Ultimate Popsugar Reading Challenge discussion

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2020 Weekly Checkins > Week 20: 5/8 – 5/14

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message 1: by Sara (new)

Sara | 1508 comments Hello all,

How are we all doing? Here in Virginia, the governor has determined that “phase 1” of the reopening starts tomorrow (Friday). I’m not in a big hurry to rush anywhere so I don’t think it will change much for me. Maybe I’ll finally go get my dog’s nails clipped. Otherwise I’m just going to sit back and see what happens. We have a vacation planned in a few weeks – a beach house rental – which is still on so I’m hopeful it stays that way!

**Admin note:
Just looking ahead, June’s group read is The Map of Salt and Stars by Zeyn Joukhadar. Discussion will be led by Lynn.


Finished:
As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner. I’m of two minds about this book. The first two thirds of the book, covering the 1918 flu, is fantastic, but then the war ends, there’s about a 5-6 year gap and the story just stalls out. For me it didn’t pick up again until nearly the end of the book. Still, it’s a good read.

Currently Reading:
You Were There Too by Colleen Oakley. Two of my very good friends read and loved this book. Mia has seen the same man in her dreams for years when suddenly she sees him in person. And at some point (I haven’t gotten there yet), he reveals he’s been dreaming of her too! The premise is super interesting, and two of my trusted book loving friends have recommended it so I think it’s going to be a great read.

The Queens of Animation: The Untold Story of the Women Who Transformed the World of Disney and Made Cinematic History – This book looks back on the little known women working for the Walt Disney Company on early feature animation films in the 30’s and 40’s. I’m listening on audio, and since my audio habits have quite fallen off the cliff lately, it’s been a slow but steady read. I am enjoying it though. A little Disney history, a little women’s history, and a dash of Disney magic!

Question of the week:

(From Lauren) What advice would you give to writers, based on what works and what's frustrating when it comes to writing styles, content, etc. that you've noticed with the books you've loved and loathed over the years?


I thought this was an interesting question.

Things I think writers should STOP doing:
-Ignoring standard grammatical rules and punctuation. What is with the trend of no quotation marks?
-Hopping on a trend and flooding the market (“the girl” books, WWII fiction)

Things I want to see writers do:
-explore new topics, new time periods
-I'm sure there are more but I'm blanking on it!


message 2: by Katy (new)

Katy M | 707 comments I finished The Book Thief and decided to use it as my book written by an author in their 20s.

I'm now reading Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony as my book written by an author with flora or fauna in their name. super-interesting so far. I could have also used it as a subject I know nothing about.

QOTW: I definitely agree about the punctuation thing. I will not read Cormac McCarthy for precisely that reason. Otherwise, I don't really know.


message 3: by Ashley Marie (last edited May 14, 2020 04:24AM) (new)

Ashley Marie  | 372 comments Rain in northeast Ohio today. Patio service/outdoor dining is set to open tomorrow, and dine-in on the 21st. I have zero intention of sitting down in a restaurant, crowded or otherwise, any time soon so we'll see how it goes. Meanwhile, I was up til 11 watching the Survivor finale (haven't kept up with Survivor in probably 10-15 years til this season), and it didn't disappoint! I regret nothing :D

Only finished one this week, but it was a good one!
Hidden Bodies - 3.5/4 stars. I liked Joe better in this installment, possibly due to the POV shift. Santino Fontana's narration was brilliant again and I may actually have to add the next two books to my TBR. Book that deals with social media

35/50

Currently reading:
American Elsewhere - Dunno if I'm totally hooked yet, but the town is just weird enough that I want to keep going for now and see what happens. It feels very Welcome to Night Vale + Ozark.

Starting this morning:
Black Leopard, Red Wolf - This feels like a book I want to take my time with and savor; I may end up listening to it only in the mornings before any coworkers arrive and start being distracting ;) I've heard good things about it and I'm excited!

QOTW: (From Lauren) What advice would you give to writers, based on what works and what's frustrating when it comes to writing styles, content, etc. that you've noticed with the books you've loved and loathed over the years?
I don't know that I would give advice to writers exactly, because I think people should have the freedom to write whatever they want, but I agree with Sara - I think I've read as many HF books set in WWII England or France that I can handle. Yes, that's where the war may have partially concentrated, but this war affected the WORLD. Keep the time period if you like, but go elsewhere! So I guess it's more a message to myself to broaden my reading horizons and actively look for "different" books :)


message 4: by Sara (new)

Sara | 1508 comments Katy wrote: "I'm now reading Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony as my book written by an author with flora or fauna in their name. super-interesting so far. I could have also used it as a subject I know nothing about.

Katy - this is serendipitous! Just the other day I was looking for a decent book on this topic. We are (hopefully) headed to the Outer Banks in a few weeks, and we cross over on Roanoke Island on our way. If you ever go to the Outer Banks, there is an amazing outdoor theater in Manteo that puts on a play called "The Lost Colony". I'm so sad they had to cancel their season this year so we won't get to go. Anyway, all that to say even though this isn't a new topic for me I was really wanting to find a book to read on the subject so thank you!


message 5: by Sarah (new)

Sarah (sezziy) | 835 comments Hi everyone. The weather is a little bit crazy here with one day boiling hot and then the next windy and cold.

This week I actually read something (go me!). Unfortunately it was a terrible book! I was hoping The Odd Sisters: A Tale of the Three Witches would be the end of the annoying sisters as featured in all of the Disney villain books but it was't so they'll probably be in the rest of the series. The illustrations in the book were absolutely gorgeous and made it worth it.

QOTW: I agree with the speech marks thing. It's not edgy, it's frustrating.

I would also like to put in a selfish request that writers write sequels quicker. I'm impatient lol!


message 6: by E.R. (new)

E.R. Griffin (egregiouserrors) | 131 comments Hi there!! Hope everyone’s had a good week!

I finished A Gathering of Shadows (character in their 20s) and am about halfway through A Conjuring of Light (book with a made-up language). I’m really impressed with V.E. Schwab’s writing. I’ve ordered the two Villains books since I’ve been hearing great things about those too!

QOTW: ooh I love this one! Since I’ve been reading a lot of Ms. Schwab’s books this month, I checked out her YouTube channel. She gave the advice that you should write every book for yourself, because you love it. Don’t write a story because it’s marketable or trendy, but basically write what makes you happy and it will be a better book for all the heart you put into it. The novel I just finished writing is on the bizarre side, but I adore it, so it was nice to hear that I at least got that part right lol


message 7: by Tania (last edited May 14, 2020 05:31AM) (new)

Tania | 499 comments Hello. Our state is in phase 1, steadily moving towards phase 2 or so we hear. We're still in phase 0.5 at my house, although we did a socially distanced mother's day with my Mom. I know people who seem to think we're in phase 3, so that is becoming a problem since they don't understand why I'm not excited about their plans.

I finished 2 books this week, one for the challenge. I'm at 21/50 for the challenge.

No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen - used for the prompt "a main character in their 20's," a travel memoir by a woman in her 20's; her and her SO traveled 7 countries with no baggage (she had one small purse; they had 0 changes of clothes). It was quite interesting, and they made sure to take in local culture everywhere they went (including staying with locals, by couchsurfing).

Across a Green Ocean by Wendy Lee - a story about an immigrant family in America struggling to reconnect. Part of the story takes place in China when one of the characters goes looking for information on his father's past. It's a powerful tale about how hard it is to communicate even with those who should be closest to you.

I want to read The Queens of Animation, I'm glad you are enjoying it.

QOTW: Apparently I have a lot of thoughts on this subject.
Things I think writers should STOP doing:
* I agree with you on grammar and punctuation - I get enough of that online, I don't want to see it happen in published books.
* Pushing stories forward based on misunderstandings between two people, or someone pridefully refusing to explain themselves. There has to be a better way.
* Love triangles - I have always hated these. If two people are going to break up, just break them up. There doesn't always have to be a third person there. Or if two people are going to get together, just get them together, they don't have to be leaving an abusive spouse to fall in love with your character if he's really that good a guy.
* Series writers - a little background from a previous book ok, but rewriting half the last novel to start the sequel, not ok. Just assume people should have read the previous book, the recap should be as brief as those TV intros that say "Previously, on Lost..." etc. :-)

Things I want to see writers do:
* Break away from stereotypes
* Explore different career paths for main characters


message 8: by Katy (new)

Katy M | 707 comments Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten* wrote: I think I've read as many HF books set in WWII England or France that I can handle..."

I read The Diplomat's Daughter recently and it started out in Austria, moved on the US, and then to Japan with a little bit happening in China.


message 9: by Brandy (new)

Brandy B (bybrandy) | 260 comments Texas is in the middle of reopening. I'm caretaker for my mom who already has lung issues so we're not rushing anywhere at all... no way, no how, not going to happen.

My sister-in-law tested positive on Friday last week. She is/was a cashier at her local grocery store. She hasn't had any symptoms but a coworker tested positive so my sister-in-law said, "just to be safe..." and... yeah. My brother and their son so far are negative. So knock wood but I'll be happy to be a bit further down the road on this one.

