2021 Reading Challenge discussion

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ARCHIVE 2016 > Wendy's Corner (2016)

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message 1: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Oooh, this is exciting - my own corner!

After a fabulous year in 2011 (52 books!), I have failed miserably at meeting my reading goals the past few years. I'm hoping that keeping track of my progress here will keep me motivated.

I've decided to set the bar fairly low with 25 books in 2016.


message 2: by Wendy (last edited Jan 05, 2016 05:03PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments POPSUGAR 2016 READING CHALLENGE
Duration: January 1 - December 31, 2016

It will be my second year attempting the Popsugar challenge. Since I don't think I can finish all 40, I may decide to count books in multiple categories, but I will see how it goes.

I love getting ideas of what to read from other people's lists, so I'm including some potential books.

1. A book based on a fairy tale
Cinder
Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister
Cruel Beauty
Fairest of All: A Tale of the Wicked Queen

2. A National Book Award winner
Just Kids
Lord of Misrule
What I Saw and How I Lied
Let the Great World Spin
Challenger Deep
The Shipping News

3. A YA bestseller
City of Bones
The Maze Runner
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
The Fault in Our Stars
Vampire Academy

4. A book you haven't read since high school
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Great Gatsby
Rebecca
The Sun Also Rises

5. A book set in your home state (Pennsylvania)
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
Too Many Crooks Spoil the Broth
Caught Dead in Philadelphia
Cinderland: A Memoir
In Her Shoes
Bubbles Unbound

6. A book translated to English
Ruby Red
The Glassblower
The Phantom of the Opera
The Shadow of the Wind
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
The Girl Who Played with Fire
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
The Alchemist

7. A romance set in the future
The Selection
Delirium
Article 5
Naked in Death

8. A book set in Europe
The Girl Who Played with Fire
Sarah's Key
Inamorata
The Shadow of the Wind
The Unbearable Lightness of Being
Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden

9. A book that's under 150 pages
Anthem
A Room of One's Own
The Canterville Ghost
The Turn of the Screw
The Uncommon Reader

10. A New York Times bestseller
The Help
The Girl on the Train
Go Set a Watchman

11. A book that's becoming a movie this year
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Me Before You
The Girl on the Train
A Monster Calls
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon

12. A book recommended by someone you just met
A Density of Souls

13. A self-improvement book
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives
It Starts with Food: Discover the Whole30 and Change Your Life in Unexpected Ways

14. A book you can finish in a day
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
Anthem
How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You
84, Charing Cross Road
The Canterville Ghost
Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination
The Uncommon Reader

15. A book written by a celebrity
Postcards from the Edge
The Heroin Diaries: A Year In The Life Of A Shattered Rock Star
L.A. Candy
Wildflower
Shopgirl
High on Arrival

16. A political memoir
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
Long Walk to Freedom
Infidel
Living History

17. A book at least 100 years older than you
Emma
Persuasion
Sense and Sensibility
The Woman in White
Little Women

18. A book that's more than 600 pages
A Game of Thrones
The Forgotten Garden
The Tea Rose
The Name of the Wind
The Seven Sisters
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

19. A book from Oprah's Book Club
White Oleander
A Million Little Pieces
Here on Earth
Night
Daughter of Fortune
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Love in the Time of Cholera

20. A science-fiction novel
Ready Player One
Station Eleven
Cinder
The Girl with All the Gifts
The Drafter
Across the Universe
Life As We Knew It
A Thousand Pieces of You
The Handmaid's Tale

21. A book recommended by a family member
The Fault in Our Stars
A Wrinkle in Time
Bubbles Unbound

22. A graphic novel
The Sleeper and the Spindle
Watchmen
Blankets
Anya's Ghost
Through the Woods

23. A book that is published in 2016
Passenger
Burning Glass
Glass Sword
The Guest Room: A Novel
Please Don't Tell
The Love That Split the World

24. A book with a protagonist that has your occupation (tough one for me - I'm interpreting loosely!)
When Dreams Collide
The Bank Manager and the Bum

25. A book that takes place during summer
Second Chance Summer
Summer Rental
Driftwood Summer
Island Girls
Prodigal Summer
The Last Song

26. A book and its prequel
City of Bones and Clockwork Angel
The Maze Runner and The Kill Order
Obsidian and Shadows
Red Queen and Queen Song
The Selection and The Queen
Dorothy Must Die and No Place Like Oz
The Magicians' Guild and The Magician's Apprentice
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Magician's Nephew
Sex and the City and The Carrie Diaries
Throne of Glass and The Assassin and the Pirate Lord

27. A murder mystery
In the Woods
1st to Die
The Murder of Roger Ackroyd
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie
Laughed 'Til He Died
The Blessing Way
Haunted Ground

28. A book written by a comedian
Bossypants
This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection
Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"

29. A dystopian novel
Cinder
Unwind
Station Eleven
The Darkest Minds
The Selection
Wither
The Pledge
Ink and Bone
Shatter Me

30. A book with a blue cover
A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy, #1) by Deborah Harkness Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman Better Than Before Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives by Gretchen Rubin If I Stay (If I Stay, #1) by Gayle Forman Year of Yes How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

