steinbeck, Hemingway or John D. MacDonald creation or book about one of them or inspired by one of them. You know how many Steinbeck and Hemingway novels and biographies are sitting on my bookshelves? Five. You know how many I read this year? Zero. Fail. (I’m so embarrassed by this one, should we take another stab at it Julie?)
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15. A scarlet hued tome. Lore. Monstrous Creatures by Aaron Mahnke. Only half scarlet-hued and I’m only halfway through; therefore, not officially counting it in my total. Apparently, this is based word-for-word from the Lore podcast which I’ve never heard, but is now a must listen. A well-researched in-depth peek into the origin stories of the mythical creatures and monsters that became legend as they’ve been passed down through history. Fascinating. 

16. The next in a series you have read. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J. K. RowlingUtilized the print and audio versions and as I mentioned, it still took me ages but all I can think to say is, thank you Ms. Rowling. 

17. A tale that takes place during a war. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony DoerrPulizer-prize deserving multiple narrative story depicting two sides of the Nazi occupation of France, the dangers of the underground resistance, the immeasurable importance of radio and the aching innocence lost by two teens caught in the middle. 

18. Female heroine triumphant. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. The first in the Grishaverse trilogy I won’t be finishing. When the villain is much more interesting than the lead characters there’s an issue

19. A European setting. Fail. #$@&%*! How?

20. Female authored. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. A sparse novel spent drifting through the young protagonist’s poverty-ridden Brooklyn summer in the 1970s. A dizzying tale with a diverse take on the unreliable narrator, lukewarmly recommended. 

20170305_14233321. Paranormal or supernatural phenomenon. The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wicker. The most thought-provoking, moving story I read in 2017 and my hands-down favorite about strangers forming vital friendships and what it means to be human. Reviewed here

20170619_19444122. A book to make you belly laugh, guffaw or snort and chuckle along the way. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. This book is stunning and masterful and it really F’s with your head. Surely the best-written novel I’ve read in a year of well-written reads. I can’t quite describe it, but I rambled about it here. Listen to the audio, it features over 100 cast members led by the unrivaled Nic Offerman.

20171125_15042923. A book that will be a movie, you read, then watch. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. The legendary whodunit that epitomizes Christie’s methodical detective Poirot. Too many characters for some, listening to the audio helped keep it straight for me. I finished just before seeing the movie which ended quite differently. I enjoyed both, but felt more justice delivered by the film and more depth of character by the book. 

20171218_090417-1.jpg24. A book with words in it. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater. An ultimately feel-good generational fable about recognizing uniqueness, overcoming obstacles and creating your own miracles. Got off to a slow start and the blunt-alternating-with-profound writing style took some getting used to, but it is a worthwhile, memorable read. 

Thank you readers, for sticking with my occasional long-winded reviews, I’ll strive for brevity next year. (hah) Plans are in the works for a 2018 reading challenge collaboration with The Redolent Mermaid and for goodness sake, I could use the motivation. As for 2017, I didn’t read as much as I wanted, but most of what I did was incredibly satisfying. What’s been a highlight of your reading year?

 

 

4 thoughts on “Reading Challenge Finale 2017

  1. Hey, so we did about as well! Or about as poorly, depending on your glass empty/glass half full viewpoint. I’m very interested in that Disney book (obviously, I can think of very little else these days.) I love all that behind-the-magic stuff, especially as it pertains to Walt’s early days and aspirations. I shall have to check it out post-haste, because I think I’m going to try to continue with the challenge, let it run into a second year. Unless of course I just move over to your and Julie’s challenge…going to check out that post! Maybe I’ll have a better answer in a bit!

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    1. So the photo doesn’t do the Disney Art book justice, cause it’s a huge folio, but so fascinating. I was guilty of taking Uncle Walt for granted (and the other talented artists he gathered) until reading. I love that he basically performed a one-man show of the old fairytale Snow White and the Dwarves and obsessed until he could make it a reality, the rest is movie musical history<3 I plan to re-watch Fantasia and other classics with renewed gratitude. Hoping for a more successful challenge this year, hence taking some ownership of it.

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  2. I enjoy reading your thoughts on the books we read that overlapped. From your list I am going to add Watership Down, Through the Woods and Lincoln and the Bardo to my read list. I am going to crack open All the Light tonight in the bath tub but I am kind of scared since I have grades due (about 45 paragraphs to write) and that college course has begun. But if it is the only book I read this month I will be happy with that. Thank you for joining me in my challenge. You know I can’t be too tough on you since I didn’t even finish my own challenge! LOL! Hey. Human over here.

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    1. We did cross-read a few, which I love. Sometime, we’ll have to properly discuss All the Crooked Saints. I enjoyed it, especially the way the family helped each other through and used each other’s strengths, plus, Diablo, Diablo was totally charming.
      45! Oof! Shel’s an English teacher, so I do recognize that painful load, always reading/writing/editing/responding, it wears you down when it’s due all at once.

      Interesting picks, I’m curious about your thoughts on LintB, its…brilliant and slightly traumatic, so I’m careful about recommending it. Have a great weekend:)

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