Friday, December 28, 2007

Comprehensive list of my reading challenges

If I spent as much time reading as I do organizing these challenges, I'd be halfway done by now! But here is the comprehensive list of the challenges I plan on undertaking. If I already posted the book list in a previous blog, I did not repost.

Series Challenge (began Dec. 1 2007; ends May 31 2008)

Read a series of your choice.
I will be reading the Shannara series by Terry Brooks, of which two are also on my TBR alternate list.

TBR Challenge 2008 (begins Jan. 1, 2008; ends Dec. 31 2008)
Read 12 books on your TBR list in 12 months. (Already posted list)

Decades Challenge (begins Jan. 1 2008; ends Dec. 31 2008)
Read 8 books in 8 consecutive decades (Already posted list)
Note: I am doing this a little differently, because I misunderstood the challenge. Rather than reading books WRITTEN in 8 consecutive decades, mine are SET in 8 consecutive decades. I plan on keeping it this way even though it was a mistake because I think it sounds fun!

Young Adult Challenge (begins Jan. 1 2008; ends Dec. 31 2008)
Read 12 young adult novels (Already posted list)

2 New 2 You Challenge (begins Feb 1, 2008; ends May 1 2008)
Read 2 books out of your comfort zone or by authors you've never read.

Your Writing Coach--Jurgen Wolff (TBR)
The Sound and the Fury--William Faulkner (TBR)

Ongoing Challenges (No time limit or lists for these, but I will post as I fill in the blanks with books):
Book Around the States (Read 50 books from 50 states, + DC)
Read It Again (Re-read some of your favorite books)

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Young Adult Challenge

This challenge completed as of 12/21/08!

***I really enjoy reading young adult literature, plus it is important to me to be able to keep up with what my students are reading, and recommend books to them. I read some great books this year for this challenge, although there were some disappointments, notably The Afterlife and Tithe. Slam was one of the best books I've read all year, and Abarat surprised me with how good it was. I've already posted my list for next year's Young Adult Challenge--thanks to J. Kaye for hosting!***

Here is my list for the Young Adult Challenge, most of which are on my bookshelf at school. Click on the title to read my review.

Fallen Angels--Walter Dean Myers (finished 3/21/08)
The Afterlife--Gary Soto (finished Jan. 08)
Arabat--Clive Barker(finished 12/21/08)
Armageddon Summer--Jane Yolen and Bruce Coville (finished 5/27/08)
The Giver--Lois Lowry (finished 9/16/08)
Holes--Louis Sachar (finished 8/1/08)
I Am Mordred--Nancy Springer (finished 10/6/08)
Give a Boy a Gun--Todd Strasser (finished 3/20/08)
Scorpions--Walter Dean Myers (finished 9/28/08)
Tithe: A Modern Fairy Tale--Holly Black (finished 6/14/08)
Slam--Nick Hornby (finished 2/7/08)
You Don't Know Me--David Klass (finished 10/3/08)

Decades Challenge


***I misunderstood this challenge, and rather than choosing books published in 8 consecutive decades, I picked books that were set in 8 consecutive decades. I'm sure I enjoyed the challenge just as much as I would have otherwise. The best books read on this challenge were Water For Elephants, I am Legend, and All the Pretty Horses, but most of them were good reads. The Sound and the Fury was one of the most difficult reads ever, but in the end I enjoyed it. I have already created my list for this years Decades Challenge, and am excited to get started!***

Here is my list for the Decades Challenge. Click on the titles to see my reviews.

1910s: Tortilla Flat--John Steinbeck (finished 11/5/08)
1920s: The Sound and the Fury--William Faulkner (finished 11/26/08)
1930s: Water for Elephants--Sara Gruen (finished 3/19/08)
1940s: All the Pretty Horses--Cormac McCarthy (finished 1/7/08)
1950s: Franny and Zooey--J.D. Salinger (finished 6/18/08)
1960s: Dolores Claiborne--Stephen King (finished 11/12/08)
1970s: I Am Legend--William Matthieson (finished 1/13/08)
1980s: The Bean Trees--Barbara Kingsolver (finished 10/15/08)

Friday, December 14, 2007

TBR 2008!!!!

Completed as of 12/26/08!!!

***This challenge was quite a success for me. I read some fantastic books that had been just laying around my apartment, like The Poisonwood Bible, and some that had been loaned to me and never picked up, like Water For Elephants. Both of those are five star books IMO, and are on my list of ten best books read this year. I also found some great random books on my shelves, like Meely LaBauve. The only book that wasn't really worth reading was Blue Light. I have already posted my list for next year, (which includes many of the unread alternates from this year) and can't wait to begin!! Thanks to Jenn at TBR for hosting!***

OK, this is my FINAL list for 2008's TBR Challenge. Click on the titles to see the reviews of those I've finished.