31. A book of poetry
Ariel
Goblin Market
Sonnets from the Portuguese

32. The first book you see in a bookstore
TBD

33. A classic from the 20th century
To Kill a Mockingbird
The Great Gatsby
In Cold Blood
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
The Phantom of the Opera
A Passage to India
A Room of One's Own

34. A book from the library
The Silver Linings Playbook
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
The Lies of Locke Lamora
The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York
Canary
Throne of Glass
White is for Witching
The Book Thief
So You Want to Be a Wizard
Astonish Me
Wicked Appetite
Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
The Iron King
Just Kids
Reading Like a Writer: A Guide for People Who Love Books and for Those Who Want to Write Them
The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon
The Alchemist
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie

35. An autobiography
My Life on the Road
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings
Here We Go Again: My Life In Television
The Glass Castle
It's Only Rock 'n' Roll: Thirty Years Married to a Rolling Stone
Girl, Interrupted
All Creatures Great and Small
An Autobiography (Agatha Christie)
Lady Sings the Blues
Neon Angel

36. A book about a road trip
An Abundance of Katherines
One Plus One
Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own
Once Upon a Road Trip
For the Record
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values

37. A book about a culture you're unfamiliar with
Reading Lolita in Tehran
A Thousand Splendid Suns
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Midnight's Children
The White Tiger
Falling Leaves: The Memoir of an Unwanted Chinese Daughter
The Ruins of Us

38. A satirical book
America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction
Choke
Election
Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch
Beauty Queens
Babbitt
The Crying of Lot 49

39. A book that takes place on an island
A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean
Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board
Haunted Ground
The Island of Dr. Moreau
The Magus
This Rough Magic
On the Island
In the Time of the Butterflies
Laughed 'Til He Died

40. A book that's guaranteed to bring you joy
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
The Princess Bride
Welcome to Temptation
Tricky Twenty-Two


message 3: by Laurie (new)

Laurie I like your list of possibilities here. This must have taken you some time to compile. I found the choices on #24 interesting (protagonist with your profession) interesting since I work at a bank. I would have no idea what to read for that.


Kadijah Michelle (kadmich) | 2176 comments Love your list of possibilities! I may look here if I get stuck on some of these for the challenge.
Laurie, as for #24, I totally get it. I'm a fundraiser for a school. Where am I going to find a book about that? I will probably read a book about motherhood because that is always my job.


message 5: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments #24 is a tough one!


message 6: by Wendy (last edited Jan 30, 2016 10:54AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer
Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Completed 1/5/16
Fulfills Popsugar #7: A romance in the future
Rating: 4 out of 5

Why did I wait so long to read this book? The description was completely unappealing to me. Cinderella as a cyborg mechanic? No thanks!

Well, I finally caved in to all the positive buzz I've heard for this series, and I have to say that I'm glad I did.

Even though I saw the twist coming a mile (or two) away, the writing was still engaging enough to keep me glued to the book. Cinder is a well fleshed-out character (no pun intended), and the "world" of the novel is unique but easy to understand. I especially loved the moments of Cinder's sarcastic humor, and the chemistry between Cinder and Prince Kai is cute. Adri (stepmother) and Pearl (stepsister) are pretty flat characters, but then again, they are pretty flat in the original fairy tale as well.

I was a little disappointed to discover that this book really won't stand alone; I was under the impression that each book in the series was only loosely connected (each re-telling a different fairy tale but set in the same "world"). However, I guess now I'm committed to reading the full series to find out what's going to happen.


message 7: by Dana (new)

Dana (elkins_88) | 458 comments Good luck on your challenge! And I might come here for ideas too- I have most of the categories filled but there are some that are stumping me!


message 8: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Dana wrote: "Good luck on your challenge! And I might come here for ideas too- I have most of the categories filled but there are some that are stumping me!"

Thank you and good luck on yours as well!


message 9: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondō
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo
Completed 1/7/16
Fulfills Popsugar #6: A book translated to English
Rating: 3 out of 5

I'm really conflicted about this book. My expectations were high, and I wanted to love it and find it extremely useful. I wanted to.

I do feel this book has *some* decent advice, most of which could be summed up in about one chapter of approximately 10 pages. The rest of the book is primarily filler and repetition when I wanted more practical examples, exercises, checklists, etc.

The author spends entirely too much time making sweeping generalizations about what works for her real-life, in-person clients. By saying things similar to "this works for everyone" and "it never results in rebound," it actually makes her methods less credible, at least to me, and gives the effect of being an extended sales pitch to a passive audience (the readers).

In addition, she ascribes human emotions/thoughts/feelings to inanimate objects. This came as quite a surprise to me (I didn't read reviews before picking up this book). Perhaps this a cultural difference or something was altered in translation, but I can see how it makes the book slightly difficult to take seriously.


message 10: by Wendy (last edited Feb 09, 2016 05:24PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1) by Ransom Riggs
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
Completed 1/11/16
Fulfills Popsugar #39: A book that takes place on an island
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This book was a pleasant surprise. I didn't know much about it before I started (I deliberately didn't read the back cover), and I'm glad I didn't. I'm also glad I read it in physical form instead of as an ebook since the pictures in it were intriguing.

I was extremely impressed with the writing in this book. Jacob was an engaging narrator, the atmosphere of the book was pleasantly creepy, plot points were not predictable.

