Friday, May 1, 2020

2020 Reading Challenge: Spring Check In

Reading has been my self-medication of choice this year. At this point I don't even care if I am actively using it as a form of escapism. I must admit I have been on some rather interesting adventures in my book journeys. Here are the books I have read so far along with a quick blurb of my thoughts along with my rating:
*= meh       **= good/decent        ***= go read it

1. Quickie- 200 pages or less.
Ask Baba Yaga: Otherworldly Advice for Everyday Troubles by Taisa Kitaiskaia is a pocket-sized Dear Abby but written by a much darker, mysterious, yet wizened soul. Baba Yaga's pithy advice is wrapped in layers of moss and slippery wordsmithing but holds the bare mouse bones of truth. My daughters and I enjoyed reading them out loud and guessing what she meant by her advice. I already pre-ordered her next volume. ***

2. On the briny- a saltwater reading experience.
House of Salt and Sorrow by Erin Craig was an autographed book I picked up on a whim while browsing the OwlCrate webstore. I also picked up a Hagrid umbrella and count that the better of the two purchases. While I liked the atmospheric elements of this salt water encrusted island kingdom, the characters lacked depth. I liked it as a light fluffy semi-thriller where the maids are all empty headed lasses. **

3. Ready set read- Finish a series, or start a new one.
Fifth Wave/Infinite Sea/Last Star by Rick Yancey was a book series my youngest started reading. She encouraged me to read it too so I did, then we watched the movie. The book is a dystopian alien doomsday thriller where in the end you are not sure if you are truly the alien or not. Who do you trust? A decent YA series. I liked it enough to finish it. **

4. Memory lane- a book you missed out on from childhood.

5. Name dropper- get proper with a titular character [named after the book's subject].
Circe by Madeline Miller was just as amazing as I had heard it was. A moving myth about the origins of Circe and how she often showed more humanity than her turning-men-into-pigs rap gives her credit for. I fell in love with her. I think you will too. ***

6. Magical realism

7. Make it the year of the lycan-read a wolfish book.

8. Eye candy cover

9. A tear jerker- I'm not crying, you're crying!

10. Get lost in time- book set in the future or past, or both.
Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders had comic question marks floating above my head for the first few pages but then when I caught on I had realized I sped through 1/3 of the book in one sitting! A comical, blithe, heart rending tale about some ghosts who keep President Lincoln's newly departed son company overnight and the turmoil and tenderness that ensues. ***

11. A book you'd turn to when feeling blue.

12.  Cover Text Intertwined With Images: big 2019 novel trend.
The Binding by Bridget Collins was an unexpected breath-taker. I had a feeling I would enjoy the narrative of a young man who is taken from the farm and called to the often maligned task of binding books, which carries a connotation of witchcraft. But the twists and turns that evolve had me gasping and flipping pages backward and trying to unwind the tangled threads of love and loss. I will be reading this one again. ***

13. Stay Golden with gilded pages or shimmering cover accents.

14. Do you have a nightlight? Read something spooky if you do.

15. Borrowed book- library, lil’ free library, or friend, don't forget to return it!
Sphere by Michael Crichton was one I borrowed from my daughter. We love reading Crichton. This one was decent. An alien (?) craft is discovered at the bottom of the sea and a team of experts is called in by the government to explore. What is tangible morphs into the intellectually abstract. The movie was a painful hoot to watch after too. Some great actors in it! **

16. Seek the throne-heraldry or castle on the cover.
The Half-Drowned King/Sea Queen/Golden Wolf by Linnea Hartsuyker was a bracing Viking trilogy that spanned all the chilly seas and isles along Scandinavia and beyond. It follows the young Ragnvald and his sister Svanhild as they fight for their lands, lives and loves. Enemies often become allies and brothers of the heart can be found to be traitorous. A thrilling saga. ***

17. New-to-you author
The Vine Witch by Luanne Smith is was fast and enchanting read about a legacy of witches who tend to vineyards, one in particular is cursed and comes back to find the world changed. This reads as a quick morsel without too much thinking needed but fun nonetheless. **

18. A centenarian book, one that is 100 years or older. 

19. Our pets are the best of us. Read a story with a dear dog or cherished cat companion.

20. Colorless- a stark cover with only black/white/gray.

21. Forest Bathing- trees on the cover, in the title or as subject matter.\
American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow has easily been the most intellectual and fascinating book I have read so far this year. It was an eye opening if not heart shriveling accounting of how America evolved through the lens of her trees and forests. From the liberty tree in Boston to President Washington's gardens, from the Washington D.C. cherry trees to the Dutch Elm Disease and founding of our national park system, this chronicles the impact we have had on our environment and highlights just how much we depend on our trees. ***