Main List:
Franny and Zooey--J.D. Salinger (finished 6/18/08)
Wuthering Heights--Emily Bronte (finished 12/26/08)
Sundog--Jim Harrison (finished 11/2/08)
Blue Light--Walter Mosely (finished 12/3/08)
Fallen Angels--Walter Dean Myers (finished 3/21/08)
Middlesex--Jeffret Eugenides (finished 5/20/08)
Poisonwood Bible--Barbara Kingsolver (finished 8/21/08)
Dolores Clairborne--Stephen King (finished 11/12/08)
Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood--Koren Zailckas (finished 1/24/08)
Water For Elephants--Sara Gruen (finished 3/19/08)
Meely LaBauve--Ken Wells (finished 2/20/08)
Dragon Wing--Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (finished 12/1/08)

Your Writing Coach--Jurgen Wolff
The Sword of Shannara and The Elfstone of Shannara--Terry Brooks
Issac Bashevis Singer's Collected Works
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy
The Sound and the Fury by Faulkner (finished 11/26/08)
All the Pretty Horses--Cormac McCarthy (finished 1/7/08)
The Giver--Lois Lowry (finished 9/16/08)
The Stone War--Madeleine E. Robins (finished 3/24/08)

And I finished TBR 2007! I am still reading though. Right now I'm reading The Mermaid Chair from my alternate list, and still hoping to get through Myths to Live By.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood)

Wow. This book was chilling.

Reminiscent of Orwell's 1984, this book takes place in a futuristic America in which sexuality is completely controlled by the government, and women have no rights. As a handmaid, the narrator's job is to breed. Therefore she must lay with another woman's husband,between the wife's legs, hoping to conceive, carry, and birth their child. Other options for non-elite women include servitude (but not all women are allowed this option), prostitution, or being sent away to "the colonies", an area plagued by toxicity due to (I think) nuclear devastation.

The scariest part of the book was that the narrator was once a free woman, with a child and a man who left his wife for her. She worked, she discussed women's liberation with her lesbian-feminist mother and best friend, she lived a life similar to ours (although society was already plagued by environmental and other issues, seriously affecting the birth rate). There were moments where she talked about the changes taking place that frightened me terribly, because it seems almost possible. Hell, in some places in the world it is more than possible. It is reality.

The ending disappointed me. Actually, that is an understatement. It infuriated me. But as time has passed since I finished the book, I'm feeling more comfortable with the way the book ended. I have also found myself thinking a lot more deeply about gender roles and how we deal with sexuality in this country. I would recommend this thought-provoking novel to just about anyone.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I was surprised at how much I liked this book! I think this was actually a re-read for me, but I enjoyed it just as much. When the Harry Potter books first came out many people compared them to the Narnia Chronicles. Why, I don't know--I find few similarities. But being an avid Narnia fan, I was kind of biased against the Potter books. Now that much time has passed, I can read the Rowling books without prejudice, and enjoy them. It seems silly to write a detailed review about a book that just about everyone has read already, but I will say this: once I got into The Chamber of Secrets I couldn't put it down. The story is tight, the writing is fantastic and the characters are enjoyable, albeit exaggerated and fanciful. Lots of fun! I plan on reading the third one as soon as I can. I think I've read that one before too, but that was where I stopped.

So this was the final RIP Challenge book, but since October just began I think I will choose one more to add to the fun!

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Door to December book review

I had never read Koontz before, and this book was sitting on my shelf for years. I picked it up as part of the RIP Challenge, and once I started I couldn't put it down. This book is part crime thriller (like Patterson, but so much richer) and part horror (like early King--the occult-type stuff), and all in all a well-written, well-developed story. It moves fast, but flows evenly. The characters are likeable, and while it isn't hugely based on character, the characters are developed enough to get you invested. The story is good too--keeps you guessing long enough to get interested, and by the time you figure it out, you like the characters enough to keep reading. I won't try to explain the plot, because I'm afraid I would give away too much (and you can always read the synopsis on the back of the book, right?), but it works. I don't know what part was scarier--the occult aspect, or delving into the evil that lurks within humankind. But either way, this was a nice chilling read for the Halloween season.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Valiant book review

Valiant: A Modern Tale of Faerie, by Holly Black.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I found the idea of the story captivating. Faeries are real, and they walk among us, hidden by glamour from human eyes. And they aren't necessarily good faeries--like humans, some are good, and some are stealthy. 17 year old Val discovers this world when she runs away from home and lives under the New York subway tunnels. Through unforeseen circumstances, she ends up indebted to a troll, delivering potions to faeries. But faeries are being poisoned, and Val ends up risking her life to solve the mystery and protect her unlikely troll-friend.