Didn't read much this week.

Complete:
The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel I'd read really mixed reviews of this one so it might have lowered my expectations. I liked it. It wasn't Station Eleven but most books aren't. (set in Canada, upside down image on the cover... who knows)

Currently Reading:
Sissy: A Coming-of-Gender Story by Jacob Tobia which I'm sure I put on for trans author debut book or pink cover or something and then slotted something else into each o these slots so who knows where I will put it, but this book so far about halfway in is pretty awesome. It is smart and funny and at times painful, but funny. And it isn't the traditional trans narrative and I think it is good to hear different voices on how gender identity is for them. So seriously so glad I picked this one.

QOTW:
Advice to Authors of multiple books:

Are you using the exact same plot devices and shocking twist as you used in your previous book? Yeah, don't do that. Try something else. We'll wait.

And I'm totally with you on the question marks. Why exactly have we decided the question mark is unnecessary?


message 10: by Heather (last edited May 14, 2020 06:08AM) (new)

Heather (heatherbowman) | 715 comments We had three days of sunshine, which I’ve been grateful for, even if it was too cold to enjoy the sunshine outside. I’ve been putting an effort into sleeping less because 10 hours of sleep a night plus a 1-2 hour nap everyday is too much. That means I’ve been staying up late (because I’m not getting up earlier!) and reading. No surprise, I’ve read more this week than I have in awhile. I’ve started to take advantage of Audible’s listen for free titles. Streaming audiobooks is a little bit of a pain, but a free audiobook with no waitlist isn’t something to complain about.

Finished
The Fiery Cross by Diana Gabaldon (a book about a woman in STEM). This book was so boring. It took me months and a lot of willpower to get through it. I’m going to keep reading this series, but if the next book is more of the same slice of life and low stakes situations, then I’m out.

Say You Still Love Me by KA Tucker (a book with a character in their 20s). This book uses a dual timeline. I liked the parts in the present, but didn’t like the parts 13 years ago at summer camp. I’m not a huge fan of YA romance. So this ended up being just okay for me.

Reading
Entanglement by Martha Wells (your favorite prompt from a past popsugar challenge - 2017 - a book that’s been on your tbr list for way too long). I bought this book 10 years ago. It’s time to read it.

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and other Classic Novels by Jules Verne (a book with twenty in the title)

QOTW
I'm pretty laid back about what authors write and quietly pass over books if they don't sound like they're for me, or DNFing if I don't realize that until I'm reading them. The only note I have is for series writers. Finish the series you started before you start another one!!! I get really frustrated when the next book in a series I'm reading is delayed so book one of another series can be released. I refuse to read the new series in protest.


message 11: by Stacey (last edited May 14, 2020 06:23AM) (new)

Stacey | 404 comments Happy Thursday Everyone! :) I hope that everyone is staying healthy and safe and enjoying life! I had another decently productive reading week and finished 3 more books. I hit my halfway point for my GR goal 6 weeks early - Yay! Now I feel more comfortable tackling some chunky tomes on my TBR knowing that I have the leeway to do that and still stay on track. I started with my second chunker of the year this week, picking up the next installment in the Outlander series, and I'm seriously looking forward to sinking my teeth into some epic fantasies in the near future! <3

Current Progress

PS: 35/50 | HP: 44/56 | ATY: 42/52 | GR: 50/100

Read This Week

Fracture Me (Shatter Me #2.5) by Tahereh Mafi ⭐️⭐️ This novella was a blatantly obvious attempt at priming the reader for what's probably to come and I have to say I didn't really care for that at all! I hate when an author changes the personality of a character just to further the plot in a series! :'( The first novella in the series adds so much more depth to the story but this one just felt like a regurgitation of the story so far with a clear intention/motive on Mafi's part. I think this one negatively impacted my enjoyment of the series as a whole and I wish that I hadn't read it. Ugh.
*Not Used for any challenges

Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (3.5 Stars) This was enjoyable and I liked it better than the second book but I had to suspend my disbelief (especially at the end) in order to properly enjoy the plot. At times it felt too convenient and had some small holes which was very unfortunate. I was also annoyed with how the author wrote Adam (view spoiler) and James (view spoiler) in this one.
Used For: HP - 9. Read a book related to plants (flowers in the cover art) Ignite Me (Shatter Me, #3) by Tahereh Mafi

The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides ⭐️⭐️⭐️I enjoyed this but I think it would have been better if I had read it in a single sitting. The way that this one read, it felt like the author started writing it not quite sure where it was going, midway through came up with an ending, went back and reworked some things to suit the ending and added tidbits of foreshadowing but didn't fully explore the ramifications of choosing that ending and in doing so ultimately made the interesting subplots just feel like filler content since they were ultimately useless to the story and completely unresolved. This could have been so much more masterful and satisfying had they all tied into the ending somehow. We're left with a lot of loose threads concerning those and I'm frustrated because those aspects/subplots were a big part of my enjoyment of the novel. I wanted some answers! Also, the way the ending was resolved was not quite to my liking either, I think it was probably done the way that it was done to leave an option open for a sequel in the future but I just wished that we at least got more of a sense of how Allen was seeing the situation!
Used for: PS - 17. A Medical Thriller

Currently Reading

Voyager (Outlander #3) by Diana Gabaldon

QotW

Oh gosh, I have so many thoughts that I could be here all day but two dislikes that I encountered this week are: 1. When an author changes a character's personality in the next book in a series just to further the plot or help the reader accept someone new as a love interest. 2. When an author creates great subplots and ignores resolving them in any way.

I'll just recommend heading on over to youtube and checking out Merphy Napier's channel - specifically all of of "Dear Authors..." series videos because she basically articulates so many of these types of thoughts (things we like and things we don't) from the bookish community and discusses them. :) You can find some or most of her videos about this in this youtube playlist here


message 12: by Laura (new)

Laura | 154 comments I wish I had something interesting and clever to share here about life during the pandemic, but it's all the same... the same... the same.

Challenge Progress: 44/50

Completed:
Yale Needs Women: How the First Group of Girls Rewrote the Rules of an Ivy League Giant: Fascinating (and sometimes appalling) look at the introduction of female students to Yale. I was very surprised in one regard... I had expected this work to be set in the early 20th century. Not 1969! Within my own lifetime! As a young girl it never occurred to me that attending an Ivy - or any school - could have been denied to me based solely on my gender. (The first book you touch on a bookshelf with your eyes closed) ★★★★

If It Bleeds: Classic King. "Mr. Harrigan's Phone" and "If It Bleeds" were especially strong. I really enjoyed reading more about Holly Gibney. Will she get her own novel? Or maybe a limited TV series (HBO's "The Outsiders" was excellent)? I'm in. (A book by an author who has written more than 20 books ) ★★★★

Middlesex: "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." Pretty flawless. Not only is this a classic bildungsroman, but it's a rich, inter-generational drama. In turns comic and heartbreaking, Calliope's story (as well as her family's) is compelling. (A bildungsroman) ★★★★★

The Topeka School: What a confusing tangle of ideas and characters! Densely written, the whole thing just seemed pretentious. ★★

Master Class: "Patriotism does not require turning a blind eye to the darker chapters of our country’s history; if anything, the opposite." When testing and categorization of students goes too far... Sure, it seems crazy, but some of the rhetoric from the Fitter Families Foundation and the Department of Education sounds eerily familiar. A brilliant thriller set in the future but harkening back to the shameful eugenics and sterilization programs of the early 20th century. ★★★★★

Currently Reading:
Real Life
Chosen Ones
One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories (A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics)
The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride
The Sparrow (A book with a made-up language)
The City We Became
Fantasyland: How America Went Haywire: A 500-Year History
Sin Eater

QOTW: I absolutely agree with the whole punctuation thing. I DNF'd Girl, Woman, Other last week for just that reason!

Also, bandwagon fiction... Why so many books about women in WWII? And why do they all have the same cover???
The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner The Things We Cannot Say by Kelly Rimmer Lost Roses (Lilac Girls, #2) by Martha Hall Kelly We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini The Light Over London by Julia Kelly Mistress of the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin The Paris Seamstress (Free Preview Chapters 1-4) by Natasha Lester A Woman of War by Mandy Robotham Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis Lilac Girls (Lilac Girls, #1) by Martha Hall Kelly


message 13: by Samantha (last edited May 14, 2020 06:36AM) (new)

Samantha (bookstasamm) | 174 comments Happy Thursday! I didn't post last week so I have two weeks worth of books this week.