22. Generation Z- A teen or young adult author.

23. Book based on a real event- true story based fiction, or non-fiction. 
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut was a deceptively fast read. Not having had the high school discussions of symbolism or themes, I must say I pulled from this book the horror that men and women have to pocket in their hearts when they are faced with war. How it can warp the soul and mind. It makes me think of all the soldiers with PTSD and how terrifying it must be to try to transition from something as horrendous as death abound to the mundane and benign. This satire on the bombing of Dresden during WWII was interesting to read. ***

24. Reading rebel- a controversial book, or featuring a literary rebel.

25. Illuminated Illustrations: a book with photographs or art within.

26. 20/20 Vision. A book that helped you to see something clearer. 

27. Gold Star. You get one just for reading a book. Your choice.
Skink- No Surrender by Carl Hiaasen is a kid's book about an old geezer who happens to be a former governor of Florida who slinks around the Everglades or shoreline or pinelands looking for jerks to set to rights. Wayward kids usually get pulled into his shenanigans. A student of mine pushed this book on me and I couldn't let him down. It turned out to be a rather funny and entertaining read. It was good enough for me to keep reading this kid's recommendations. **

28. The White Whale- book on your tbr forever, a weighty book, or one you couldn't bring yourself to read before [or that you think will be the end of you].

29. Home is where the heart is. A house on the cover. 
Little Green by Tish Cohen is the first one star of the year. I figured it would come. A horrid telling of an insipid marriage that is falling apart. The wife is self-centered, the husband a martyr, their handicapped daughter is caught in the crosshairs until she is kidnapped. Reading this book at times made my tummy hurt. If I hated the characters any more I would have to up the stars just because the author created something so viscerally repugnant that she deserved it, but she didn't so I won't. *

30. Old Fashioned: A book with a table of contents.
Candlenight by Phil Rickman is a spooky mid-90's mysterious thriller set in a small hamlet in Wales where the magic of Druids may still be alive and... well?? The town rebukes the efforts of Englishmen to settle and it follows the trials of Giles and his wife Claire who recently inherited a home there. I loved the story telling and scene building and language. It was a bit drawn out but I forgive its long windedness and I find I still think about it every now and again. ***

I think I have gotten off to a great start!! Not many of the books have sucked and I have read quite a bit. I foresee this trend continuing given our present circumstances and the fast approach of summer, my halcyon reading days. Are you reading? Do you recommend anything?


  1. You're making good progress. I read Candlenight on a cruise many years ago sitting next to the adult pool and was still totally drawn into the creepy atmosphere! I have Lincoln in the Bardo waiting on audio but haven't had the nerve to dive in yet.

    1. A perk of not going anywhere on the weekends is certainly the time that has been freed up to read!! I am heart deep into my reading passion for sure. I LOVED Candlenight!!! Not that is was a literary masterpiece, but it just ticked all the boxes for me while I was reading it. Have you read any of his other books? I am thinking of browsing ThriftBooks online and seeing what else he has. I bet Lincoln in the Bardo on tape is amazing. It might make the switching of the voices and stories more compelling. Once you listen, please tell me what you think!

    2. I've also read The Man in the Moss which I didn't like as much but still enjoyed. It was a slow starter but picked up around the 1/3 mark.

  2. You have indeed gotten off to a great start! Also I wanted to thank you for the sweet email you sent. As you know I told you I have had a hard time concentrating when I attempt to read but I am determined to get back to it. I'm looking at a list on Abe books 100 (Fiction) books to read in a lifetime! I have read A LOT of these already so hey...wouldn't be so hard to complete right?

    1. Hi Paula!! I have found in my life that my ability to be in a good mindset to read fluctuates for sure. I don't think I read hardly at all when I had toddlers. :-) Thanks for that list!! I checked it out and turns out I have only read 39 out of those 100 books. I have Jane Eyre on hand and I do plan on reading it one day soon. I also wrote down The Beetle and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. I always forget about that one and I think I should probably like it. Some of them I might not get to but it wouldn't hurt to try right?! They are on that list for a reason. :-)

    2. Mine was 53. I really must get back to my reading. I pushed Kyle early to read and he enjoys it but it's odd the books he ends up choosing and liking. I thought he would like something fun or easy maybe some Stephen King but nooo his favorites have been things like "The Pillars of the Earth" and "The Grapes of Wrath"
      I always think about the Oscar Wilde quote "It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it"

    3. I LOVED Pillars of the Earth!!! That was a story that will live forever in my heart. Amazing. That is a cool Oscar Wilde quote. I will have to remember that. <3