I liked the premise. And I found myself drawn into the love story that unfolded between Val and Ravus, the troll. Unfortunately, I thought the writing was inconsistent. The plot seemed choppy and the characters were underdeveloped. The story didn't "flow" well enough from one scene to the next, making it less believeable. There were a lot of loose ends at the close of the story which seemed to have been forgotten, or pushed aside, and which I would have liked to seen closed.

Even though I was disappointed by this book in many ways, the lure of the faerie world stays with me. I might try reading something else by her, just for more of that...

Now I'm on to the next RIP Challenge book! I think I will delve into Dean R. Koontz.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Regulators

I don't know how I missed this book over the years. I've read most of the Stephen King library. The Regulators is good, solid King--not, perhaps, one of my favorites, but a captivating (and chilling) read. As is common in his novels, the characters are strong, and the constant "Where does he come UP with this stuff?" question runs through the reader's mind. It starts off strong--action happens almost immediately--and feeds the reader enough information in the beginning to hook them but not enough to let curiousity wane. And the ending gives one food for thought.

An interesting sidenote about this book is that the characters' names are the same as the characters in King's novel Desperation. I read Desperation years ago, but it isn't all that clear in my mind. But it seems that the books examine two different possibilities spreading from the same basic idea. The characters themselves are not the same in each book, and the names appear to be recycled randomly. Anyone ever read anything about why this is?

I plan on reading Valiant next.

Monday, September 3, 2007

R.I.P. Challenge

I thought this deserved a post of its own. I joined another challenge. I couldn't resist, as it combines two of my favorite things: reading, and Halloween. Halloween is my favorite holiday by far. So the idea here is that you read books that are creepy or scary or generally halloween-y. A much better explanation can be found here:

These are the books I have chosen for the challenge (which--yikes!--started Saturday), along with a brief (very brief) explanation of why I chose it (in no particular order):

The Door to December by Dean Koontz.

I chose this book because it was on my bookshelf, had never been read, and fit the genre. I've never actually read Koontz, so I'm hoping it doesn't suck. 510 pages of suckiness will be rough.

Valiant--A Modern Tale of Faerie by Holly Black.

I wanted to find a young adult book that I could recommend/share with my students. It looks interesting: a teenage runaway living with squatters under the NYC subways. We'll see...

The Regulators by Richard Bachman (aka Stephen King)

There is not much King I haven't read, but this is one of the few.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

It is embarassing to admit that I have not read the Harry Potter series. I read the first one, and I might have read this one too but I can't remember. So if I did I will switch it for the third. I wasn't as enthralled by book one as the rest of the population, but I think that's because I'm a Chronicles of Narnia snob. So I'm going to open my mind a bit.

So that's the plan! All four must be read by October 31, which means I've better get cracking! That's about 1700 paperback pages...

Brand New Blog

This is my second attempt at a blog. The first one didn't go too well. It has been abandoned and cast aside, collecting dust on undiscovered internet shelving. The main problem was attempts at introducing html to my blog, at which I was unfortunately unable to succeed, and also unable to delete. The constant undeniable reminder of my inexpertise grew too much. I think I'll keep it simple this time.

So this blog, like the other, is about the books I am reading. I joined the TBR Challenge in December (, for which I chose 12 books (and 6 alternates) that I had been meaning to read for six months or more. (Get it? TBR=To Be Read!) So far I have read:

The Davinci Code Dan Brown
Bless Me Ultima Rodolfo Anaya
The King of Elfland's Daughter Lord Dunsany
The Dark Tower Stephen King
On Writing Stephen King
1984 George Orwell
The Time Traveler's Wife Audrey Niffenegger
Ancestors of Avalon Diana Paxson
Fierce Invalids Home From Hot Climates Tom Robbins
Man's Search for Meaning Victor Frankl

I have three left to go: The Alphabet Versus the Goddess by Leonard Shlain; The Goddess in the Gospels by Margaret Starbird; and Myths to Live By by Joseph Campbell. They are all non-fiction (the bane of my existence) and I have been sludging through them slowly and painfully. I might give up and subsititute an alternate eventually, but for now I'm holding strong.

Other books I've read this year: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby; The Blue Mirror by Kathe Koja; and The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. The latter two are young adult novels, which I can get away with reading since I am a high school teacher! I love reading young adult lit--I can sit down with a book and read the whole thing without a bathroom break. Makes me feel like a genius.

I may try to post reviews of some of these on here. Some are on my other blog. Most are reviewed on my goodreads page, which you can access via my email: Future books, if all goes well, will be reviewed here.