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Book Challenges 2017 > week 40 check in

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message 1: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 833 comments Mod
Man, week 40? Where did the year go?

Hope everyone's doing well!

I had a really busy weekend/week so I only finished two books this week.

Dark Matter - This was ok, but a little bit of a letdown. WHile the premise was really interesting, I was annoyed at the ending and a lot of the storytelling methods. For how much buzz was around it, I was expecting better.

Girl in Translation - I LOVED this one, so it made up for it. Such a great, yet heartbreaking story. It's billed as fiction, but the author blurb mentioned that she also immigrated to Brooklyn as a child, and also worked in a sweatshop. It's one thing to abstractly know conditions like that still exist in your country, another thing to read someone's first hand account to what they lived through. Yet the main character was likeable, and the writing style kept things from being so depressing I couldn't stand reading it. THis is also why I like reading challenges. I read this for my read harder immigration prompt, otherwise I probably wouldn't have hunted it down. So glad I did!

Up next is Seeing Red - this will be my book by a Central American author set in Central America.

How's everyone's weeks doing?

message 2: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 207 comments Mod
Hi Everyone,

It's been a busy week around here and it's also Canadian Thanksgiving this weekend, so I'm behind the times with my post. However, thanks to a somewhat lazy weekend last weekend and lost of hours as a car passenger this weekend, I managed to finish off two books.

First, I finished The Children's Book, which was such a wonderful book, but a slow read. It was a dense, complicated, stunning novel that required all of my attention when I was reading it and took me almost 3 weeks to get through its 615 pages. Even though it took place over about 20 years (1895-1917), it had a rather slow narrative pace. The pace was my main criticism with it, but I understand the narrative choice. I learned so much about socialist movements in turn of the century England and how they were reflected in so many aspects of life--particularly the arts--at the time. Most material we see from this time period tends to be more "upstairs/downstairs," so it was fascinating to read a story based in another segment of society. I don't think I'll ever re-read this one, but it will definitely stay with me and affect the way I see this period in time. It was kind of haunting.

As a bit of a break from this book last weekend (and because I accidentally left it in my desk at work on the Friday, haha), I checked out The Girl on the Train on my Kobo and devoured it over the weekend. I'm not really a mystery lover, but I do enjoy female perspectives and multiple points of view in a book, so I found myself really enjoying this one. I guessed "who done it" about 2/3rds of the way through, which is a bit later than I usually do if I read a mystery, so I give it props for that, too. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone looking for a quick read, particularly since I think it did a really good job of presenting alternative female perspectives that we rarely see in literature.

This morning I cracked the cover on The Picture of Dorian Gray, partly because Oscar Wilde is frequently referenced in The Children's Book (and even shows up in one scene during the 1899 Paris World's Fair) and partly because I discovered my husband has a copy of the collected works of Oscar Wilde (lived with him for 7 years and never noticed this!). It's on my list for a book taking place over a character's lifetime--I got this recommendation from one of the Popsugar boards for this prompt, but somehow I think that's not right since the book opens when he's already a young man. Can anyone confirm this? I don't want to Google it as I'm not entirely familiar with the story and so don't want spoilers. I figure if it doesn't fit the prompt, I'll put it down as my book with an eccentric character--that should fit!

So, I have a question for discussion this week, prompted by my two completed books. I actually rated The Girl on the Train 5 stars and The Children's Book 4 stars, even though I believe that The Children's book is a far better-crafted book. Which leads me to believe that I based my ratings this week more on my level of engagement with them than the craft of writing (although no book is getting 5 stars from me if it's not well-crafted to begin with). This surprised me! So, my questions is:

What are the primary criteria on which you base your ratings? And, follow up:

Have you ever thought a book was extremely well-written, but still given it less than 5 stars? Why/why not?

message 3: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 833 comments Mod
Hi Stephanie!

I'd say Dorian gray fits better under eccentric character. None of his childhood is really mentioned, if I recall. (It's been a number of years).

I tend to rate my books based on personal enjoyment/how much I got out of it. So I have plenty of pulp fiction/light reads that are rated much higher than books that are "well written".