Finished:
Wilder Girls - this was a strange book to read during a pandemic. It's set in an all girls school where they all get sick and need to be quarantined. The ending left me wanting a bit more closure, but overall I thought it was a good book. I used it for prompt #12 - a book that passes the Bechdel test. 4 stars

The New Husband - I found this book a bit predictable so it wasn't my favorite mystery, but there were some parts that I liked, in particular the daughters chapters. 3 stars

Plaid and Fore! and Murder - I started this series back in 2018, then put it on hold and never picked it back up once the new books were released so decided to get back into it. This wasn't my favorite of the series, but I will continue with it. 3 stars

Beach Read - I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway, and it has such great reviews that I figured I should read it. It was different than the typical romance novel, but still had the enemies become lovers trope. I thought the story was cute, but there were times it was a bit drawn out. 4 stars

The Getaway - I was excited that there was an Audible Original by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen. I've enjoyed their books so knew I needed to get this as one of my monthly choices. I think one thing these authors do very well is character development, but they didn't really get to do that since this was only a 2 hour audiobook. It was still a good mystery though. 3 stars

Challenge Progress:
Regular Challenge - 21/40
Advanced Challenge 6/10
Total - 27/50

Currently Reading:
Big Summer - I'm not reading this for the challenge. It was one of my Book of the Month picks this month.

Little Whispers - I have an ARC of this. It's not for the challenge.

Rich People Problems - reading this for prompt #19 - a book set in a country that begins with "C".

QOTW - What advice would you give to writers, based on what works and what's frustrating when it comes to writing styles, content, etc. that you've noticed with the books you've loved and loathed over the years?

I wouldn't tell an author how to write their books since that's their craft, but one thing that bothers me is authors that don't use quotation marks when people are speaking. I'm not sure when or why this became a thing, but it turns me off from reading a book when they aren't used and will affect my rating.


message 14: by Shannon (new)

Shannon | 487 comments It has been gorgeous here in North Texas the past week and I hope it stays this way for a long time! I know it won't but I can still hope!

I've been trying to step away more from technology (aka Animal Crossing) so I can be a functional human outside of work. I started a 30-day yoga challenge and have been reading and coloring more. So yay!

Finished:
Banker by Dick Francis: A book by an author who's written more than twenty books. I'll have to go back to this one someday to see if I really thought the build-up was slow or if this book suffered from quarantine. I love Dick Francis and his characters, and these certainly weren't a let-down, but the crime and following murder didn't happen until about 70% of the way through the book! But when I think about it...I think that's actually true of many of his books that I like. So it might just be quarantine that made this one harder to get through.

Currently Reading:
Victorian Fairy Tales: I'm reading this to my cats at night. Yes, I know, I've gone completely bonkers. But I live alone and it's somehow comforting to read aloud. This is my book with a bird on the cover.

Lingo: A Language Spotter's Guide to Europe: This is really fun! Just little snippets about various languages around Europe, big and small. This is my book by or about a journalist.

QOTW:
This is hard to answer since what I like and what the next person likes are bound to be different. I agree that there are too many "bandwagon" books, but I also know that writers have to get published to make money, so I understand why they do it. If we're going just based on pet peeves, though, WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE A SERIES??? I DON'T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!!!

*ahem* I am also in support of someone else's suggestion of stopping with the love triangles. I hate them. Especially because you can pretty much always tell which guy she's going to end up with anyway, which means you know the whole time it's not going to work out with the other one, and I just end up annoyed at the pretense.


message 15: by Donna (new)

Donna (donna_egan) | 29 comments Good morning all! Colorado is beginning to open, with restrictions, masks, distancing. I personally think it’s too early, so I’ll continue to stay home. Fortunately, I have beautiful places for walks and I have family nearby (for driveway visits). My heart breaks for the small business and restaurant owners. I hope the sacrifice everyone has endured to slow the spread, isn’t erased by opening too early.

Finished:
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. This was an audiobook read by Tom Hanks. I didn’t love this book (3 stars). The characters were so flawed, I found it annoying. At times I wanted to scream “get over it”. I’ll use this book for the Bildungsroman prompt.

Currently Reading:
Love in the Time of Cholera
There There
The Hamilton Affair

QOTW
The lack of punctuation, especially quotation marks when speaking, is enough to DNF a book. I find it almost impossible to follow the dialogue.


message 16: by Sara (new)

Sara | 122 comments I also live in Virginia, but my county is one of the places that opted out of phase 1 for two more weeks. But, honestly, I don't know that phase 1 is that different from what we're doing now, so I'm okay with it. Particularly since I still go to the office most days.

And, I also stayed up and watched the Survivor finale last night. What a great season, with the right winner at the end. Also, CBS has put all 40 seasons of Survivor on CBS all access, so I've gone back and started rewatching. Reality TV from 20 years ago is interesting, to say the least.

This week I finished two books. First, Wilson, which is a book about a world leader. Woodrow Wilson was an interesting person. He was very progressive when he was fighting for the working man, but less progressive when it came to segregation or woman's suffrage. Those things are always complicated when reading about historical people, I suppose. I feel like it would make for great discussion. I actually started this book back in January and have just been slowly chipping away. The book was quite long, but interesting and, overall, I enjoyed reading it.

I also finished The Drowner, which is part of the Eight Perfect Murders reading project that I'm doing with my husband. I really enjoyed this one. Honestly, I've enjoyed all but one of these books. They are all great mysteries, and also time capsules for a specific decade. I have two left to go, my husband is one book behind me, so we should be done in early June. So much fun!

QOTW:

I just want more great LGBT romance. Can we get another Red, White & Royal Blue please?


message 17: by Alex (last edited May 14, 2020 07:46AM) (new)

Alex of Yoe (alexandraofyoe) | 136 comments Our state entered phase 1 as well. Unfortunately though, it doesn't apply to our county yet since our cases are still too high. But I'm ok with that. I don't want to open until things are safe (especially now with this rare disease hitting kids), though I know there has to be a balance between that and providing jobs for people. I do not envy those in power who have to make these decisions. No matter what you do, it's going to hurt someone.

Finished: 16/50

Nothing! Ugh, but I'm very, very close. Maybe I'll get two books finished for next week and feel better about my progress!

Currently Reading

I Live Again: A Memoir of Ileana, Princess of Romania and Archduchess of Austria for "book about a world leader". Wow this book is amazing. I'm almost finished with it. Talk about role models, this woman definitely is one.

On Living Simply: The Golden Voice of John Chrysostom for "book featuring one of the deadly sins". This book is basically a mic drop against greed and is 100% applicable to today. Seriously loving it so far.

The Wilderness Journal: 365 Days with the Philokalia for "book whose title caught your attention". Yep. Still going.

QotW

Writing is so heartwrenchingly hard and painful when it comes to sharing what you've created with the world that I hesitate to offer any critiques. But I definitely echo getting off the bandwagon thing. And these 2 things constantly get on my nerves:

1. Keeping a series going after it should have ended or turning something into a series when it originally wasn't supposed to be. I understand why this is done. It was so popular and successful, why not do more? But when you only plan for a story to be so long and go so far, every attempt at extending it further just doesn't work and cheapens the story. I know authors need to make money, but seriously don't compromise your story's integrity like this. Stick to your guns. Every story has an ending and the fans will deal with it (and plus this gives them the opportunity to be creative themselves and "add" to the story in fanfiction/theories).

2. Second-hand trauma is a real thing. Graphic descriptions of torture or rape or anything of that nature can traumatize or trigger your readers and cause serious mental health issues. You can accurately depict what's going on without getting graphic about it. The imagination is a powerful thing and the reader's mind will fill in the details while also protecting them from getting too traumatized in the process. I know shock value is really marketable right now, but it ultimately isn't healthy for us as a society. Protect your readers and use your creative abilities to describe what's happening accurately but subtly.


message 18: by Nadine in NY (last edited May 14, 2020 08:41AM) (new)

Nadine in NY Jones | 5907 comments Mod
It’s been super cold this week in NY - we had that one warm day two weeks ago and I thought it was spring but nope! It’s been snowing since then. Forecast looks promising for next week though ...

Most of my seedlings are starting to pop up. It's been a long time since I started things from seed, it's good to get back to it. At first my kids were very annoyed with me hovering over pots of dirt, but once our little babies started popping up, they got excited too! We have a fine crop of arugula and basil coming up now. I'm now wrestling with whether I should order seeds for petunias, snapdragons, and marigolds, or just buy the bedding plants when they come in.

Governor Cuomo in NY is also talking about phasing people back in to regular life, but we have no firm dates yet, just the guidance that each phase should last a minimum of four weeks, and he'll probably do it by county. I heard a rumor that one county has been opened up, I'm not sure. I'm all set up working from home and I'm in no particular hurry to go back to the office. But yes! I also REALLY need to get my dogs' nails trimmed!!! They were long even when quarantine started - I've been walking them extra, and that has helped wear them down a bit, but there's that dew claw problem ...


I have not finished any books for the Challenge this week. And I haven’t done very well on my Asian heritage reading - I finished one book:
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan - to my surprise I ended up really enjoying this! Surprises like this are why I keep coming back to books that look like they’re not really my thing.