I do wish it were a stand-alone where the conflict could be resolved on the island during this book and not dragged out into a trilogy. The setting of the book was my favorite part, and it appears that the two subsequent books will be located elsewhere.


message 11: by Wendy (last edited Jan 16, 2016 04:25AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
Postcards from the Edge by Carrie Fisher
Completed 1/15/16
Fulfills Popsugar #15: A book written by a celebrity
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

**SPOILERS BELOW**

I picked up this book in honor of the new Star Wars release since it's written by none other than Princess Leia herself.

I've heard of the movie of the same title but haven't seen it. I was under the impression that the book would be mostly about the drug use of the main character (Suzanne) and her conflicted relationship with her mother. The book actually takes place after Suzanne has stopped doing drugs and, to my pleasant surprise, she does not relapse. Her mother is barely in the book at all. Indeed she is pretty much on her own in the world.

The first third of the book is actually set primarily in the drug rehab and alternates points-of-view between Suzanne and another patient, Alex, who does relapse. If you ever watched Celebrity Rehab on VH1, you will probably enjoy this part of the book. I've never used drugs and after this book I certainly don't want to, but I feel the descriptions were excellent and really put the reader in the mindset of an addict.

The remaining two-thirds of the book follow Suzanne as she attempts to function sober and navigate the world of dating and finding work as a an actress. It really surprised me how much I identified with Suzanne even though her situation is totally different than anything I've experienced. I feel that I would have similar reactions if I were put in her situation, and I struggle with similar feelings. I loved the sarcastic humor too.

The only reason I'm deducting a half-star for the book is for the ending. Even though I was rooting for Suzanne to get her life together all the way along, I felt everything was tied up a little too neatly. For instance, of the five or so characters who were introduced at the rehab, all but one were given glowing happy endings, which I didn't feel was necessarily realistic.


message 12: by Wendy (last edited Jan 22, 2016 04:12AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1) by Leigh Bardugo The Demon in the Wood (The Grisha, #0.1) by Leigh Bardugo
Shadow and Bone and The Demon in the Wood by Leigh Bardugo
Completed 1/21/16
Fulfills Popsugar #26: A book and its prequel
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Shadow and Bone may be my favorite book of January. I love the "world" of this novel! It manages to be both unique and familiar (based on Russia), and the magic system is really fun and intriguing.

I'm not quite as drawn to Alina as, say, Katniss or Tris, but I do like her as heroine/narrator. She's kind of a girl-next-door with magical powers. I'm hoping to see some more character development for her in the rest of the series.

The mesmerizing quality of the Darkling is what really made the book interesting for me. He seems quite complex even though we only see him through Alina's eyes. (The Demon in the Wood provides a short, interesting back-story to this character.)

I liked that Shadow and Bone does not end on a huge cliff-hanger. Even in a series, I think there should be a conclusion to a novel, and the author has just enough wrap-up to be satisfying while leaving me eager to read the next book and find out how the conflicts play out.


message 13: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments It's Only Rock 'n' Roll Thirty Years Married to a Rolling Stone by Jo Wood
It's Only Rock 'n Roll: 30 Years Married to a Rolling Stone by Jo Wood
Completed 1/28/16
Fulfills Popsugar #35: An autobiography
Rating: 3 out of 5

I didn't have particularly high expectations for this book, but I did enjoy it to a certain extent. On a personal level, I had some issues with the author's behavior, but I'm trying not to judge that here in this review. I do admire that she didn't hold back on details that didn't necessarily paint her in the best light, and some of her anecdotes were pretty hilarious. On a writing level, the book would have benefited from better editing/proofreading.

I'm only a casual fan of the Rolling Stones, but I liked reading about them and their entourage and chaotic lifestyle. I didn't know anything about the author's husband, Ronnie Wood (guitarist), prior to reading the book. I like Keith Richards better now. Mick Jagger didn't really figure in the book much. I also think a UK audience might like the book better than I did since they might have more knowledge of the author firsthand (she was a contestant on the UK equivalent of Dancing with the Stars).

What mainly irritated me, besides grammatical issues and personal things, was that she had a habit of ending chapters with very heavy-handed foreshadowing. I suppose this was to make the reader excited to keep reading to find out the juicy details to come, but it had the opposite effect on me. I could have simply chalked it up to novice writing and forgiven it if it only happened once or twice, but it happened SEVERAL times. A good editor should have done something about this.


message 14: by Wendy (last edited Feb 02, 2016 04:38AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti
Goblin Market and Other Poems by Christina Rossetti
Completed 2/1/16
Fulfills Popsugar #31: A book of poetry
Fulfills January read for #2016ClassicsChallenge (1 day late...oops)
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I'm not a fan of poetry. This is the first time I've read poetry since I was forced to do so back in school.

I actually liked this book better than I expected. The main themes were death (lots and lots of death), love (mostly unrequited or lost love), religion, and the changing of the seasons. It was kind of depressing in places.

That's really all I have to say about it...on to more interesting books.


message 15: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2) by Marissa Meyer
Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Completed 2/9/16
Fulfills Popsugar #1: A book based on a fairy tale
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

I was fully prepared to give this book a 3-3.25 rating until the last 40-50 or so pages.

Overall, I did not enjoy the Scarlet/Wolf storyline nearly as much as Cinder, but I suppose it's a means to an end (i.e. advancing the overall plot of the series). I feel like Scarlet is a really flat character with virtually no personality other than her love for her grandmother and her insta-love for Wolf. That's pretty much it. I hope the last two books in the series keep her much more in the background.

