Monday, April 8, 2019

Bookish Jay & The Reading Mermaid: 2019 Reading Challenge Update

I hope the first quarter of your 2019 has been going well. Mine has been a touch strange but good, if frantic. I gave away the books above via Instagram and may give some more away too once I read some more. I read several books so far and wanted to post an update on the reading challenge Jay and I brewed up together. 

I use a short star system to rate the books I have read:
* = meh, save your time and skip it   ** = good, might be worth reading   *** = great, do yourself a favor and try it

1. A book set in your home state, or province for our Canadian buddies.

2. You saw the movie but didn’t read the book…. now read the book.

3. Carpe read ‘em- a title on your TBR for 1+ years.

4. Flora: flower on the cover.
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay almost fit into the 1890 category. It is a Victorian novel that tells the tale of three young ladies and how they find their strength both in themselves and as a unit of friends when an evil presence tries to eliminate them. I enjoyed the writing and setting though it was a touch shallow as far as depth of story. It was a fast and easy read. **

5. Fauna: beastly book.

6. Scandinavian setting- create your own Jolabokaflod, or Yule Book Flood.
Burial Rites by Hannah Kent is a deeply moving and beautifully written story. It is based on the true events surrounding the last woman in Iceland to be hanged as punishment for a crime. The author did justice to the young lady's tale. The pages turned and turned of their own volition. ***

7. Flavor- a book built around food.

8. Passport required… set in a country you have never been to. 
A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman is set in Sweden, a place I would love to visit one day. More than the setting itself, the man Ove is compelling, bittersweet, hilarious and heartbreaking. I cried and laughed, many times within the same chapter. It reminds me that everyone has a story and sometimes effort should be made to break down walls. ***

9. Yellow/Gold is the color of novelty, so read a yellow novel. 
The yellow novel was easy once my eyes landed on this collection of short stories at the library for sale, Vampires in the Garden by Karen Russell. I wasn't sure what to expect but these were great reads! Some were funny, morose, horrifying and others just plain weird. I liked them very much. **

10. Something witchy this way comes. Witches, man, read a witch-centered tome. 
I easily could put about a dozen books in this category but instead I read the All Souls Trilogy  by Deborah Harkness. I loved the first book, A Dicovery of Witches and reading the next two books, Shadow of Night and The Book of Life were easy to continue but perhaps not as gripping as the first. I am happy I read them. It follows an Oxford professor who tries to bury the fact that she is descended from a long line of witches in order to deny her powers and rely on reason. She encounters a magical tome one day while researching in the library and a chain of events unfolds and a vampire comes into her life. 1st book ***, 2nd and 3rd **

11. A novel that is now a Netflix series or adaptation.

12. Shallowness: pick a book based on its spine appearance alone. 
History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund made for a definite change of pace. I almost put this one in the gothic tale and then in the bildungsroman prompts but I had others I wanted to place there. A young girl grows up in a commune that disbands leaving her to fumble about in life with a laissez-faire mom and a father who is uncommunicative. She ends up taking solace among a new neighbor who moved across the lake and the neighbor's younger son. Trouble ensues and the results follow the girl the rest of her life. Well written. Disturbing at times. Sometimes disjointed. **

13. Nature Lover: non-fiction about the environment.

14. How old are you now? Read a book from your birth decade. 
I kind of wanted to read a book published in 1980 on the nose as that is my birth year but I ended up reading this gem instead, The Eyes of the Dragon by Stephen King. I have never read a fantasy piece by Stephen King but it proved to be entertaining. It is the story of a prince wronged by the king's power-hungry magician and his battle to reclaim his throne and people. It was published in 1987. Not an epic piece but still tickled it my fancy, greatly. ***

15. A book written by an author with your same initials.

16. Gothic read.

17. A retelling.

18. A guide. 

19. BINGO Free Space- pick your own.
As I previously mentioned, I am going to visit Salem and my friend Jay recommended this book for me to read to brush up on the history of the Salem witchcraft trials. This is a great non-fiction accounting of the trials in an easy to read format. In fact I finished it in about two hours. I, in turn, highly recommend it too. ***

