Ultimate Popsugar Reading Challenge discussion

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2016 Weekly checkins > Week 28: 7/8-7-14

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message 1: by Juanita (last edited Jul 15, 2016 09:35AM) (new)

Juanita (juanitav) | 723 comments Posting early because Thursday promises to be crazy for me. Ah deadlines ... the ultimate motivator.

For our friends in France (shout out to Christophe!): Happy Bastille Day!

I have been trying to read Americanah for my book club (meeting tomorrow, oops!) and for "culture you are unfamiliar with" but it's taking longer than I expected. I'm 50% through it so I will need a few more days to complete.

Question of the week: What's the top thing you look for in a good book (characters, plot, beautiful prose, etc.)?

Thanks to Sara for this question suggestion. I'm using it today because I am having a hard time with Americanah. I'm still not sure I like the lead character Ifemelu and I don't really care about her story. Trying to stick with it because it is my book club pick but hasn't been easy.

So I think for me compelling character development is important at least when I'm reading fiction. On the nonfiction front, I absolutely LOVED Cheryl Strayed's Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail even though I had a strong dislike for her.

How about you? How's your progress this week?


message 2: by Sara (new)

Sara | 1508 comments Happy Thursday and Happy Bastille Day!

I finished one book this week, last night actually. I finished The Crown by Kiera Cass which completes the Selection series. The last two books were meh compared to the first three, but still a decent light read and I always like to see a series to completion if I can. This book doesn't count towards a prompt so I'm holding steady at 35/41.

Currently I am reading:

The Assassination of the Archduke: Sarajevo 1914 and the Romance that Changed the World by Greg King. This will be my book set in Europe. I read a lot of fiction set in Europe so I wanted to challenge myself by reading something nonfiction. It's a good read, but I am progressing slowly. I am almost halfway through.

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. Started this last night. The jury is still out on whether I will stick with it.

The Fellowship of the Ring for my 20th century classic. Still trying to get through this. It isn't a bad book, but I think I would be more interested if I read it in larger chunks. I'm listening to the audio and constantly have to stop for one reason or another. Makes it hard to keep up with what's been happening.

I also have Still Life waiting in the wings. I am trying to hold out until I finish my nonfiction. If I don't I know I will never finish it.

Question of the Week: Characters are almost always what draws me to a book. I don't have to love the characters as long as they are well developed. Scarlett O'Hara makes me want to bash something over her head frequently, but she is a great character. My go-to example for a plot driven book with NO character development is always The Da Vinci Code. It's a page turner, and I enjoyed reading it but Robert Langdon (?) had no depth. I couldn't care less what happened to him or the girl whose name escapes me. Without strong characters there is no pull for me to reread the book. I already know what happens. On the other hand, books with good characters just beg to be reread (hello, Jane Eyre) :)


message 3: by Megan (new)

Megan (mghrt06) | 540 comments I'm at 26/41 - same as last week.

I only finished The Last Star. I'm not sure what happened to that series. I loved the first book. The second book lost me. And this third one, what even?! But I finished the series. I could have used this for dystopian but I have another book I want to read for that so I'm not using this book for the challenge.

I picked up my book translated to English and I'm reading Perfect Days. I actually like it - but it reminds me a lot of the book You which I also enjoyed. So I'm curious to see if similarities continue or if this author has a twist. I like a good psychological thriller.

Once I finish that I'm going to either read my book set in my home state or tackle my book with my occupation. I rented both from the library so it'll depend what my mood is.

Question of the Week: I would have to agree with characters are an important part. If I can connect with the character(s) it makes the story more enjoyable for me.


message 4: by Charlotte (new)

Charlotte Weber | 264 comments I am at 24/41. I finished Winter of the World for "a book over 600 pages." I really enjoy Ken Follett's works. He's a master at weaving together numerous narratives to form a cohesive and expansive story and this Century Trilogy is no different. This book covers the years of the rise of Nazism to the beginning of the Cold War. And for anyone who thinks what's going on in the world now is new, I recommend you read this trilogy because some things never change.

Question of the Week: I typically pick up a book because of the plot but I enjoy the book based on the characters. Right now I'm reading a book where the plot intrigued me but I'm almost halfway through and I know almost nothing about the main character. She's so flat but maybe something will change by the end. *fingers crossed*


message 5: by Rachel (new)

Rachel A. (abyssallibrarian) | 623 comments I read The Deep End of the Ocean as my book from Oprah's book club. It took me way too long to finish.

I look for a combination of good characters and a good plot. I love strong character development, and great characters can outweigh a bland plot for me.


message 6: by Christophe (new)

Christophe Bonnet | 212 comments Happy Bastille day to all of you too! Bank holiday here: quiet day at home after watching the parade on TV with the kid (and listening to the planes flying by from the window)...

One book finished this week:
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon 38. A satirical book (2): Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49 , Vintage Classics, 1996 (ed. orig 1966).