And I DNF’ed a book:
Snowflower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See - wow, I have been wanting to read this for a few years now, and I was soooo bored!!! I finally gave up at 18% in, which I decided was definitely enough to know I don’t like it, but not enough to actually rate it. (although, in my heart, this gets one boring star.) I don’t know if it was just this book, or if I won’t like all of See’s other books, too. She’s so popular! Should I try another one? I looked at reviews for her other popular books and it looks like they are all the same, so either you love See’s style or you don’t.


And I also finished a graphic novel (not for the Challenge or for AAPI reading):
The Old Guard, Book One: Opening Fire written by Greg Rucka - this was about immortal assassins, and it was incredibly boring. Rucka is just a boring writer and I don’t know why he’s so popular. His characters are so blah. This is being made into a Netflix movie, which is why I picked it up. I really loved the TV show Stumptown based on Rucka’s books, so I’m willing to give this show a try too, especially since Charlize Theron has the lead. But honestly between the boring graphic novel and the cheesy trailer .... my expectations are LOW.

And I finished a play (also not for the Challenge or for AAPI reading):
Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller - my daughter had to read this for school, and wanted me to read it, too, so we could talk about it. I think this might be the kind of story that appeals more to an older person like me than to a teen, so I liked it, sort of, although to be honest, it was so male-centric that I had a hard time with it. I know, the author was obviously a man, and “it was a different time” blah blah blah, but holy cow, the women were just props in this story. It was set in, what, the 1940s? I can only imagine the shitfit my grandmother would have laid on my grandfather back then if he pulled this woe-is-me schtick. My daughter and I had plenty to talk about when I finished (she was even more annoyed than I was - she has zero patience with this sort of “the man is everything” attitude).


I’m currently reading too many books at once. I’m all over the place!
Network Effect by Martha Wells - this is AWESOME and I’m in no hurry to be done, because I want it to last. This will be my AI/robot book.
This Is Paradise: Stories by Kristiana Kahakauwila - short stories set in Hawaii, part of my AAPI month reading. So far, the first story was fantastic!
Aloft by Chang-rae Lee - my new audiobook, also part of my AAPI reading, by one of my favorite authors, read by Don Leslie, who is a great reader! It’s funny that I quit Snowflower for being too boring, and picked this audiobook next, because its even more rambling and free from plot, but it’s also highly engaging. I guess I’m not always completely plot-focused when the writing is really good.
Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson - my current poetry book - sometimes it's nice to get back to the classics!
and oops I forgot to add: The Count of Monte Cristo - I'm technically "currently reading" this, but I haven't actively read it in months.

Actually, when I list them like that, it doesn't seem like too many books!


Other than the Dickinson, none of these are any of the hard copy books I borrowed from the library literal months ago. It’s a good thing the due date on all those books is July 1, because I’m going to need ALL that time!



QOTW

LOL as I was reading this question, the first thing that popped into my head was USE QUOTATION MARKS! so it made me laugh when I saw Sara list that in her reply!! Yes, writers, please make your book easy for the reader to read. I mean, the point of being a writer is to find a reader, right? What is that quote? "it's precisely like a kiss - you can't do it alone." Experimenting with things is fine and dandy, but don't intentionally make it harder for the reader to read.

As far as advice to writers, other than that, I don't know. I'm not a writer, I'm just a reader. Well, I'm a writer of book reviews ;-) I know what I like and I know what I don't like, and most of the time I'm able to break that down and describe it when I'm reviewing a book, but I can't condense it into generic advice, other than the old "show don't tell" line.

Maybe: only use words you know. Often I see writers clearly reaching beyond the vocabulary they are comfortable with, and they end up using a word they do not mean. An easy example is a writer using "torturous" when they mean "tortuous." If you aren't sure what the word means, and if you don't use it yourself in your daily life, don't use it in your book.

I think the books I like best have characters that feel real, they aren't just two-dimensional archetypes. But I don't know how each writer does that, it's some combination of fascinating inner dialogue combined with actions that show and support the type of character it is plus fascinating character-to-character dialogue that flows and feels real. And I like everything in the book to support the plot - no extraneous asides! But that's just me, clearly plenty of people dig the extraneous aside.


message 19: by Sherri (new)

Sherri Harris | 356 comments Hi All, I also live in Va. We will open using phase 1 tomorrow but I agree it won’t be a huge change for me. My husband can now get a haircut so he is happy. Also I want to thank the person that gave a quick blurb about The Topeka School by Ben Lerner. I have never read him & I have been looking at that book since the end of 2019. It was on everybody’s end of the year list.
I finished one book for the week, not for this challenge. Arctic Dreams by Barry Lopez. I gave it 4 stars but it reads like a text book. I’m currently reading Men We Reaped: A Memoir by Jesmyn Ward. She is fast becoming one of my favorite authors.
QOTW: I also would like to stop the copycat behavior once a book is a hit. Like the WWll novels. My personal challenge for 2020 was not to read HF set in WWll. That being said I’m keeping a list of WWll books to read in 2021. I would like to see different time periods explored. Also I’m beginning to have a problem with books written by authors that can’t relate to the sex,race, religion, or experience. I may be too harsh on this one.


message 20: by Nadine in NY (last edited May 14, 2020 08:00AM) (new)

Nadine in NY Jones | 5907 comments Mod
Sara wrote: "... We are (hopefully) headed to the Outer Banks in a few weeks, ..."


I've never been to the Outer Banks (my beach time is 100% Jersey Shore time) but I just watched the Netflix series Outer Banks! Have you seen that? (You should watch it - your daughter will probably love it - it's like Riverdale, but good. It starts off pretty cheesy, but my daughters and I got sucked right in, by the end we were arguing passionately about what various characters should have done.)

I was wondering what the actual Outer Banks are like, as compared to what you see in the show? They look pretty big and really spread out? There's lots of open, undeveloped land, with multiple towns, and both the poor people and the rich people have private docks on the bay. I didn't see much of the ocean side. I didn't see any hotels or tourist strips, and the characters seemed to have to take a ferry to get to the mainland? there's no causeway you can drive over, do you have to take a ferry?? and I didn't see any fishing docks for commercial fishermen, but there's an implication that it does exist. And considering it takes place during summer, it seemed kind of empty - no traffic, empty restaurants, no tourists looking at lighthouses, etc ... There's a crucial scene towards the end that implies that there is only one waterway outlet from the bay to the ocean, is that right? And I was wondering how realistic it is that the locals seem to spend ZERO time surfing or at the beach (excluding one keg party)?


message 21: by Nadine in NY (new)

Nadine in NY Jones | 5907 comments Mod
Tania wrote: "... No Baggage: A Minimalist Tale of Love and Wandering by Clara Bensen - used for the prompt "a main character in their 20's," a travel memoir by a woman in her 20's; her and her SO traveled 7 countries with no baggage (she had one small purse; they had 0 changes of clothes). It was quite interesting, and they made sure to take in local culture everywhere they went (including staying with locals, by couchsurfing). ..."


They traveled through 7 countries wearing the same socks and underpants the entire time?? What did they do, wash their stuff in the bathroom sink and sit around naked while it dried?


This book reminded me of Get a Life, Chloe Brown because "travel with no luggage" was on Chloe's to-do list. I wonder if Hibbert was inspired by "No Baggage"?


message 22: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 738 comments Hi everyone,

woke up an hour before my alarm with a bad headache, so not having the best day.

Not a whole lot has changed, still staying in place, still working form home.

My parents are on their way back from Florida, they can't hold their mail longer and they were driving in an rv that's pretty self contained so they figured it was safe enough to return. I'm bummed though because I probably still shouldn't see them, even though I haven't seen them since Christmas :( Maybe can at least say hi from a distance.

This week I finished:

Broken Stars: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation - This was really interesting, counts as my anthology. It was a collection of modern Science Fiction in China, as well as a couple essays about the tradition of Science Fiction in Chinese history, fandom, things like that. I liked it overall, even though it fell into my general feeling about anthologies. Some stories I like, some I don't, others are middling, so anthologies always tend to even out to about 3 stars for me. Nothing was absolutely stand out, must go read more for me, but plenty were interesting.

Emergency Skin - i was trying to do my book picked with my eyes closed. I set my kindle to unread books only, closed my eyes, and mashed the forward and backward buttons , and then poked a finger at the screen. Unfortunately this is just a short story so I don't really feel it counts as a "book". But i love NK Jemison so read it anyhow, good story. I tried it again and got another story haha. I skipped that one for now so I could actually get to one I would count.

The Bookseller - this was my actual book picked with my eyes closed. I think i picked it up from prime reads at the end of last year because it had a book on the cover and i figured it'd give me options for that one. ended up going with something else. This was...not great. Glad I didn't actually pay money for it. The whole time I read I was kind of cringing. The way the author wrote about racism and Autism was very...uncomfortable. Not in a good, thought provoking way. More in a "I know this is set in the sixties, but YOU should know better and be handling this better if you're going to write about it" way. I almost didn't finish, but it was short and an easy read, and I figured the spirit of the challenge is to read the book you selected, not just keep selecting until you found one you would have read on your own.