20. A book discovered by scrolling #bookstagram.

21. Bildungsroman: a coming of age tale.
Cat's Eye by Margaret Atwood is powerful. I am technically currently still reading it but I only have a few pages left. This story is built around a girl growing up with her brother and parents: an unconventional mom and an entomologist dad with a brainy but unreachable brother. The girl-child, Elaine, begins to suffer issues with bullying from her "best" friends that goes on to affect her relationships with others in her life. The play between growing into a woman in mid-century Canada into the late century and maintaining male and female relationships is painted in brilliant colors and vivid words. Atwood is a master story teller. ***

22. Turn and face the strange- an out of your comfort zone read.

23. A last book written by your favorite author. 

24. Hygge: a book for comfort.

25. A happy little accident… or a book that has a title Bob Ross would appreciate.

26. A numeric title.
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury was the perfect book for this one. I have been wanting to read this book for ages and what better prompt for it? I loved it. I will be reading this again one day. Not going to describe it since I am pretty sure I am one of the few people remaining who have not read this book yet. Bradbury is incredible. If you are one of the last others, please read it. ***

27. Crossover- a book written by a beloved artist, musician or figure.

28. A tale where the main character loves to read. 

29. 1890’s- a great Victorian vintage.

30. Celestial object on the cover or in the title. 

I have packed all but five of my books. I am hoping they will tide me over until the move. But, you know, in case I read them all and have not moved yet I will just have to visit the library or used bookstore and grab some more. It will be a hardship to shop for more books but I will have to push through the pain. 

Have you read any books from the challenge yet? Which ones? Do you recommend any? I am having a hard time with the cross-over prompt or a "JJ" author. 


  1. I read Swamplandia! by Karen Russell because it sounded like a Gatorland-type place and was unprepared for how sad it turned out to be. I keep hearing Vampires in the Lemon Grove is good but am a little afraid to pick it up! I have also not yet read Farenheit 451 but it's in the short stack by my bed, so any minute now lol! Currently reading The Passage after enjoying the tv show and it's massive, so that will take me some time.

    Have you read the Sarah Caudwell mystery in your top photo? I inhaled all four of her books ages ago and really enjoyed them but sadly she passed away in 2000 so that's all there is :(

    1. Oh man. That is a tough one when you aren't expecting a heart wrencher. I have to be in just the right mood for those, otherwise I am a mess of jelly and scattered emotions. I think there is a wide enough variety of short stories in the Vampire one to keep it from being mostly a downer. I think only one or two were super melancholy while some were just plain funny or scary or weird. Hey!!! I am not the only one who hadn't read 451 yet?? That makes me feel better. I think you will enjoy it. Please let me know your thoughts once it comes up in your queue. The Passage?? Have not heard of that one. I will have to look it up.

      I did read that Caudwell book!! The art is what drew me to it but it ended up being a really fun cheeky British mystery. I need to see if I can find the rest of them. I had no idea she passed away. That is sad.

      How have you been? Is your spring coming along nicely? Anything exciting going on?

  2. Your book challenge is helping me break out of my mystery/thriller rut.

    1. Aw thanks!! It helps me to break out of my fantasy/historical fiction rut LOL! I read a few things I normally wouldn't have with the reading challenge. Right now I have a few Salem books I want to read. Not sure where I am going to squeeze them in. Any recs for a good book?

  3. I am playing catch up on your blog today. I love these reviews. It's cool you set a little challenge for yourself, I tend to read ONLY what interests me... I am ok with that for now, but maybe someday. Or I follow strange little serendipity threads. When I was in Malta and Sicily I read The Perfume Collector. Did you read it? It was strangely appropriate and then when I got home a friend had sent me a copy of The Purple Diary of Mary Astor. Which was curious as she was the actress in The Maltese Falcon. I devoured that, which led to a a mini black and white film kick.