Cinder's continuing story is interspersed with Scarlet's, and I did enjoy her chapters...her unexpected sarcastic bits of humor are great, and her interaction with new character Thorne is fantastic. Thank goodness for these scenes.

When the double narratives finally unite towards the end of the book, I started enjoying it much more, and it definitely motivated me to keep reading the series.


message 16: by Wendy (last edited May 29, 2016 09:16AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag
The Witches of Cambridge by Menna van Praag
Completed 2/15/16
Fulfills Popsugar #8: A book set in Europe
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

This is another book that I was prepared to rate low but redeemed itself towards the end. The first half or so was VERY slow. Some of the twists in the book I saw coming, others came as a surprise though everything made sense in the context of the book.

The book follows a group of witches and their relationship struggles. Despite the magical element, the issues they face are quite "ordinary:" Heloise is a grieving widow trying to face life again, Amandine suspects her husband of cheating, Noa is very isolated from other people, Kat has unrequited love for her best friend, and Cosima desperately wants a baby despite the health risks for her.

I think this book would have been far more enjoyable as a short story collection - the constant jumping around of story lines drove me crazy and prevented me from connecting with the characters. The only one that I felt much emotional investment in was Heloise. Her sections were quite melancholy but beautifully written.

I would cautiously recommend this book if you like multiple narratives and relationship-driven fiction with a touch of magic.


message 17: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso
Completed 2/19/16
Fulfills Popsugar #24: A protagonist that has your occupation (using a very loose interpretation!)
Rating: 4 out of 5

So, from a critical standpoint, there are a few issues that I could pick apart about this book, but from an enjoyability standpoint, this book rocks.

Sophia is the founder and CEO of the Nasty Gal retailer, which she built from scratch on her own with no experience. This book is a mix of her personal experiences and advice. The greatest asset to the book is her "voice," which is quirky, street-smart, hilarious, and yet relatable.

What kept me from giving this book 5 stars? First, I don't think she defined the book's audience well enough. Obviously with a hashtag in the title, I knew the book would be aimed young, but I did expect it to be a book for adults/new adults. Some chapters I felt I was reading a book targeted to high school girls, some college, some young professionals. I think she could have picked an audience and stuck with it or made more of an effort to make it a general audience overall.

The other negative point would be that she offers up a bit too many platitudes - such as, be true to yourself, work hard, find what you're good at, etc. There is nothing revolutionary here. What does work is her concrete story of how she did it and how she runs her business. While the platitude are motivating and her writing style is genuinely engaging, I was getting a bit sick of them by the end of the book.

One last (slight) rant:
The section about investors/venture capitalists (fortunately brief) needed more explanation about who these people are, the differences if any between them, and why they are important...I'm a grown woman and I don't have any reason to understand those concepts in my daily life. My limited knowledge comes from "Shark Tank." If I were a high school or college student, I would probably have been even more lost. Luckily this was only one part of a chapter.

Despite the criticism, I would wholeheartedly recommend this book to young women. I think if I read it at a younger age, I would have enjoyed it more and perhaps given more thought to the direction I wanted my life go.


message 18: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
Completed 2/21/16
Fulfills Popsugar #22: A graphic novel
Rating: 5 out of 5

This is only the second graphic novel I've ever read (didn't like the first one at all), and I honestly would never have picked it up without the Popsugar Reading Challenge.

This book impressed me on every level. It really turns the concept of villains/heroes and good/evil upside down.

The characters are surprisingly well-developed and the story complex without being confusing. The dialogue is great and there are even moments of humor.

I would not hesitate to recommend this book to anyone.


message 19: by Wendy (last edited May 29, 2016 09:15AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
The Passenger by Lisa Lutz
Completed 2/28/16
Fulfills Popsugar #23: A book that's published in 2016
Rating: 4 out of 5
Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

I'm a fan of the Spellman Files series by Lisa Lutz, which is a humorous mystery series about an eccentric family of private investigators. I knew I wanted to check out this book, which is a psychological thriller about a woman on the run.

Even though it is much darker in tone (bleak even, in places), I still really enjoy Lisa Lutz's writing in The Passenger. The first person narration really flows, and I like the way the emails are interspersed in the story.

I don't want to mention too much relative to plot, since I feel like this is a book that is better enjoyed without knowing a lot going into it. Basically, the book deals with identity, what you would do to survive, and whether criminals are born or made. You will probably feel better about your own life after reading this book.

I did see some of the twists coming, although not very far in advance. I feel like the author did a good job at unraveling the secrets of the story, though the ending was perhaps slightly rushed.


message 20: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1) by Susan Dennard
Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
Completed 3/12/16
Fulfills Popsugar #30: A book with a blue cover
Rating: 2.75 out of 5

This book nearly pushed me into a reading slump. It took me ages to finish. I spent the entire first half contemplating whether I should label it a DNF and move on. The second half was better, or else I accepted its flaws and just went with it.

What I didn't like...

The author has created a complex world and magical system. However, she clearly has absolutely no clue how to share it with the reader in a clear but interesting way. So she leaves you to attempt to figure it out on your own with just a little context...with varying degrees of success. Without any proper world building to explain why things are the way they are, the story requires too much suspension of disbelief. When I tried to analyze certain things, I just ended up frustrated because I had more questions than answers.