Currently reading:

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein - Really enjoying this so far. It's a timely read, having just watched the two Frankensteins from the National Theatre. I kind of want to go re-read the original again, since it's been a few years. This one is from Elizabeth's perspective, and I'm finding it really compelling. Elizabeth isn't just a nice sweet fiancee in this one, she's a cunning girl who knows Victor is her key to a secure life and will do anything she must to keep that life. It'll be my book with a pink cover.

Sadie - listening to the audio book on this, it's one of the few books I can think of offhand where I'd absolutely say "you really should do the audio of this". I honestly can't imagine reading it. It's set up to be a podcast about a girl who was murdered and her missing sister, interspersed with the missing girl's perspective. All the parts are cast so it's like listening to an audio drama. The podcast parts really sound like a podcast, even with the musical intros and such, and recorded interviews having that sort of compressed fuzziness compared to the "live" voices. It'll be my book with the same title as a movie or tv show but unrelated. There was apparently a movie called Sadie a couple years ago.

The Count of Monte Cristo- Still plugging away, knocked out a few more chapters (short ones).

QOTW:

I agree with some above people. No more forced love triangles, especially when you KNOW who they'll end up with, the other is just there for tension. More LGBTQ+ representation in romance or otherwise. I just saw an article this morning about "Where are all the mothers in SF/F?" and it raised some good points. Even the mothers we get tend to be either weak, so the daughter or son has to take over, get killed or have a forced absence, or are mother figures to girls who AREN'T their actual daughters. It'd be cool to have a strong independent woman protagonist who has a good relationship with her mom and writes regularly of her adventures, or a mother daughter duo who adventure together. A full set of parents who raise a good, adventurous daughter who know she's fully capable to go out into the world and do whatever she sets her mind to. Things like that.


message 23: by Casey (new)

Casey Archer | 10 comments Here's what I've been up to in spring!

24. A book on a subject you know nothing about - The Lightning Thief - Loved this one! I know very little about mythology, but the book weaves in stories with the modern-day adventure. I felt like I was reading Harry Potter for the first time again!

27. A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins - The Chestnut Man - This book was also AMAZING! It was a murder mystery that was actually pretty scary. I was on the edge of my seat through the end. It will leave you haunted!

48. A book published in the 20th century - Their Eyes Were Watching God - Always a good book to return to, and I was not disappointed with this year's reread. I see myself identifying more with Janie as I get older, and I also appreciate her struggle more given the way that our society currently treats Black women.

49. A book from a series with more than 20 books - To the Nines Stephanie Plum delivers light entertainment every time.

50. A book with a main character in their 20s. China Rich Girlfriend I plowed through this book. I'm not sure if I liked it as much as the first one, but I really loved it and am eager to read #3.


message 24: by Christine (new)

Christine McCann | 482 comments I'm also in "state at Phase 1, family at Phase 0 pending further data" mode. I'm glad to have the check-in to break up the monotony of the week!

Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten* wrote: "American Elsewhere - Dunno if I'm totally hooked yet, but the town is just weird enough that I want to keep going for now and see what happens. It feels very Welcome to Night Vale + Ozark."

Ooh, I really liked that one. It's thoroughly weird, while also being pretty clear to the reader (not always the characters) what's going on and what direction it's heading, while still having some surprises.

Stacey wrote: "I'll just recommend heading on over to youtube and checking out Merphy Napier's channel - specifically all of of "Dear Authors..." series videos"

Neat! I'm going to check that out for sure!

Nadine wrote: "T What did they do, wash their stuff in the bathroom sink and sit around naked while it dried?"

:D :D :D

Finished

A book that's published in 2020 - Network Effect - Squee! I loved it! It's not perfect, but for me the characters and relationships were perfect, so I forgive any plotting missteps. I do feel like when I re-read I'm going to make a timeline chart of what happened to help me get my head around the facts! I immediately went back and started listening to All Systems Red when I was done. <3

Oh and the next novella has been announced! Fugitive Telemetry

Currently reading

A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club Gideon the Ninth - the world-building was a little intimidating for the first few pages, but I got the gist pretty quickly. I like the snark, and the macabre-ness.

QOTW

Totally agree, absence of quotation marks is instant Hell to Da Naw from me. It's both actively hostile to the reader (WHY?) and pretentious beyond all reason.

When in doubt, shorter is better. Can you remove anything and preserve plot, character, relationships, and a reasonably coherent description of setting and appearance? Then cut! Many a crappy novel could have been a great novella or short story. Quirks and annoyances that don't register at 250 pages easily become grating at 500+.

If you're going to describe a character's physical appearance, do it in the paragraph where they're introduced, please! I hate creating an image of someone, then 6 chapters later their hair color or whatever is mentioned and of course it's not what I was picturing!

Use Matt Stone & Trey Parker's advice: avoid "and then" connections between story beats; everything should be connected by "therefore" or "but." In other words, plot that doesn't flow from character motivations and believable consequences gets boring fast.

Include POC, LGBTQ+ characters, disabled characters, etc. as a matter of course. If there's no plot reason why a character needs to be a white, cis, able-bodied, straight dude, do something more interesting and inclusive. Not necessarily as a focus of the story, but as a reflection that these people exist as part of the fabric of life.


message 25: by Drakeryn (new)

Drakeryn | 696 comments Hi all! Hard to believe it's been two months since I've been more than a block from my apartment. By now I've probably spent 20+ hours walking on my balcony. But it's nice on days like today, when it's thunderstorming and I can sleep in instead of waking up early for a long commute.

Finished reading:

Crier's War (first book I touch on a shelf, robot characters, passes Bechdel test) - This was just okay. It's a fantasy book (the robots are made with alchemy) where robots have taken over the kingdom. The main characters are the naive, idealistic robot princess, and the human rebel sent to assassinate her, and (surprise!!) they fall in love. I thought the character arcs were predictable and I never really connected with either of them; but it had robots and rebellion and political intrigue, so it was still a decent read.

Might be a good pick if you want a robot read that isn't sci-fi, or if you want a f/f book.


QotW:

My biggest thing: Stop forcing romance between characters without chemistry, just because "it's a book, there has to be romance." (I think this is particularly a problem in YA lit, e.g. the author of Archivist Wasp had trouble getting it published because publishers were like "You need to add a romance" and she refused to compromise her creative vision like that. In adult lit, the example that comes to mind is Stephen King's The Dark Tower series - Susannah and Eddie have zero (0) chemistry but they're the only marriageable man and woman around so guess what! they fall in love! zzzzz)

(note this complaint does not apply to Crier's War, that book was clearly designed around the romance and that's cool. I feel like LGBT romance is higher quality on average because nobody is going to demand a token LGBT couple, the author has to genuinely want those characters to be together)


message 26: by Chandie (new)

Chandie (chandies) | 253 comments Oklahoma is phasing in opening. I still haven’t been anywhere. School is over and fingers crossed that we get to go back in August because this virtual learning is not for me. I’d much rather be in front of my classes. My sister and I also decided to sit back and wait for a bit before we get out to do some fun things.

set in a country that starts with the letter “C”

A Quick Bite by Lynsay Sands. Paranormal romance set in Canada. This was just okay. The romance was almost non-existent.

Book with the same title as a tv show/movie

Reputation by Sara Shepherd. A whodunit told from multiple perspectives with multiple crappy people. This was an okay book but I would watch the heck out of a Netflix series.

book by an author in her 20s

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin. Siblings in 1969 go to a fortune teller who tells them their day of death. Then it is basically some short stories about them up until their deaths. I wish Some of them had been longer. I feel like Daniel’s story is cut very short. I wish the book as a whole was longer. This was good but it could’ve been great.

books that don’t fill prompts

The Knockout Queen by Rufi Thorpe. This was one of my May Book of the Month choices and from the description I thought it would be lighter than it was. Instead it was a much darker. Very character-driven instead of plot-driven but I really, really enjoyed it.

A Good Marriage by Kimberly McCreight. Thriller/Whodunit. I really, really enjoyed this book. A lot of times thrillers annoy me with their twists because they are just dumb or come out of nowhere. There were a couple of twists in this one I didn’t see coming but I didn’t find those twists uber annoying either. Great read. Would watch the heck out of a

QOTW:
I’m going to fifth or sixth or seventh the quotation mark thing. It’s annoying.

Also, a lot of writers I follow on Twitter all have one piece of advice and it’s not to read your own reviews. There are so many stories of authors going after “bad” reviews and it’s not a good look.


message 27: by Chandie (new)

Chandie (chandies) | 253 comments Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten* wrote: "I don't know that I would give advice to writers exactly, because I think people should have the freedom to write whatever they want, but I agree with Sara - I think I've read as many HF books set in WWII England or France that I can handle. Yes, that's where the war may have partially concentrated, but this war affected the WORLD. Keep the time period if you like, but go elsewhere! So I guess it's more a message to myself to broaden my reading horizons and actively look for "different" books :)"

This is one of the many reasons I love Ruta Sepetys. Her historical fiction books tend to be about eras or things I don't know a lot about even if they are set in WWII. I had never heard of the incident that Salt to the Sea is based on.


message 28: by Chandie (new)

Chandie (chandies) | 253 comments Brandy wrote: "Are you using the exact same plot devices and shocking twist as you used in your previous book? Yeah, don't do that. Try something else. We'll wait."