    It snowed here last night! But it's melting fast. I have had some nice walks with the wild flora of spring.

    1. Thanks! I hope you are doing well my beautiful friend. I loved seeing the photos of you and Missy twirling about in the budding woods.

      I tend to read only what I want to as well and it very rarely includes non-fiction or anything too serious. But I do want to do some reading about the environment, gardening and herbology so that is brain expanding right? I have not read The Perfume Collector but it is on my GoodReads "Want To Read" shelf. I will make sure I go get it. I have read a handful of perfume based books and they are fun! I love your train of interests and how you follow the path into bliss like that! <3

      Isn't this late for a snow?? It has been hot hot hot around here. Already feeling like summer time. Good thing we are trying to get a swimming pool. I feel the undine life coming back full force. Hoping your spring continues to unfold beautifully!

  4. Hi again :p I don't know why I can't gather my thoughts for reviewing yet, but I'm on my tenth of the year, perhaps I'll whip something up after I finish my current one.
    Your Witches of New York cover is brilliant, but I remember my former boss reading that one when it came out and mentioning the shallowness and that the story never lured her in. If a fantasy lover like her and yourself couldn't recommend it, I won't bother.

    I've never heard of that particular King title, but again, an amazing cover. I'll be picking King up again (whether I like it or not) because we plan to use Pet Semetary for a speech cut next year and I gotta find an old copy to mark up. If you see one let me know and I'll paypal you for it.

    I'm stoked you enjoyed Witches! I'll have to thank my nephew for passing on that recommendation, boy you really could put about 10 books in your witch prompt, lol. I don't think I've settled on one for that yet...From your list, I'm adding Burial Rites and History of Wolves to my tbr. There are several wolf titles in publishing right now, maybe a wolfish prompt is in order if we resubmit the challenge next year?
    One I won't be adding-Vampires in the Lemon Grove-(shudder). Of course, Fahrenheit 451 is excellent. I own the graphic novel too, which is a unique perspective on the tale. Shel taught it to his juniors this year for the first time and it sparked a lot of deep discussion in class.

    I've been enjoying audible originals lately since I can listen to audiobooks at work, and my reading challenge will be a mess trying to fit them in, but I'm enjoying it. We'll talk soon about books, music, scents and life my friend-I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Hello!!! Maybe your new crazy busy job has you on your toes!!! You have a lot to juggle right now so don't be hard on yourself. <3 Maybe a summer time post for a half-way-there update?

      I liked the cover of the book too and the synopsis on the back had me super excited but your boss is right... it just really didn't run with the characters like it could have. There was a lot of potential there but it fizzled out.

      I had not heard of it either but when we were in Bangor, Maine and in the little local bookstore there, it was sitting out front by the cash register. It was my souvenir for visiting King's hometown and house. I will definitely keep an eye out for Pet Semetary for you. I have a copy I might end up sending you if Savanna decides she doesn't want to read it. I enjoyed reading it again but I probably won't read it a third time.

      I loved that book! Even though it was short and simple it really hit all the major parts of the event so that I could understand it more. Burial Rites was excellent. Lemon Grove was weird but I didn't mind it. Had you heard crazy things about it? Bradbury is just plain amazing. I am kinda on a hunt to get the rest of his books.

      Add those books!!! I am stretching the prompts a little to fit my books too but I think we are allowed, after all, we made it. LOL! I hope you had a nice weekend too and your work week is a good one. <3

  5. OOh, almost forgot. I recommend The Passage by Justin Cronin to everybody. (still haven't talked Sandra into reading, yet). It recalls some Stephen King vibes and is quite intense and epic, for a horror novel, well-written and pulse-quickening. I caught one episode of the tv show and just didn't buy it, perhaps I'll give it another try sometime. BTW, it's a trilogy, but the first book stands well on it's own feet.

    1. I will be looking for that book! It sounds just like something I would enjoy! I am all in for the whole series. Going to troll TriftBooks and BookOutlet for it.