I feel like the writing is just off somehow. The pages didn't turn quickly. Character motivation becomes hazy when the author decides it's time for an action scene. And certain parts were SO cheesy and/or ridiculous! Yet they were presented in all earnestness!

Some of the fight scenes (including the one at the very beginning) were just absurd. They are written as though these girls are characters from The Matrix, twisting and flipping through the air. What works on a movie screen, however, just falls flat on the written page.

And don't even get me started on the romance that occurs later in the book...which could have been a really cool flirtation to watch develop since I think the characters are well suited to each other. Instead it was silly, cliched, and rushed. Falling on top of each other? Grow up.

What I did like...

Believe it or not, there were actually some things I liked about this book. I liked the characters and found them to be significantly better developed than the world is, particularly Iseult and particularly in the second half of the book.

I liked that the book featured a strong female friendship. I think it's cool how the author handled the concept of family. None of the four main characters has anything close to a "normal" family. Safi and Iseult have kind of made their own.

I did not find the book predictable aside from the budding romance.

Overall, I can't say that this book lived up to the hype. I am curious to know what will happen to these characters, but ultimately I just can't stomach any more of the writing and unanswered questions, so I will not continue to read further books in this series.


message 21: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Completed 3/17/16
Fulfills Popsugar #5: A book set in your home state (Pennsylvania)
Rating: 4 out of 5

So this book was nothing whatsoever like I expected.

I anticipated a coming of age story about a shy, awkward teen. I did not expect the narrator to be mentally ill and nowhere did the blurb on the back cover indicate that. Certain things also just didn't add up for me, but I don't really feel like going in detail. Perhaps the narrator has a high-functioning form of autism?

Even though I had some issues with the book, it was still a really interesting read, and there were some wonderful bits of humor interspersed into the narrative.


message 22: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Cress (The Lunar Chronicles, #3) by Marissa Meyer
Cress by Marissa Meyer
Completed in the wee hours of the morning 4/5/16
Fulfills Popsugar #20: A science fiction novel
Rating: 4 out of 5

It took me quite a long time to get through this one, but I did enjoy it.

I like that Cinder plays a bigger role again (and Scarlet plays a much smaller one). Cinder is really showing the most character development, followed by Thorne. I don't find the character Cress as annoying as Scarlet. And Iko is always a joy.

I'm looking forward to Winter, since she seems like a truly unique character, but I'm not looking forward to 800+ pages. Overall, I like the series but I don't think it's my favorite.


message 23: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Birnbaum's 2016 Walt Disney World The Official Guide by Birnbaum Guides
Birnbaum's 2016 Official Guide to Walt Disney World
Completed 4/8/16
Fulfills Popsugar #14: A book you can finish in a day
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The first time I read a Birnbaum's guide I was an excited tween who had never been to Disney and I studied it like a religious document.

Now, as an adult who's been to Disney a few times, I'm less impressed. This is a decent basic guide for people who have never been to Disney World at all, but none of the information is too exciting if you're already familiar with Disney. Frankly, most (if not all) the information contained in it can be found for free online. It's also pretty obvious that this is an "official" guide, since it tells exactly what Disney would want you to know. No insider tips or tricks here.


message 24: by Wendy (last edited Apr 28, 2016 04:00AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Martian by Andy Weir
The Martian by Andy Weir
Completed 4/27/16
Fulfills Popsugar #10: A New York Times bestseller
Rating: 4 out of 5

**SPOILERS BELOW**

Another book it took me forever to get through. I didn't love it as much as I expected to, but I did like it.

I saw the movie first, and frankly, it's a toss-up which I like better. Each has its own strengths.

What I wasn't crazy about in the book was all the technical science stuff...it just isn't my cup of tea. While I appreciate the author's ability to write it, I found it really tedious to read. The only thing that got me through it was Mark's bits of humor. I wish the book had a bit more reflection and personal information about Mark's life instead of quite so much technical description. It was somewhat odd that by the end of the book, I felt I knew Mark's personality very well but very little about his background as a person pre-Mars.

I also thought the book was a little anti-climactic with all the build up about the dust storm being such a major obstacle...and then he just goes around it and hardly loses any time. The rescue mission itself is a little more exciting to read but didn't quite live up to my expectations...or maybe I was just getting sick of the book by then.

What I liked better about the movie was that the super-technical science stuff "moved along" quicker in visual format than having to trudge through reading it. I think Matt Damon was a good choice as Mark Watney; he nailed the sarcastic nerd humor.

What I didn't like about the movie was that it seemed really obvious all the way along that Hermes should rescue Mark; the book didn't annoy me with foreshadowing in that way.

All this being said, I really appreciate the skill it took to create this book, and I don't think I've ever read anything quite like it.


message 25: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Just Kids by Patti Smith
Just Kids by Patti Smith
Completed 5/10/16
Fulfills Popsugar #2: A National Book Award Winner
Rating 3.75 out of 5

Again, like many of the other books I've read recently, I wanted to like this memoir more than I actually did. At times, her language is absolutely beautiful, but there were parts that felt disjointed because she didn't provide transitions.