This! This is why I have abandoned so many long running series (looking at you Janet Evanovich). I think Ilona Andrews ended the Kate Daniels series at a good time because it was heading this direction.


message 29: by Chandie (new)

Chandie (chandies) | 253 comments Sara wrote: "I just want more great LGBT romance. Can we get another Red, White & Royal Blue please?"

If you have a twitter, follow The Ripped Bodice. It's a romance only bookstore in California. And they do a great job recommending and promoting authors of color and LGBTQ romances.

They may have a newsletter on their website.


message 30: by Kenya (new)

Kenya Starflight | 628 comments Happy Thursday, y’all.

Cold and rainy week here. Our state (Idaho) is set to move into Stage 2 of re-opening next week, which means businesses like dine-in restaurants, hair salons, etc. will be able to re-open provided they can maintain social distancing. My own job is supposed to reopen in Stage 3 (I work at a library), so looks like I need to gear up to go back to work soon...

Books read this week:

Strange the Dreamer -- for “book with a three-word title.” I didn’t like the author’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone (blasphemy, I know), but something told me to give this book a chance and BOY HOWDY am I glad I did! This was magnificent! A gorgeously constructed world, wonderful characters, and a romance that didn’t make me want to knock the sweethearts’ heads together. (view spoiler)

You -- for “book about or involving social media.” Brrrrrr… this was a creepy read! I feel dirty just having read this. If you love thrillers, I’m sure you’ll love this book. (The fact that every single character, not just the protagonist, was an A-hole kind of dampened my enjoyment, though…)

Night Shift -- not for the challenge. Collection of Stephen King’s short stories, including a few that went on to become movies (“Trucks,” “The Mangler,” “Children of the Corn,” “Lawnmower Man,” etc.). My edition of the book also includes photos/stills from the “Children of the Corn” movie.

Beneath the Sugar Sky -- not for the challenge. Another awesome read in the “Wayward Children” series, and I loved getting to know both new characters and old favorites. On to Book 4!

In an Absent Dream -- not for the challenge. Yet another “Wayward Children” book. I never want this series to end! This was a heartbreaking book, but still amazing.

Regular challenge -- 38/44 (split the last prompt into five)
Advanced challenge -- 7/10
Not for challenge -- 37

DNF:

The Last Wish -- not for the challenge. Liked the premise, just couldn’t get into it.

Currently Reading:

Into the Drowning Deep -- for “book by or about a woman in STEM”
Muse of Nightmares -- not for the challenge
The Extinction Club: A Tale of Deer, Lost Books, and a Rather Fine Canary Yellow Sweater -- not for the challenge

QOTW:

Man, if I listed all my literary pet peeves, we'd be here all day. XD I'll just list a few.

1. QUOTATION MARKS. It's not artsy or edgy to leave these out, it's obnoxious. Use the freaking marks.
2. Books that end in the middle of a scene and/or without any resolution whatsoever. Even if your book is part of a series, resolve SOMETHING by the end. This is especially galling for the first book in a series -- ending the first book without some kind of resolution feels like a cheap ploy to force the reader to buy the sequel.
3. Love triangles. I'm sick of these.
4. Any series where a forced romance hijacks an interesting plot or concept. Not every story needs a romantic plot tumor...
5. Using rape as a cheap means of injecting drama, giving a (usually female) character a tragic past, and/or emphasizing there's danger towards a female character. There are other ways to do all of the above without falling back on sexual assault...
6. Not doing the freaking research on a topic you're writing about -- even if the book is fiction. Believe it or not, a lot of readers are knowledgeable about what you're writing about, so when you fudge details about a particular topic, SOMEONE out there is going to call you out...

Okay, that's enough. Rant over.


message 31: by Anne (new)

Anne (annefullercoxnet) | 200 comments Today was the last day of school and as an adult who works in the school I have decided that Zoom Meetings for the last day are awful. I know the kindies are confused and there is no real closure. I understand why it has to happen, but I wish we were all able to do real life.

This week I read a lot for my youth reading committee. I read:
Wink- a story about a boy with a cancerous tumor in his eye. Apparently this was something the author actually lived through. It was well done.
Planet Earth Is Blue- a young autistic girl in foster care in 1986 is missing her sister. I am just so grateful for how far we have come in our knowledge of this. We still have a ways to go, but really we were so clueless.
Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky- a lot of fables and gods I knew nothing or very little about. It was very good, but long. Will a fourth grader pick it up? I don't know but it would be worth their time.
Dragonfell- Prineas delivers again.
Notorious- not my favorite Korman, it drug a little in the middle, but he does a good job so I think kiddos will like it.

QOTW:
My biggest pet peeve (which generally happens in the books I read for youth) is when the book ends in the middle of the climax so you have to read the next book. I haven't really seen this in books written for adults, but it happens a lot in books written for middle schoolers and high schoolers.

Happy Reading and Stay Safe!


message 32: by Lauren (last edited May 14, 2020 09:53AM) (new)

Lauren Oertel | 741 comments We've had some unexpected rain this week and there's more ahead, but I was able to get in a nice long walk before it starts today.

I'm currently at 44/50 for the challenge. Two of my remaining books are potential book club reads, so I may need to hold off on those.

This week I read Cowboys Are My Weakness and it was great! I was dreading the western prompt and I don't read romance, but I heard these short stories are enjoyable for readers who share my feelings on those genres. 5 stars

I listened to Weather which has the potential to be on our Camp ToB reading list. It was decent, and I'm fine with low-plot meandering fiction sometimes, but I think it could have been a lot stronger with the issues the author was working with here. It reminded me of Creatures but I enjoyed that one a little more. 3 stars

I also listened to Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line and I really appreciated how the author covered a very difficult subject in a light way. Sometimes I just need the hard stuff to not hurt to read quite so much. 4 stars

I listened to Lakewood and it was a pretty interesting idea. It reminds me of a show we watched last year about psychological experiments on soldiers so they could be sent back to war. I can't find the name of it. I could see this book being turned into a movie. 4 stars

I listened to Small Days and Nights and it was a unique idea, but didn't hold my attention as well as I expected. 3 stars

I just finished How to Write an Autobiographical Novel: Essays and it was wonderful! I borrowed the author's first novel after learning about his experience writing it and his interesting background. I'm really loving writers'-life books like this right now, especially as I'm starting on my first novel.

I'm currently listening to The Perfect World of Miwako Sumida and reading Dear Edward in print.

QOTW: Thanks for all the helpful responses to this question! I've been a long-time reader but I'm a new writer, and I want to always keep the reader's experience in mind with what I write. I'll be taking notes on these answers, but I already planned to incorporate some of the things mentioned above. I promise to add quotation marks around dialogue! And my current list of characters covers a range as far as race, sexuality, experiences, etc. I plan to combine my knowledge of friends that fit these categories with various books from "own voices" writers for these, then I'll get sensitivity readers for each of the experiences I'm covering. It's a lot of work, but I want to do it right.

As far as my pet peeves with books, I think I have two major ones:

1. Adding in unnecessary romantic interest/events for female characters. Women are so much more than husband-hunters! I've read a lot of great stories that are semi-ruined by a love interest subplot that pulls away from the interesting stuff. Recent examples include Magic for Liars and Natalie Tan's Book of Luck and Fortune.

2. Having characters come from (or have connections to) money as a way of solving tough problems. Ugh! I'm looking at you, Next Year in Havana and The Great Alone. I loved these books other than that part, but they were knocked down from five stars to four because of that. I prefer to read about characters who don't have money. It's more realistic and doesn't give them an easy out for the challenges they face.


message 33: by Lilith (new)

Lilith (lilithp) | 754 comments Happy Thursday everyone! I found out at a work meeting that I'm on furlough till at last June 30th. I'm so ok with that. Partly because I qualify for the "vulnerable bracket", but also because I love my voluntary social work. It's very intimate and often hard for people to ask for help, so the emotional connection is so important. I've had many offers to come visit Brazil and stay!

Our governor will announce plans for a cautious, common sense roll out of a 4 phase reopening on Monday. We're a university-centric, medicine- and public-health-focused state, so he knows what his constituents are like. So far, he's been very sensible.

Finished:
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation . I loved it! Lynne Truss has dry wit, a thorough fascination with history, and presents so memorably. Highly recommend! (book with a pun in title.)

QOTW:
What a serendipitous question! Dear writers and copy editors, please read Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation. English is my second language, so I really appreciate proper punctuation. It helps me understand what you are trying to say. Leaving out question marks or punctuation may be edgy in poetry. It's annoying in other genres. Cut it out.