For example, I know Wuthering Heights is a literary classic, but I thought it was a slow read full of insufferable characters so rated it low. Yet Black Swan by Mercedes Lackey is a regular fantasy novel, fairytale retelling. But it's one of my favorite books of all time. I've read it to the point of destruction, pages are falling out all over the place. So it gets 5 stars.

I don't see anything wrong with that method of rating, personally. As a reader I find it more helpful to know if a book is easy/enjoyable to read rather than by literary standards it's good. I'll do a certain amount of "because I should" reading, but overall I don't want reading to be a chore.

message 4: by Sara (last edited Oct 11, 2017 12:20PM) (new)

Sara Richter | 55 comments Hi!

This week I finished The Shadow of the Wind. This was my book translated to English and I really enjoyed it! It followed the life of a bookkeeper's son, a book, and the son's quest to find out what happened to the book's author. The story was set in post-WWII Barcelona. The writing was good, the characters were interesting, and the story unfolded at a good pace. It'll go back on my TBR list once I finish my challenge.

Next up for me is Imzadi, which will be my romance set in the future. It's a Star Trek: The Next Generation novel (non-canon) that explores the relationship between Counselor Troi and William Riker while Riker was stationed on Betazed. I'm a TNG trekkie, so was excited to find one of those novels that fit.

As far as a rating system, I rate books based on my level of engagement with the book - if I can't put it down and I want to read it again after it's over, that book will get 4 or 5 stars. If I struggle to get through it either because the writing is too dense, the characters are lack luster, the plot is slow, etc., then it gets only 1-2 stars.

message 5: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 833 comments Mod
Are you the one working on last year's prompt list? Just asking because i don't recognize the prompts from this year, and I remember someone mentioning they were finishing up last year's :)

A romance set in the the future is a neat prompt.

message 6: by Sara (new)

Sara Richter | 55 comments Sheri wrote: "Sara,
Are you the one working on last year's prompt list? Just asking because i don't recognize the prompts from this year, and I remember someone mentioning they were finishing up last year's :) ..."

Hi Sheri - Yes, I'm still working on last year's prompts. I didn't realize PopSugar had the Read Harder/advanced list, so I took the 2016 PopSugar main list and then added 12 books from a different list that showed up on my Pinterest feed. Last year I made it through 24 of the prompts. This year I'm definitely finishing - only 6 prompts left (7 books total because one is a book and its prequel).

message 7: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 207 comments Mod
Sara, I read Imzadi years ago--I remember really liking it! I always enjoy extended universe material, and really appreciated having the backstory between Riker and Troi filled in more.

Thanks for the responses on rating, friends! I guess the classically trained musician and English teacher in me still has notions of "masterworks" and valuing construction and form over more
visceral/emotional appraisals of work. Darn--I thought I had worked my way through those issues, haha.

message 8: by Susan (new)

Susan LoVerso | 261 comments I'm (still!) reading Astrophysics for People in a Hurry. It is a small book but I can only read so much before I fall asleep at night. Don't take that as a negative comment because I am very much enjoying it. He makes it all very accessible to a non-physicist like me.

On deck for me is A Daughter's Inheritance. It is written about the Thousand Island and northern NY region where we have long roots for vacation and know a lot about that area.

message 9: by Stephanie (new)

Stephanie | 207 comments Mod
Susan, I'm very interested to hear your thoughts on A Daughter's Inheritance once you're done. I grew up near the Thousand Islands on the Canadian side. I have many fond memories of taking tours through them when I was younger, and we're going to try and take my MIL this summer, since she's always wanted to go. This may have to go on my TBR list!

message 10: by Alexa (new)

Alexa | 37 comments Plugging away at my Halloween list. I’ve finished Coraline, Dracula, The Graveyard Book, and A Night in the Lonesome October. Currently on Sabriel.
Of these, Dracula has been the hardest because I despise Lucy and couldn’t wait for the Count to finish her off. But it’s also so fascinating (they called it taking a Kodak then, they had blood transfusions, the use of the telegraph to track the Count’s ship).

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