It was also a bit frustrating that she seems to assume her readers will just know a lot of the people she discusses. While obviously Janis Joplin, Andy Warhol, and Jimi Hendrix are household names, most of the people she lists are significantly outside the mainstream, so the overwhelming name dropping just fell flat for me. Every couple pages or so, she just feels the need to throw out a handful of names of people who may have frequented a particular club, etc. No apparent reason, since they have no function in the narrative.


message 26: by Wendy (last edited May 21, 2016 04:33AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Anna and the French Kiss (Anna and the French Kiss, #1) by Stephanie Perkins
Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Completed 5/19/16
Fulfills Popsugar #3: A YA bestseller
Rating: 4 out of 5

I had high expectations for this book since I've heard a ton of good things about it.

I loved her writing style, especially in the beginning of the book, since it felt so authentic and and was funny.

However, the second half of the book fell apart a bit for me. I was increasingly frustrated with Anna and the relationship melodrama.

I don't usually feel this way about YA, but maybe I'm just too old for this book. I'm glad I read it, but I won't be continuing on to the other 2 books in this series.


message 27: by Wendy (last edited May 21, 2016 04:32AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Very Good Lives The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling
Very Good Lives: The Fringe Benefits of Failure and the Importance of Imagination by J.K. Rowling
Completed 5/21/16
Fulfills Popsugar #9: A book that's under 150 pages
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This is a commencement speech given by J.K. Rowling at Harvard put into book form. It was interesting and inspirational without being too sappy. Makes me kind of wish I attended my own college graduation.

It also provided some details I didn't know about J.K. Rowling, for instance that her degree is in Classics (I had presumed English) and that she had worked for Amnesty International.


message 28: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Progeny (Descendants of the Blood Countess #1) by Tosca Lee
The Progeny by Tosca Lee
Completed 5/29/16
Rating: 4.25 out of 5
Received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Holy. Crap. I don't think I've ever read a book quite like this before.

I don't want to go into plot too much, since I think this is a book you are better off reading without many preconceived ideas. Basically, it follows a young woman with no memory who is a descendant of the Hungarian Countess Elizabeth Bathory, who was convicted as the most prolific female serial killer of all time. (And yes, she was a real person. I Googled her.)

From the description, I was slightly nervous that this would be a horror book, but it isn't horror at all. It's a thriller with some mildly paranormal elements. There's the historical fiction aspect because of Bathory. Mystery because the protagonist has had her mind erased. And of course, there's got to be some romance too.

The writing was really good and fun to read. I couldn't give it a full 5 stars because I feel like the last 25% got a bit too convoluted. It ends with a major cliffhanger, and there are a lot of loose ends. I hope the second book does not let me down.


message 29: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Night (The Night Trilogy, #1) by Elie Wiesel
Night by Elie Wiesel
Completed 5/31/16
Fulfills Popsugar #19: A book from Oprah's Book Club
Rating: 5 out of 5

Never would I have picked up this book without the Popsugar Reading Challenge. Nothing was grabbing my interest in the Oprah's Book Club category, and I saw that this book was short.

I read it in 2 sittings.

It's an absolutely riveting (and beautifully written) true story of a young man who survived a concentration camp. This is definitely the best book I've read so far this year.


message 30: by Wendy (last edited Jun 08, 2016 03:58AM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Bossypants by Tina Fey
Bossypants by Tina Fey
Completed 6/6/16
Fulfills Popsugar #28: A book written by a comedian
Rating: 4 out of 5

I love Tina Fey. I love her even more after reading this book. She's so down-to-earth, smart, and real. And she's from my home state of PA, which I didn't know. She's the kind of person I could imagine myself being friends with in real life, which sounds a lot more creepy/stalkerish than I mean it to.

I will say that the book wasn't quite as laugh-out-loud funny as I expected it to be. I felt like the humor was a bit forced in the beginning of the book (even though I still found it enjoyable). I'm not sure if I just got used to her style as the book progressed or possibly she just got more comfortable with telling her story.

Overall, I'm glad I read it and would recommend it.


message 31: by Wendy (last edited Jun 19, 2016 12:54PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher
Completed 6/10/16
Fulfills Popsugar #38: A satirical book
Rating: 4.25 out of 5

I had no idea what to read for the satire prompt, since satire typically is not my favorite genre. This slim book turned out to be the perfect choice for me and I would definitely recommend it if you have a degree in English or you work in a higher education setting.

It consists entirely of a year of letters (letters of recommendation, mostly) written by a cantankerous novelist-turned-professor in a shrinking English department at a fictional mid-tier school. It makes me really, really glad that my teachers always gave me copies of the letters they wrote about me and also makes me really, really glad that I am no longer in the position of having to ask anyone for a recommendation. It's also funny as hell, with a bit of a twist at the end.


Kiwi Begs2Differ  ✎ (kiwi_fruit) | 2193 comments Nice list Wendy, good luck with your challenge


message 33: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Kiwi wrote: "Nice list Wendy, good luck with your challenge"

Thanks! :) It's definitely going better than last year.


message 34: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Completed 6/20/16
Fulfills Popsugar #11: A book that's becoming a movie this year
Rating: 4.25 out of 5

I really enjoyed this book. In fact, I'm not sure I've ever enjoyed a book so much when I didn't really like the characters all that much.

I really liked the flow of the writing, and I actually liked the multiple narrators/jumping of times (surprisingly, since I usually hate multiple POV stories). I just found the book compulsively readable.