I know what it is like to write and publish (at least as far as poetry). Birthing your work of art is intensely emotional, and sharing it with the world is brave. I wouldn't ever ask you to change your content or style (excepting note above). But please write your story. You do not have to jump on the bandwagon, publishing what sells or is trendy. Be true to you and I'll find you.

If you do not understand a word, do not use it in your writing unless you have looked it up in a thing called a dictionary . I love the word "incongruous", but I hate it when it is used incorrectly. It pulls me out of the story. Look, if I can master your language, I think you should make an attempt as well.

When it fits your story, please add representation of people who are not the dominant gender, sexual orientation, race, color, class, and so on. Please don't add us as 2-D figures so you can be PC. Just remember that not all of us are white and able-bodied, and so forth. We live on Earth too, and we buy your books. Or we will, if you can keep us in mind, and we can see our reflections.


message 34: by SadieReadsAgain (last edited May 14, 2020 09:49AM) (new)

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 767 comments Hi guys, hope you're all keeping well. I haven't updated in weeks...I've been really struggling with my mental health and had an assignment for my MSc to plough through. Times have not been fun, but the assignment is gone and I have a few days to focus on some self care, so hopefully the worst is over.

I've read x books since I last checked in, but I wont bombard you with them all at once! I'll talk about four books this week, 3 which were challenge reads taking me to 21/54 (18/44, 3/10).

First up was Summerwater by Sarah Moss, a NetGalley not for the challenge. Set over the course of one day, this is a collection of seemingly unrelated snippets of the lives of different holiday makers in a lochside holiday park in Scotland. It's a miserable, rainy day and everyone is stuck inside - families with children of varying ages and levels of enjoyment in their choice of holiday destination, an elderly couple who have spent every summer in their lodge, grumpy teenagers and raucous party animals disturbing the peace. Interspersed with these slices of human life are vignettes of the nature around them and how it is effected by the persistent rain. It is really unclear where this book is going until it gets there - but no spoilers as it would be a tragedy to ruin this book. What I will say is that I was left a bit shellshocked... I've never read Sarah Moss before, but I definitely want to read more. Her writing style is really great, there is almost something of a social commentary going on in this book and she is so good at capturing nuance. This is a quick but powerful read.

Next was was for prompt #37 a Western which I really wasn't looking forward to so I read a short story! It was Faster Gun by Elizabeth Bear. This is by no means my typical read, so I don't feel well qualified to review it. I will say, that has been my experience with Tor stories (I read them to fulfil reading challenge prompts I'm reluctant about, and they are in genres I wouldn't usually touch) but I've always been impressed with them so far. Like the others, I found this quite an accessible read. The writing style is really good and I was interested to see where the story went. However, I didn't really get it and had to read the comments of others to understand the bigger picture. I think it's a bit meta for the likes of me. Still, I enjoyed it well enough.

Next up was for challenge prompt #31 gold, silver or bronze in the title and I read The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. For years I wrote this off as a rom-com, but when someone told me it was about mental health I decided to give it a go. So, Pat Peoples (worst name in literature?) is brought home by his mother after treatment in a mental health institution for an undisclosed amount of time. He has very specific issues including, hilariously, uncontrollable anger when he hears Kenny G. He's obsessed with exercise an reconciling with his wife in their very own happy ending. We know that something terrible happened which lead to his hospitalisation, and his estrangement from his wife, but we don't know what. This book is heavy on the American football thing - lots of matches, tailgate parties and even his therapist is a fellow Eagles fan. I hate sports, so that was a bit grating, but I fully understand why it played a big role in this book. Pat strikes up an odd relationship with a similarly unwell woman whose husband has died, which involves her following him when he runs, and a date where they don't talk much and share a bowl of cereal. This book is quirky. It's funny, and I liked the way it dealt with mental health by not being an in-depth exploration (though I know some may find it flippant...I wouldn't agree). It has a really sweet ending, and despite the heavy issues it's actually quite a fun read.

And finally, for prompt #2 trans or non-binary author I went for Courtney Love: The Real Story by Poppy Z. Brite. I'm not a fan of Courtney Love. Not in the shady way of meaning I dislike her, just that I was too young to get into grunge. I've listened to both Hole and Nirvana, and thought they were ok, but just ok. But I am interested in her story, so when my friend was clearing out his books this was one of the ones I picked up. I've read Poppy Z. Brite once before, Drawing Blood, and really enjoyed that so I knew this story was in safe hands. This book is not written to tear Courtney Love down, but equally it isn't trying to make her into some sort of saint. It covers her traumatic childhood, her involvement in different music scenes across America and in the UK, her relationship with Kurt Cobain and their journey into parenthood, and how she dealt with his death by suicide. I found it fascinating to see the other well-known people she knew - the ones she loved, and the ones she hated. I really appreciated that she doesn't hold back on that last one either, something you don't always get in "celebrity" biographies and memoirs, but I'm always down for some hot tea. She speaks her mind, and if she doesn't like someone she's not only going to tell them but she's going to tell the whole fucking world. I've come out of this book thinking that although problematic, this is a woman who has been through hell and is totally fascinating. The book is really well written, it flows really well and doesn't just take Love's word for things!


QOTW - What advice would you give to writers, based on what works and what's frustrating when it comes to writing styles, content, etc. that you've noticed with the books you've loved and loathed over the years?

- Not all characters have to be likeable, but please put at least one person with redeeming features in your novel. If I don't care about any of your characters, I don't care about your book.
- Don't use trauma, shock, violence just for funs. If it happens, make it happen for a reason.
- Please no cast of thousands. Or, if you must, include a family tree or something, would ya?
- Go behind the stereotype. If you can't, you shouldn't be writing about that person.
- The less tech the better. It's cringe reading about outdated tech...unless it's meant to be outdated.


message 35: by Cornerofmadness (new)

Cornerofmadness | 404 comments Still been reading very slowly. Only made it through one book this week.

For the prompt A book on a subject you know nothing about I read A Serial Killer's Daughter: My Story of Faith, Love, and Overcoming by Kerri Rawson

I definitely know nothing about being the daughter of a serial killer. It was very interesting.

QOTW I'm sure there are plenty I could put here but the abusive alpha male (often referred to as Alphaholes in romance but that's not the only place I see them as I don't even read romance for the most part) being the idealized love interest. It especially bothers me in YA fiction where I see it a lot.

Also the use of rape to teach a female lead a lesson and then even worse, how the aftermath of the rape is handled. I stopped reading an urban fantasy I really enjoyed when the rape only mattered in how her boyfriend would be seen as a result. Shudders.


message 36: by Drakeryn (new)

Drakeryn | 696 comments Laura wrote: "Also, bandwagon fiction... Why so many books about women in WWII? And why do they all have the same cover???"

ha, I love that cover montage! It really all is the same cover.


message 37: by SadieReadsAgain (new)

SadieReadsAgain (sadiestartsagain) | 767 comments Shannon wrote: "It has been gorgeous here in North Texas the past week and I hope it stays this way for a long time! I know it won't but I can still hope!"

Agree about series. Luckily the type of books I read are pretty much never in a series, but I think if one were it would put me off reading it. I don't like commitment when it comes to books!


Laura wrote: "I wish I had something interesting and clever to share here about life during the pandemic, but it's all the same... the same... the same."

Middlesex is great!


Stacey wrote: "Happy Thursday Everyone! :) I hope that everyone is staying healthy and safe and enjoying life! I had another decently productive reading week and finished 3 more books. I hit my halfway point for ..."

Always on the lookout for new booktubers, thanks for the rec, I'll be checking her out this weekend!


message 38: by Lynn (new)

Lynn (book_music_lvr) | 3374 comments Mod
Shannon wrote: "Currently Reading:
Victorian Fairy Tales: I'm reading this to my cats at night. Yes, I know, I've gone completely bonkers. But I live alone and it's somehow comforting to read aloud. This is my book with a bird on the cover."


This is a wonderful idea! I, too, love to read aloud! I'll have to see what my husband thinks when he catches me trying this! Wonder how our four felines might react... :)


message 39: by Christy (new)

Christy | 351 comments Hello all! I just finished the one book this week because work has eaten my life. Once I get past these deadlines and rest a little bit, I'm hoping I can find a (legally allowable) hiking trail. I desperately need some Nature in my life!

Finished: Illuminae: I didn't particularly like this one. A lot of the visual elements made reading more difficult and IMO didn't add much. I also was put off by the extreme teenager-ness of the main characters, but then I am put off by actual teenagers so that may not be a problem for others.

Currently reading: A Tale of Love and Darkness: gorgeous writing, and filled with characters that remind me of people I actually know. I wish I had more time and attention for it right now.

QOTW: Ohhhh my I've got some opinions about this! I wish authors would stop with the following kind of writing:
A description in a whole sentence. Then a fragment. Then a slightly differently worded description (also a fragment). As if they couldn't decide on one sentence. So included them all. Repetition. Words. As if they've never heard of editing in their lives.
I would call out specific books that are guilty, but honestly I've run into it so much in the past few years I can't narrow it down! Describe the thing ONCE, writers! Stop weakening your prose by making it seem like you can't decide between four versions of the same sentence.
Also, the following plot line: sad white man, disaffected with his existence, meets a woman (frequently with some protected characteristic), who shows him how to be a better person. Also they have sex. Never again. Never. Again.

