Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Bookish Jay & The Reading Mermaid: Book Challenge Update

Hello my beauties! I am updating the Bookish Jay and Reading Mermaid Challenge today. Jay from The Scented Library and I created a reading challenge in the beginning of the year and I think it is about time for a check-in. The original challenge can be found here if you still want to join in. Never too late! I am not including all the categories in this post but rather only the ones I have read and checked off. 

My rating system is pretty straightforward * = meh, ** = good, *** = please go read it. 

2. Adventure awaits! Choose a rather adventurous read.
Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt- I picked this up for sale at the library years ago for a dime. I finally got around to reading it and let me tell you, that was the best way to spend a dime on the planet. I forgot I read a novel by Cynthia Voigt several years ago when Savanna was a baby (A Solitary Blue) and it fled my mind how deep she writes. This novel is that way too. It takes place in the medieval times and revolves around Gwyn, a young Innkeeper's daughter, who bucks the two choices she has in life: get married or be a spinster. This story is steeped in adventure but can also be very meaningful if one chooses to see. I loved it so much I quickly bought the other three in The Kingdom series. ***

5. A memoir.
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King- I borrowed this from a co-worker and I am very happy I did. It was insightful reading a bit about King's past and how he approaches writing. I took away some great lessons and even taught a few to my students in the writing class I teach. If you are a Stephen King fan I recommend it. We will be headed to Maine this summer and I am thinking about visiting his hometown. ***

6. A story set in a forest or mountains, or depicting either on the cover.
Gap Creek by Robert Morgan- This story is set in the Appalachian mountains during a time when there is no electricity or running water (other than the creeks of course) and life is very much lived on the land and by the work of the hand. The story follows the life of Julie (nice name!) from the moment she leaves her own family to cleave to that of her husband's. This book is brilliant in the sense that you get a true grasp of how difficult life could be, and at times it made me squirm when she made those naive choices every young adult makes at some point and suffered the consequences. Though at times it was utterly heartbreaking, I still enjoyed it. ***

7. An epistolary novel, told in letters or journal entries.
Attachments by Rainbow Rowell- This probably isn't a true epistolary novel in the sense that it is not entirely told via letters or entries but of the two main characters, one is told solely via emails she sends to her BBF while the other character is narrated in a more traditional style. It is a humorous love story and I cackled out loud numerous times. Rainbow Rowell knows how to hit me in the heart and the funny bone. ***

9. Pick up one of those neglected TBR books you have lurking about. I know you do.
Caraval by Stephanie Garber- This book was recommended to me by a Facebook friend ages and ages ago. He desperately wanted me to read it and I had heard that it was good so it was promptly put on my TBR list on GoodReads where it languished. Apparently I let it stew long enough that it turned up on deep discount at Books-A-Million where I snapped it up for less than $5. It is a maze of a YA book that chronicles two sisters and their quest to escape their abusive father and his overbearing reign by attending and participating in a circus that performs once a year. It was a fun read, although predictable at times. I did want a touch more steam between the one sister and her "guide" for the performance but maybe that comes in later books? **

14. Non-fiction to tickle the brain cells.
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt- Whoa. Nelly. Where has this book been all my life (other than sitting on my bookshelf for a few years...doh)? My sister and I are taking our family vacation in Savannah, GA this summer and this book is a great gateway to that mysterious and secretive southern town. Darby began reading it in preparation for our vacation and quickly told me to crack open my copy. It is the true tale of a New Yorker's love affair with the town and his experience befriending a fellow who would soon be accused of murder. I cannot wait to watch the movie. ***

15. A book from the library.
Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood- Margaret never lets me down. This story follows the life of a young servant who is accused of murder but loses her memory of the event. An up and coming doctor who studies amnesia begins a relationship with Grace, trying to solve the mystery of her missing memory. I immediately watched the series on Netflix after reading the book and it was flipping amazing. It followed along perfectly and I loved it. ***

18. A book with a bird, on the cover or in the plot.
The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton- The tale of a young Dutch woman who is married off to a virtual stranger who is a rich merchant in Amsterdam that travels the world for the East India Trading Company. There are many mysteries that surround his household, himself and the miniaturist the young lady hired to fill her curio cabinet. Will she be able to make the house her home? I found it interesting enough to keep turning the pages but I am not sure how I felt about it in the end. **

27.  A book that was gifted to you.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr- A heartbreakingly beautiful story of a blind girl and a genius soldier during World War II. Their stories weave and intertwine so poignantly. All I can say is that you won't regret reading it. ***

28. A book by a debuted author.
Sea Change by S. M. Wheeler- A girl forms a bond with a kraken, and once he is captured against his will by pirates, she sets out to find and free him but she must complete various quests in order to unlock his cage. At times brutal and both heart and gut wrenching, this tale does touch upon the value of love and friendship and determining one's own identity. I found it a compelling read. *** 

I am beyond happy with my progress so far. I have read more interesting books than I have in most years. I did pick up a couple and put them down since they were not my cuppas so that may be why most I have read I have truly enjoyed. I am currently reading Holes because my daughter picked it out at a used bookstore and read it in one day and declared I needed to read it as well. I think it will be my "thrift shop find" on the challenge. I also have Outsiders waiting in the wings. 

