2021 & 2022 Reading Challenge discussion

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ARCHIVE 2017 > 75 books in 2017 (Anri)

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message 1: by Anri (last edited Mar 15, 2017 07:10AM) (new)

Anri | 7 comments I've got a Librarything that I've been tracking this on, since that's where I started out and that's where I'd like to maintain my presence, but I do appreciate that Goodreads actually connects to Facebook, so I'll be double documenting this year.
My goal for this year was to read 7 categories of ten books each, plus 5 "floaters" for a total of 75 books this year. The intention was to get myself reading books I wouldn't normally pick out on my own (except the sci-fi/fantasy category which is mostly there because I know I'll want to do some rereads throughout the year) (also award-winning, which lets me read basically anything from contemporary fiction to older "classics", as well as overflow from some of the other categories). Those categories are:

LGBT+ (characters or authors)
1. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
2. Ash by Malinda Lo

POC (characters or authors)
1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
2. Underground Airlines by Ben Winters

Mystery
1. The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
2. The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
3. In the Woods by Tana French
4. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

Non-fiction
1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanthi
2. Yes Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

Award-winning

Favs Favs
(I asked some of my best friends what their favorite books were, and I'll be reading those throughout the year)
1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
2. The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman

Sci-fi and Fantasy

Floaters
1. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
2. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
3. We Were Liars
4. The Princess Saves Herself in This One

Total count: 16/75

I'll be updating this list as I go along through the year.


message 2: by Anri (new)

Anri | 7 comments Since I started on Goodreads later, the quick wrap-up for January, featuring ten-word reviews, was:

1. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Everything I like - diaspora, humor, footnotes - still didn't like it?

2. The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde
A little overcomplicated, but a good satire of detective novels

3. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Devastating, beautifully written, and completely engaging. Emotionally very, very heavy.

4. The Fourth Bear by Jasper Fforde
Tighter plot than the first book, still a bit much.


message 3: by Anri (new)

Anri | 7 comments 5. In the Woods by Tana French
I was really excited about this book. It starts with a story of three children who go into the woods in 1984; only one comes out, and he is found with blood soaked into his shoes, unable to remember anything that happened to him. Flash-forward 20 years, and he's a detective in the same area when he and his partner happen to get a case involving the killing of a dead girl, found in the same woods.
The book was well-written and creepy, hinting at just the right amount of inexplicable with the previous case; I really getting into it when (view spoiler) The final third of the book was a chore to get through - I read/watch mysteries because I like resolution, and this book unfortunately didn't give me much of that. I'm undecided on if I'll be reading the next book.

6. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
A quick read, but one that I'll be revisiting. A memoir by a neurosurgeon who was about to complete his training when he's diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. It's as heavy as it sounds, with Kalanithi spending a lot of time discussing his philosophy on life. Like Station Eleven, it made me think a lot about the people I love, and what my own personal meaning of life is.


message 4: by Anri (new)

Anri | 7 comments 7. Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters
A great read. Set in a contemporary America, with one major exception: the Civil War was never fought, and slavery still exists in four states called the Hard Four. It follows Victor, a former slave who now works for the US Marshalls tracking down runaways as a condition of his freedom.

8. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
A short volume of poetry, split into four sections (the hurting, the loving, the breaking, the healing). I know this has been pretty hyped, and I'm not sure that it fully lived up to that. There were certain poems that I really was able to connect with, but also quite a few that didn't do much for me, particularly in the last section. It was given as a gift though, so I'm hoping that as I revisit it, it improves.


message 5: by Anri (new)

Anri | 7 comments 9. Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
I started this one on a recommendation from the same friend who recommended Station Eleven, and I have to say I didn't love it.
The novel is centered around a main character whose name I honestly can't remember, who begins working in a 24-Hour bookstore. Of course, the bookstore has weird clientele, and a mysterious owner, and you can imagine how it spirals from there.
Unfortunately, I really didn't care about the main character, and the whole thing mostly felt like the author had based each of his characters on one of his friends? It felt very self-insert. In addition, plotwise the book also didn't cut it - it built to a big reveal and then the end result felt extremely cliche.
(honestly, I think I was hoping for something more similar in feel to the movie Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium - and that was not what this book was about. Anyone else remember that movie? I feel like it's one of those weird movies that weren't bad and were like vaguely okay, but that everyone just collectively forgets about. Like, Natalie Portman and Dustin Hoffman were in that movie, and I never see it referenced anywhere.)

10. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
A reread. This is Jasper Fforde's other main series, centered around a woman name Thursday Next. Much like in his other series, this book is set in an alternate reality in which England and Russia are still in the midst of the Crimean War, and literary crimes are a thing that are investigated by a branch of law enforcement called LiteraTecs. When someone begins stealing original manuscripts and kidnapping characters from within them, Thursday is in charge of figuring out who's behind it.
My memory wasn't wrong - I did enjoy the Thursday novels more than the Nursery Crimes ones. They're a little less frantic-feeling, and I think the literature jokes are more up my alley than the detective-trope ones were. I'm excited to continue with the series.

11. The Foretelling by Alice Hoffman
Finished this in one sitting; it's a short book. This one was a friend's pick for favorite, it's YA, and it's about a society of Amazonian-like women who ride horses and battle anyone who crosses them. I won't be reading it again, but it wasn't a bad book.


message 6: by Anri (last edited Mar 07, 2017 10:57AM) (new)

Anri | 7 comments 12. Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson
Yes, Chef is a memoir by Marcus Samuelsson, a very successful Swedish chef who's ethnically Ethiopian and now lives in America. I first saw him on Top Chef, as a judge and a contestant on Top Chef Masters, so when I saw he had a memoir, I figured I'd give it a try.
I really enjoyed the book, especially the first two thirds, about his journey from Goteburg, Sweden to NYC and how he moved through the ranks of different restaurants. Samuelsson has a better work ethic than I could possibly dream of having, and it's amazing to read about the long hours and harsh treatment in the kitchens where he worked. Also, much as food allergies/my own innate pickiness mean that I can't/wouldn't enjoy a lot of the food he discusses, I love reading about it. The final portion of the book doesn't do a great job of delving more into some of his successes/failures later in life and fully setting the scene, and I wish there were more in-depth descriptions there.

13. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Wow. I finished this in a single sitting, and it was a lot. In a good way.
We Were Liars is told from the point of view of Candace Sinclair. The "Liars" of the title are Candace, two of her cousins, and a friend of the family, who all spend every summer until Candace is fifteen on the family island with their extended family. It largely takes place during their seventeenth summer, two years after an incident took place that left Candace with migraines and an inability to remember most of the events of summer fifteen.
I've always loved that E. Lockhart manages to create main characters who are flawed, but who I also completely identify with, and Candace is no exception. (view spoiler) I look forward to re-reading it.


message 7: by Anri (new)

Anri | 7 comments 14. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
When the Moon Was Ours is about Miel and Sam, both outsiders in their town - Miel, for the roses that grow out of her wrists and her mysterious arrival to town via a water tower when she was five, and Sam for the color of his skin. They are best friends and, unsurprisingly, they fall in love. But of course, what kind of story would this be if there wasn't some sort of conflict, and that conflict comes in the form of the four Bonner sisters. They're said to be witches who can make anyone fall in love with them, and they want Miel's flowers - and they'll do anything to get them.
I really liked When the Moon Was Ours. Stylistically, I enjoyed the prose, and plot-wise, I the magical realism was good. The characters were well-done, and you can tell the author is drawing on some real experiences with the way she writes Miel and Sam's relationship.
At the same time, I felt let down by the climax, and for all that there was action and forward momentum in the plot, it somehow still managed to feel very static? There was also some weirdness involved in the fact that I think the novel sometimes hinted at secrets that didn't end up being very shocking or feel like revelations, and I'm not sure the novel quite managed to weave the magical realism into a world that was believable (the scene at the high school was especially jarring for this - it felt like a passage from another iteration of the novel).
Overall though, a solid book, and one that I would consider revisiting one day.

15. Ash by Malinda Lo
Ash is a retelling of Cinderella, at its base level, but it also has fairies - sorry faeries - sprinkled throughout.
Oh Ash. Ash was difficult to get started with, though it did pick up in the middle. Still, while I finished it quickly, the book does not hold up well to reflection.
The author tried to blend Cinderella with the faerie elements of the story and it just...didn't work. It seemed as though the Cinderella story was written, and the author needed a better reason why Cinderella wouldn't end up with Prince Charming, (view spoiler)


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