Things I'd like to see: more bestselling books with none white/straight people
- more translation of interesting literature into English. And pay those translators well!
- more people in romance novels talking to each other like adults. if you spent seven months in a misunderstanding that could have been solved in three minutes of mature conversation, I don't hold out a lot of hope for your marriage, protagonists!

sooo this got a bit ranty, sorry


message 40: by Lynn (last edited May 14, 2020 10:33AM) (new)

Lynn (book_music_lvr) | 3374 comments Mod
Donna wrote: "Finished:
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett. This was an audiobook read by Tom Hanks. I didn’t love this book (3 stars). The characters were so flawed, I found it annoying. At times I wanted to scream “get over it”. I’ll use this book for the Bildungsroman prompt."


Oh, boy, Donna. I am only 10 pages in but plan to finish reading this over the weekend since I have a Literary Wives blog post to write and post by Monday, June 1. And I have never read Ann Patchett before. I can only hope I like it more than you did! ;) I rather assumed it would be "angsty" after reading the synopsis...


message 41: by Jennifer W (new)

Jennifer W | 636 comments "Ashley *Hufflepuff Kitten* wrote: I think I've read as many HF books set in WWII England or France that I can handle..."

I *highly* recommend The Gift Of Rain if you want WWII in the Pacific for a change of pace.


message 42: by Hannah (new)

Hannah | 13 comments Hi - Hannah here, this is my first week with the challenge and had bit of a bumper weekend finishing books.

Finished: The Mirror & the Light oh wow, this took a month and was great but a lot to get through. I was really pleased to finish off the trilogy and enjoyed the change of pace from the others, feeling like Cromwell had reached his summit. This ticked off a book published in 2020. Animal Farm raced through this one for the book by or about a journalist and also for my amount TBR challenge. Listened to Swan Song for the puns challenge - I really loved the details, but found it a bit too long.

Currently reading: The Invention of Wings - sceptical based on the cover but really enjoying this, I think it might tick the Bildungsroman brief. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek only dipped my toe in so far, but really excited to read this while we’re in lockdown and time outdoors is limited.

QOTW - don’t be afraid of a good edit! I’d like to see more books in translation and ‘genre’ books by younger female authors. There’s a lot of female memoirs published / promoted on podcasts, and would love to see similar promotion given to women that are not writing about their own lives / fictionalised accounts of those.


message 43: by Barb (new)

Barb Dudziec | 24 comments Hi all! This is actually my first time participating in the weekly check in, although I have been in the challenge since the beginning and have read your entries most weeks. Anyway, this week I finished "Finders Keepers" by S King and gotten half way through " The Haj" by Leon Uris. This is a heavy duty book, lots of historical, cultural and geographical info so I am taking my time. I am also reading "Cross Bones" from the Temperance Brenner series.
QOTW I agree with the others who get annoyed by the lack of punctuation and I will take it even further: where are the editors? Are authors or publishing houses cutting corners in this department? I constantly find misspelled words, wrong verb tenses, etc. It really drives me crazy! Being someone who regularly reads older books I know this is a recent development in the industry.
My other pet peeve is when an author of a series repeats the whole plot of previous books in each new installment. So the reader gets less and less new story as the series continues!


message 44: by Nadine in NY (new)

Nadine in NY Jones | 5907 comments Mod
Christy wrote: "... QOTW: Ohhhh my I've got some opinions about this! I wish authors would stop with the following kind of writing:
A description in a whole sentence. Then a fragment. Then a slightly differently worded description (also a fragment). As if they couldn't decide on one sentence. So included them all. Repetition. Words. As if they've never heard of editing in their lives.
I would call out specific books that are guilty, but honestly I've run into it so much in the past few years I can't narrow it down! Describe the thing ONCE, writers! Stop weakening your prose by making it seem like you can't decide between four versions of the same sentence. ..."



LOL I have no patience with that, either. Just tell me once! I'll get it!!!


message 45: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 738 comments Barb, I wonder this too. One of the longer-running series I read, I noticed in one of her books a year or two ago she spends the whole book calling an already established character by the wrong name. And it's not a case of me mistaking it, her husband was the same, it mentioned the previous book's story line. How hard would it be to pick up your own book and just flip it to remember what name you settled on? Where was an editor familiar with her work to say "hey, you realize you're using the wrong name this whole time?" I feel like I've also been seeing an increase of mistakes in general that feel like a good editor SHOULD have caught. I get it's easy to look at your own work so long you are oblivious to mistakes, but isn't that why editors exist? Makes me wonder if they're being phased out, or overworked or something.


message 46: by Amari (new)

Amari Easter (uhhh_mari) | 14 comments Hello everyone! I hope you all are doing well. This is actually my first time participating in a check-in because I kind of just realized that these exist. I hope to regularly participate though! I live in Virginia and the weather has been pretty good the last few days in my area so I've been reading outside a bit.

Finished
Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. I am always quick to read any book where people of color are main characters. This book was very entertaining to me and although there were some unlikeable characters, they still added to the humor of the book.

Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reed. Another book where one of the main characters is a person of color, this tackles some topics of race. I didn't hate this book, but it definitely isn't my favorite. There are many things to unpack with this, so I'll just say that Kiley Reed did a good job with this being her debut, I just would've liked to see more from it.

I didn't think that these books would count for my progress in the challenge, but I ended up finding a prompt for each with Crazy Rich Asians having a main character in their 20s and Such a Fun Age being written by a WOC.

Currently Reading

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. I have heard great things about the author and plan on going backwards in reading her previous books. The main reason I bought this was because it was actually published only a week or two ago so I figured why not. I am excited to see where this goes.

QOTW

I'm not gonna lie, I really had to think about this because I don't typically think about this until I'm deep into a book and then completely forget my point later. One thing I've been noticing is, as Sara said, authors not using quotation marks. I thought that I was the only one who found this strange. I read The Handmaid's Tale a few weeks ago and at first I thought there was some symbolic meaning. But, I read another book recently (published in 2019 I believe) that did the same thing and I was thoroughly confused on how this is becoming a trend.

One thing that I would like to see more in books are side characters that can be likeable in some way. This sounds strange, but in a lot of books that I have been reading recently, for some reason a character that isn't meant to be an antagonist is written so poorly that you just hate them from start to finish. I know these characters aren't terribly important, but it's just something small that I notice in a lot of books.


~
I hope that everyone is having a good week!


message 47: by Barb (new)

Barb Dudziec | 24 comments Sheri, funny you should mention that. I recently caught a similar mistake. It was just once, but the author used the wrong name for a character, making me scratch my head- go back a few pages and check- then notice in the next paragraph we were back to the original name! I just don't understand.


message 48: by Katy (new)

Katy M | 707 comments Sara wrote: "Katy wrote: "I'm now reading Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony as my book written by an author with flora or fauna in their name. super-interesting so far. I could have also used it a..."

Well, for full-disclosure purposes, this is the only book I've ever read on the subject, so it's all new to me. I don't know how it would read to someone more well-versed in the subject.


message 49: by Sheri (new)

Sheri | 738 comments Barb, I've come across that several times too. It annoys me, but I can kind of let that slide, especially if the name began with the same letter or something. But i was baffled how it could happen for a WHOLE BOOK and at no point realizing that it was wrong. The most recent book in the series had the same character again, this book used the correct name. So weird!


message 50: by Harmke (new)

Harmke | 195 comments Happy Thursday! Hope you are all still healthy and safe.
The Netherlands is getting back to normal step-by-step. We can sport (outdoors only and keeping a safe distance) and can get a haircut.
I had a pretty busy week. First, my back protested against sitting on our impossible kitchen chairs. So off we went and got some decent chairs from the office. My back is happy again. We visited my parents in their backyard from a safe distance, so good to see them again! Yesterday I went to the dentist, trained with my personal trainer and tomorrow I have an appointment at the beauty salon. Once upon a time I called this ‘duties’, now I call them ‘events’ LOL.

Finished
Barkskins. Alienating book about what people do to the forests. Not my cup of tea. Although it is a nice piece of art.
Prompt: book set in a country beginning with a 'C', book by or about a journalist

Singing in the brain. About music and the brain. Less interesting as I expected. Learned a few nice things about music and the brain though.
Prompt: book with a pun in the title

Currently reading
Little Women

Qotw
I agree on stop hopping on a trend and flood book stores with books ‘for readers of…’
So here’s my advice:
- Please publishers, don’t tell me what I have to read.
- Please do write books for readers, not for critics or for getting a invitation for a tv show.
- Please don’t feel obliged to write a sequel when your book turns out to be a success. Just write the next story you love. And enjoy your success.
- And remember: taste is personal. Someone hates it, someone loves it. That’s life.


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