Is it a satirical book? I don't know; it's pretty sarcastic anyway. It's also one of my best reads of the last few months. I gave it 5 stars, and that's not something I routinely do.

QOTW: it really depends. "Liking" a character really doesn't matter much to me - bad characters or even mediocre characters can make great literature. No two books are alike, and they have very different things to offer. Well, some of them don't have much, and you end up wondering why anyone took the pain to write it or publish it... Unfortunately, a large proportion of contemporary French novels falls into that category.


message 7: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) I haven't made much progress in many a moon.

Question of the week: What's the top thing you look for in a good book (characters, plot, beautiful prose, etc.)?

Hmm... I have picked books on a wide variety of reasons. Character? Yes and no, I don't have to like or even sympathize with a character. But I do need to care about them or what is happening in the book.

Plot? Very important. But I have picked and liked books that are weak in plot and more about the journey or mental progression (like Netherland)

Setting can be very important. I've read books because I was interested in the setting.

Setup. The conceit or setup of the book can draw me in. Dystopias, gothic novels, etc.


Thegirlintheafternoon 32/41! I checked off "a murder mystery" with Death at Victoria Dock, one of the Phryne Fisher mysteries. I don't much enjoy mysteries, so this was never going to be my favorite category, but it's never a hardship to spend time with Miss Fisher, Lady Detective :)

QOTW: Definitely character. I don't have to like them, per se, but I have to be interested in them. And while I don't notice good writing as quickly as I wish I did, anything that I perceive as clunky throws me out immediately.


message 9: by Sara (new)

Sara | 1508 comments Thegirlintheafternoon wrote: "And while I don't notice good writing as quickly as I wish I did, anything that I perceive as clunky throws me out immediately...."

Yes! I agree.


message 10: by Fannie (new)

Fannie D'Ascola | 418 comments Joyeuse fête nationale!

No reading for the challenge last week. I read 2 or 3 Sherlock Holmes novels and a bad graphic novel. Well, bad in my opinion.

I picked up a book from the library yesterday that will fit the prompt suggested by a family member: Rules of Ascension. My uncle is a big fan of fantasy.

QOTW: I honestly don't know what I look in a good book. It's a good feeling when you find THE good one, but it's most of the time for differents reasons (characters, plot etc...)


message 11: by Patricia (new)

Patricia Bergman (marshop) | 112 comments I just finished The Mercy Rule by John Lescroart. It was a book that exceeded 600 pages.


message 12: by Mike (new)

Mike | 443 comments I was finally able to make it through Everything I Never Told You for our group read/Takes Place During the Summer. Excellent book, IMHO, but hard to get through. I've mentioned a couple of times that I have a daughter named Lydia who turns 16 this Fall, and I kept seeing her face when trying to imagine Lydia Lee in the book. Given what she experienced and the pressure she was under, I took it as a cautionary tale on how to treat and act around my children.

Started my Book Recommended By a Family Member: The Art of Happiness, which was suggested by my sister-in-law.

Have a great weekend!


message 13: by Nadine in NY (last edited Jul 15, 2016 02:49PM) (new)

Nadine in NY Jones | 6635 comments Mod
I didn't read any books for the Challenge this week, but I'm at 40/41, and my last book for the Challenge, "book recommended by someone you just met" is on hold for me at the library (it will be The Sculptor, because that's the first one of the three recommended that came in at the library - I'm going to read the other two also! but maybe not for another few weeks).

This week I finished a lot of books, though (I'm not sure how I pulled this off, I guess I had a lot of books that were almost done)!
The Last Star - as Megan says, SO disappointing
A Discovery of Witches - a witch/vampire romance, I LOATHED this book (but it would work for "set in Europe" or "blue cover" if anyone wants to read it!)
Every Heart a Doorway - this was a novella, and it had an interesting idea, but it needed to be longer
Bitch Planet, Vol. 1: Extraordinary Machine - badass dystopian graphic novel / collected comic book, I LOVED this one!
Smaller and Smaller Circles - murder mystery in the Philippines, this was very interesting

I just started listening to an audiobook today, Storm Front (the first Harry Dresden wizard/detective book), and, you guys, it's JAMES "SPIKE" MARSTERS!!! with a Garrison Keillor accent! I had NO idea he was the reader for this book.