I was pretty sure of what happened at about 75% in after suspecting it for a while. After that point, it declined slightly for me. I think the denouement could have been a little more interesting, and the final wrap-up chapter was unremarkable.

Overall, this was probably one of the better books I've read this year, but I'm not sure that it will hold up well in my memory over time (if that makes any sense).


message 35: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Winter (The Lunar Chronicles, #4) by Marissa Meyer
Winter by Marissa Meyer
Completed 7/4/16
Fulfills Popsugar #18: A book that's more than 600 pages
Rating: 4.75 out of 5

Wow. Mind blown.

Prior to reading this book, I liked the series but I didn't love it. However, I was super-impressed by this book and all its characters. Winter is delightfully nuts. Really love the Thorne and Cress relationship that developed a lot more in this book. I actually even liked Scarlet in this one, probably because she and Wolf were separated for a lot of the book...I've determined that I like them a lot better individually than as a couple.

I haven't read a book this long in years, but there was not a lot of filler and it really kept up a breakneck pace for the majority of the book.


message 36: by Wendy (last edited Jul 24, 2016 05:39PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Completed 7/12/16
Fulfills Popsugar #33: A classic from the 20th century
Rating: 4.25 out of 5

I read this book for the first time in high school, so around 20 years ago. My memories of it were a bit dim...I recall liking it but not loving it and not particularly getting what the fuss was about it. I think in my memory I gave it something like 3.75 stars.

I appreciated it more this time around. I think I picked up on more nuances in the writing and identified more with Nick, the narrator, as an adult. Glad I chose to pick this one back up.


message 37: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Completed 7/24/16
Fulfills Popsugar #12: A book that takes place during the summer
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

This is the kind of book this really hard to give thoughts on without verging into spoiler territory, but I'll try.

I saw the movie so I knew the major twist going into it, but I had forgotten parts of the story line. I think it works a lot better in book format.

The characters are really messed up...like REALLY psychologically messed up, yet they were still identifiable (at least to me), which probably makes it even more disturbing.

The book is divided into three sections, two of approximately equal length and a shorter end section. The shorter end section is what kept me from giving this book 5 stars; I feel like I lost a bit of the connection to the characters. I wanted it to wrap up and I felt she was dragging it out a bit too much.

Overall, though, it was a fantastic read and I would like to try other books by this author.


message 38: by Wendy (last edited Jul 28, 2016 02:58PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments How to Tell If Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman
How to Tell if Your Cat Is Plotting to Kill You by Matthew Inman (AKA The Oatmeal)
Completed 7/24/16
Rating: 3.25 out of 5

I had high hopes that this graphic novel would be a lot of fun, but it was a bit of a let down - lots of repetition, not really all that amusing, and a section on "how to tell if your cat is homosexual" that is completely random and inappropriate regardless of your sexual orientation.


message 39: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  by Lewis Carroll
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Completed 7/28/16
Fulfills Popsugar #17: A book at least 100 years older than you
Rating: 2 out of 5

What a disappointment. I kept waiting for a point/moral/symbolism/etc. that just didn't come (or else I missed completely). Drivel. Absolute drivel. Thank goodness it was short.


message 40: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Cavewomen Don't Get Fat The Paleo Chic Diet for Rapid Results by Esther Blum
Cavewomen Don't Get Fat by Esther Blum
Completed 8/10/16
Fulfills Popsugar #13: A self-improvement book
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

I dabbled in Paleo a little bit last year and dropped 12 pounds without even trying (about 8 of which I've kept off). This summer I've been feeling drained and eating poorly, so I picked up this book to get some motivation to get my health back on track.

I really enjoyed this book (which is half recipes) until I reached the chapter on supplements. If you took every supplement she lists, you would literally be popping pills all day long! I just can't believe that's actually beneficial to your health. I'll stick with my simple multi-vitamin each morning, thank you very much.

Some of the tips and recipes are helpful, though, and I like that she is flexible and realistic enough to understand that everyone won't eat perfectly all the time.


message 41: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Completed 8/24/16 (audiobook)
Fulfills Popsugar #4: A book you haven't read since high school
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I decided to listen to the audiobook version of this classic. This was my first experience with audiobooks and, while I still prefer the visual experience of reading, I did enjoy the listening experience.

I chose this book because I didn't have a strong impression of it from when I read it in high school. I can't even remember which teacher/class I read it for (and normally I always remember that).

I feel I appreciated it much more this time around with a little more real world experience. Also, I think Sissy Spacek really nailed the voice of Scout in her reading.


message 42: by Ms Bridget (new)

Ms Bridget (obridget2) I love how you did your lists. You gave me ideas on ones I wasnt sure about! I bookmarked it on my Kindle just in case I need to refer to it again! Lol This is such a great idea! Im a mood reader, so I pick books and see if they're part of a challenge but it's smart to have this option too. :)


message 43: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments I'm a mood reader too, but I like this challenge because it helps me break out of my comfort zone a bit. That being said, I'll be glad when it's done!


message 44: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Completed 8/31/16 (audiobook)
Fulfills Popsugar #12: A book recommended by someone you just met
Rating: 5 out of 5

I have to admit that I cheated a little bit with this prompt. No one recommended this book to me specifically, but several of the Booktube channels that I've seen have had this book as a recommendation. I figured that was the closest I would get since random people don't come up to me and recommend books.