What have been some of your favorite books of 2018? Have we read any in common? Am I crazy to not have fallen head over heels for Caraval


  1. Loving the challenge! Glad you didn’t have any meh reads in there. I read Midnight In The Garden years ago and it was interesting and quite unique. I really want to read All The Light We Cannot See. I’m 3/4 through AD 33 by Ted Dekker (christain fiction.) If you haven’t read any of his works please look into them! He’s an excellent author; his Black, White Red trilogy is one of my faves.

    1. I went on a big Ted Dekker binge a few years ago, and meant to read the series he wrote with Tosca Lee but somehow it slipped down my TBR list.

    2. Jumping in here too to say hi Amanda! <3

    3. Hey there pretty lady!! I hope you have been doing well. Miss ya. I found Midnight to be fascinating as well and I just love Savannah, GA. I have not read any of Ted Dekker's books. I will remedy that!! The only Christian fiction I have read is the Left Behind series and the Beverly (?) novels about Amish country that my Grandmother lends me.

  2. "forms a bond with a kraken," you say? I must check out this book! Glad you are enjoying such a variety of cool and interesting reads. I have fallen into a slump and am finding it hard to concentrate on books lately--starting many but abandoning them just a few pages in. The two I was able to burn through pretty quickly in the past couple weeks were both non-fiction: "Columbine" by Dave Cullen (absolutely fascinating but also quite depressing), and "Bachelor Nation" by Amy Kaufman. I've never been a fan on the Bachelor franchise, but the book did a lot to explain why people are so into it, as well as exposing a lot of behind the scenes practices that made me dislike it even more!

    1. It is a very strange book for sure. All reality must be suspended of course. :-) I did start and abandon a few but mostly because they were stinking it up and I don't like to waste my reading time as it is a precious commodity. Columbine was very relevant when I was in high school. I will need to check out that book. I think I have only watched one or two episodes of the bachelor AGES ago and thought it was pointless. I assumed it was all scripted which took all the fun out of it for me.

  3. Welp, I was not expecting the first review to be Cynthia Voight, what a name from the past! I've never read her, but my husband has read several for a college Lit class focused on Newberry winners, we own Solitary Blue and more, I'll have to give her a try sometime; the old covers remind me of childhood:)
    So much to respond to (10 books gone already? I may have lost count) I'll be reading Alias Grace and second your notion that one can always trust in Atwood.

    I must say, from what I remember of the film Midnight in the Garden, I don't think I loved it. We visited Savannah once on our way to Florida and didn't get to explore much on a Sunday except walk the squares and the river; it was nice but didn't help that it was super hot that day. I am more excited for your Maine trip, going to King's home town, how cool? You must read more of him to get you in the mood beforehand!
    I'm happy you enjoyed All the Light we Cannot See, that one is tough for some ppl, but the intricate plot and opposing stories coming together are an undeniable marvel. Sometimes, I think I'm too jaded for certain plotlines (partially from seeing A LOT of mediocre rehashed reads come through the library) but AtLWCS cut right through my cynicism.

    Off to a cracking start here Julie, and yes so many interesting picks. Bravo, it's lit a fire under me, my end of March/Apr tbr is ambitious.

    1. Solitary Blue was a lovely novel! I read it once during our summer vacation at the beach and it was perfect for that time in my life and the place I was in both mentally and physically. I could see the Great Blue Herons and appreciate them in a different way.

      I can see the heat negatively impacting a journey to Savannah. My sister-in-law visited Savannah too and hated it. But to be fair she disliked New Orleans and The Wizarding World too so I took it with a grain of salt. Adam and I spent our 11 year anniversary on Tybee Island and drove into Savannah a couple days in a row and we loved it. And of course my daughter Savanna is looking forward to it. :-) I mostly know we will have fun simply because we will all be together. We have Cumberland Island (wild ponies!) and a few other places mapped out. Maine I am totally excited for!!!! I booked our hotel (Lucerne Inn where my sister is getting hitched) but we keep watching flights. It is so expensive for a family of four to fly. But soon we will just bit the bullet and get them. I do want to read more King in preparation for it but every used bookstore I go to only have the ones I have already read or have no interest in.

      Thank you again for doing this with me and giving me so many great reads. <3

  4. Hey Julie!
    Hope you don't mind me weighing in with my current reading joys from across the pond!
    I've read some absolute gems from Persephone books so far this year - they're a British publisher who reprints neglected works by mid-20thC (mostly) women writers ( I've read short stories set in wartime by Mollie Panter Downes which were wonderful, 'Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day' by Winifred Watson and Marghanita Laski's 'The Victorian Chaise Longue' so far. I've also just been in utter reading heaven with Lucy Mangan's 'Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading'.My 20 minutes' reading time in the morning just after I've dropped the children at school and before I set off for work is my saving grace!

    Elizabeth xx

    1. Hello there Elizabeth! So good to see you again! I am honored you stopped by to chat. Thank you for the link, these books sound like a treat I would very much savor. These stories all sound lovely.

      Yes. I concur. My magical reading time is in the evening after dinner and dishes are done and homework and chores are complete. My girls and I pile up into bed and read in tandem for 30 minutes every night from 7 to 7:30pm. Scarlette will have me point out a word or two she doesn't understand but other than that it is just the invisible sound of us all enmeshed in our own bubbles of worlds. I cherish it.