QoTW: this is a difficult question to answer. My best answer: it has to be engaging. But that's kind of a non-answer, because it's like saying: "a good book is good because it's good." So I tried to break it down a little ... I think the number one thing that makes a book engaging for me is a good plot, one that is intricate but not so complex that I get confused, that moves along at a good clip. I need to care about the characters, too, and usually that only happens when I like them and I feel like they aren't making ridiculous decisions. Character-driven books (which describes a lot of modern "literary fiction") with no plot often irritate me, I want something to happen. So this is probably why I like genre fiction like sci-fi, fantasy, and mysteries. But I like romances, too, and they tend to have very predictable plots, so maybe I'm wrong about what I like!


message 14: by Juanita (new)

Juanita (juanitav) | 723 comments Nadine: I loved A Discovery of Witches but I haven't been able to get into the sequel, The Book of Life. Course, it took me about 7 years from when I bought it to read ADOW.


message 15: by Nadine in NY (new)

Nadine in NY Jones | 6635 comments Mod
ADOW gets really mixed reviews, all over the map from 1 star to 5 stars - it has a lot of fans! I read it because so many of my GR friends rated it high (of course some of my GR friends rated it low too) Personally, I doubt I'll ever read anything by that author again - too many other books waiting on my TBR list.


message 16: by Jessica (new)

Jessica Holbrook (jessicalh08) | 127 comments 22/41

Finished Soundless for my book about a culture I'm unfamiliar with. I also almost finished The Wedding Dress which was a recommendation from my Sister-in-Law.

I definitely look for interesting characters more than anything else in a book. It's amazing what good character development can do even if the book has a sucky plot.


message 17: by Kirsten (new)

Kirsten  (kmcripn) Nadine - Wow! I thought I was the only one that didn't get what the deal about ADOW was. It's not like I object to books about witches and vampires. (I've read enough.) But I just didn't see any chemistry between the characters.


message 18: by Kaci (new)

Kaci | 67 comments I finished Little Beach Street Bakery for a book set on an island or a book set during summer. It was fine, a little longer than it needed to be but the characters were very likable.

Which brings me to question of the week: I look for books that aren't overly wordy and that continue moving forward. I hate when I could skip 5 pages and not have missed a thing. I don't mind long books if they are long for a reason.


message 19: by AF (new)

AF | 350 comments I finished The Red Heart by James Alexander Thom. My mom recommended it to me and, I must say, it is one of my all-time favorite books. Good job, Mom! I am now 36/41.

She recommended another book, America's First Daughter by Stephanie Dray, but since it was published in 2016, I'm using it for that prompt. What I'm super excited about, and I think other book nerds will get this, both books take place at the same time. They are just different stories in the same time frame. The Red Heart is about Frances Slocum, a girl who is kidnapped by Native Americans at age 5 and ends up living her entire life with them. It portrays the struggles the Native Americans had with the 'white man', how NA's were tricked, killed and their culture ruined. In it they talk about President Jefferson. So I was so surprised when I picked up America's First Daughter and it starts nearly at the same time The Red Heart began. This time it is told from President Jefferson's daughter point of view. I wonder if it'll have any mention about the plight of the Native Americans.

QotW: There are many things I look for in a book. I love strong, female characters that struggle, but come out on top, I like books that are told from different view points, or from different times. I love stories within a story. I prefer historical fiction and dystopian. I like books that make me think, that inspire me. But I love, love, love a book that surprises me. I don't need a happy ending, but an ending that I wasn't expecting always makes me happy.


message 20: by Katherine (last edited Jul 17, 2016 01:36PM) (new)

Katherine (kiik) | 158 comments Not much progress last week, but any progress for me these days is a win. I completed Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them. Not sure where I'll put it yet. Slowly but surely, I am pulling myself out of the most depressing reading slump.

QOTW: I need good character development as well as an interesting plot that moves forward. The most interesting characters in the world won't get very far with me if they're just sitting around wasting my time. The story has to go somewhere in order for the characters to develop, for better or worse.


message 21: by Cthulhu (new)

Cthulhu Youth | 1 comments I've had a lot of books on the backburner which I finished up this week, so I look like I'v been very productive in my reading!

I read The Little Paris Bookshop on my mother's recommendation. Unfortunately it clashes with How I Became a Famous Novelist which I read for my satire book - I couldn't help seeing all the similarities to Famous Novelist's bookclub-friendly literary-bestseller parody called 'The Tornado Ashes Club'.

I finally finished The Lord of the Flies for my book read in one day. I'm a slow reader so it took me way longer than a day, so that doesn't feel honest. I did read a cool illustrated book, My Ideal Bookshelf in a day so I'm slotting that into the prompt instead :)

I also read Life of Pi for the Oprah book club prompt. All in all, that brings me to 29 books read which, as a slow reader, I am hugely proud of!!

QOTW: I love characters with bleak outlooks that they're not aware of, so stories with a chunk of subtle aching in them. I also love rhythmic sentences which can be read aloud.


message 22: by Tatra (new)

Tatra | 103 comments I read the first six books of the a Artemis Fowl series for this week, but they didn't really count for the challenge. I do have books for this week that just passed.

Question of the week: I like books with depth. Books with deep characters and deep ideas. The ones that make you think while still being fun to read. I've also found that story structure is important to me; the plot has to be clear and the story line make sense. And I like happy endings the best. I don't like to reread books where horrible things happen and are not made right in the end. (Like the stupid ending to Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell)


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