The hype for this book was justified. It really surprised me how much I enjoyed it. It was both simple and complex at the same time and made me want to read more books with male narrators (I usually gravitate towards female-driven books). It also made me realize that boys don't necessarily have an easier time growing up than girls.


message 45: by Wendy (last edited Sep 23, 2016 05:44PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments I Am Malala The Story of the Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai
Completed 9/5/16
Fulfills Popsugar #16: A political memoir
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

I struggle to give this book a rating. It took me FOREVER to get through - over a month. Malala as a person is truly fantastic and a voice that I hope will we hear much more from over the next 50 years. I learned a lot reading this book. However, the writing for much of the book wasn't particularly engaging (there was a journalist helping her write the book). Sometimes it did feel like an extended history lesson or news report.

I would recommend picking it up as a physical book instead of an ebook because there is a glossary that is helpful for unfamiliar terms...but since I had the ebook version I didn't realize it until I had already finished the book.


message 46: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
Completed 9/22/16
Fulfills Popsugar #27: A murder mystery
Counts toward the R.I.P. Challenge
Rating: 4 out of 5

I needed this book. It really helped me with the slump that I had fallen into this month.

I had saved this mystery to read on vacation, since I went on a cruise, and the book deals with mysterious actions aboard a small luxury cruise ship.

The narrator is an unreliable British female narrator who drinks too much. Sound familiar? I'm sure it does if you've read The Girl on the Train. Unlike Rachel, however, I actually did like Ware's narrator, Lo, and was able to sympathize more with her, perhaps because she has struggles with some of the same issues that I have had in the past (mental health-wise, not alcohol).

The main reason I was drawn to this book, aside from the cruise aspect, was that I had heard comparisons to Agatha Christie, who I read a lot of as a teenager after I had moved on from Nancy Drew. I think the comparison is fair for about the first two thirds of the book.

Then it takes a strange turn for the last third and goes more from mystery to thriller. Even though I finished the book quite quickly and am happy with the final resolution, I can't say that I really liked that one section of the book all that much. It just felt odd and is one of the reasons I can't give the book more than 4 stars. I wish there was another way she could have gotten to a similar conclusion.

The other reasons I can't give more than 4 stars are that (1) I feel that certain characters among the ship's passengers were not developed well enough, (2) I feel like if I really analyze it there are some plot holes (but I read this on vacation and wasn't particularly interested in analysis), and (3) I wish she would have included a some diagrams of the ship layout because it didn't really make that much sense to me.

All that being said, I still really liked this book. I thought the snippets of emails, texts, news clippings, etc. at the end of each section were really effective in building suspense. I can't wait to pick up this author's other major book, In a Dark, Dark Wood.


message 47: by Wendy (last edited Sep 28, 2016 03:51PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
Completed 9/25/16
Fulfills Popsugar #36: A book about a road trip
Rating: 3.75 out of 5

I've been struggling with how I feel about this book. There was a lot to like about it, but it took me quite awhile to get through and parts of it dragged a bit.

It was "deeper" than I expected, and the characters were well developed.


message 48: by Wendy (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Completed 9/28/18 (audiobook)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

I know I'm in the extreme minority on this, but I really liked this book, perhaps because I'm not incredibly attached to To Kill a Mockingbird. The plot, such as it is, meandered a bit for the first half, but no more so than in TKAM. I liked the little anecdotes of Jean Louise/Scout's adolescence in between the times of the two stories. But most of all I could really feel her disillusionment.


message 49: by Wendy (last edited Oct 08, 2016 12:40PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
Completed 10/3/16
Rating: A conflicted 3.75 out of 5
Counts toward the R.I.P. Challenge

I enjoyed this book because, like The Woman in Cabin 10, it is just so readable. The writing just flows along.

That being said, it wasn't nearly as creepy as I expected. I notice that some people have it shelved as horror. Um....why? Don't get me wrong, I'm glad it isn't actually horror, but I was definitely expecting something that would give me a few goosebumps.

The characters in the book were fairly well developed, particularly Clare, who reminded me a little of Amy in Gone Girl. It drove me nuts, however, that the narrator, Lee/Nora, was supposed to have the occupation of a crime fiction writer and then the author didn't do ANYTHING at all to explore that. Missed opportunity.

I feel like it was a little too predictable and there were a few too many coincidences, but overall I enjoyed it.


message 50: by Wendy (last edited Oct 08, 2016 12:57PM) (new)

Wendy | 52 comments Death of a Gossip (Hamish Macbeth, #1) by M.C. Beaton
Death of a Gossip by MC Beaton
Completed 10/6/16
Fulfills Popsugar #21: A book recommended by a family member (my grandma)
Counts toward the R.I.P. Challenge
Rating: 4 out of 5

I've read a few of Beaton's Agatha Raisin cozy mystery series, so my grandma recommended that I try the Hamish MacBeth series as well.

Death of a Gossip is first in the series and was originally published in 1985. Frankly, it has a feel of being even older than that. I would have placed it in the 1970s. This isn't meant to be a criticism, just an observation.

I was really surprised how much Beaton managed to pack into such a short book - strong character development (and there were quite a few characters), good setting, some humor, and some information about fishing. I probably won't continue the series, but I enjoyed reading it.


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