Tag Archives: book challenge

20 Books of Summer – 2 months in update #20booksofsummer

I’m now up to fourteen books read – eight read in July. Helped by being on holiday for the last few weeks while my kids were still at school! As you can see, the idea that I can plan my reading in advance is a total nonsense. I have only read six from the original list of twenty books I made, and three of those were book club reads that I *had* to read.

Six have been netgalley reads after I went a bit crazy requesting books and then realised they were going to have to dominate my reading to get through them! I’m nearly through them and have now done the exact same thing with requesting Man Booker Prize longlist titles…

Two have been audio books. This has been great on my commute to work (40 mins each way). Not so much since I’ve been on my summer holidays.

And one was over 500 pages!

I have one month left on this challenge and I think I should be ok to get though 6 more books and reach my target!

  1. The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry (review)
  2. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng (review)
  3. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor (review)
  4. the Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  5. Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
  6. Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit (review)
  7. Nobody Told Me – Holly McNish
  8. Dear Fatty – Dawn French
  9. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  10. The Power – Naomi Alderman (review)
  11. The Lottery (and other stories) – Shirley Jackson
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  13. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
  14. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
  15. A Quiet Storm – Rachel Howzell Hall
  16. How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran
  17. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  18. The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave (review)
  19. Wonder – RJ Palacio
  20. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  21. Queen of Spades – Michael Shou-Yung Shum
  22. Living the Dream – Lauren Berry (review)
  23. Inferior – Angela Saini (review)
  24. Holidays On Ice – David Sedaris (review)
  25. The Unseen – Roy Jacobsen (review)
  26. Nasty Women – 404Ink (review)
  27. All Grown Up – Jami Attenberg (review)
  28. Anger Is An Energy – John Lydon (review)

Book Review: Holidays On Ice – David Sedaris

All the stories in this collection have a Xmas, Halloween, or Easter connection in them somewhere. There are some real gems, especially where Sedaris is writing as himself. The stories where he is writing pure fiction often fall a little flat, though I enjoyed Front Row Center with Thaddeus Bristol, where school Xmas plays are reviewed as serious theatre. All the stories are veerrrrryyyyy dark, which you’d hopefully expect if you know David Sedaris at all. His fiction stories are ultra dark. We’re talking vantablack

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I listened to this audiobook and it’s the perfect way to experience  David Sedaris because you get so much from the way he tells a story. There were parts of it where I was cackling like a witch on my commute to work. This was mostly during 6-8 Black Men, a tale about the Dutch Xmas story. It’s one of the final few stories and these last few seem to have been added to the audio book at a later date because they aren’t listed as being in the original, and I think I’ve heard them on the radio before too. Jesus Shaves (also in Me Talk Pretty One Day) is similarly about trying to explain the Easter story during a beginners french class.

Originally published in 1997, re-released in 2008, there’s been plenty of time to add them. It feels like they have been added because the original stories are not that great. Dinah, the Christmas Whore is the stand out from the original stories, and unsurprisingly, is written from his point of view. It’s about his sister Lisa taking him out on a late night mission to rescue a prostitute from her abusive boyfriend. With hilarious consequences!!!!

I have neglected to talk about the main story that the book opens with SantaLand Diaries. An account of a 33 year old David’s stint as a Christmas Elf at Macy’s. So good. We all know that these stories of David’s life are not all 100% factual, and hopefully you all don’t care either!

This is my second Sedaris of the year. I read Me Talk Pretty One Day earlier in the year. I’m quite sure I’m going to read all his books, and I have kindle versions of the others already. The only question now is, do I read them, or find the audiobooks?!?

2017 Reading Challenge – 6 month update

This is the first time I’ve tried to restrict my reading to books from a specific list. It’s just not really working for me in the way I’d originally hoped. I read 11 of the books in the first 3 months and only 3 in the last 3 months! Oooooops. I’ve just been majorly distracted by other books. I have got at least 16 of them ready to read and in my possession so I need to make space to get through them. A few I’ve bought specifically to read soon, but keep shelving them.

I don’t think I will bother with trying to forward plan my reading so closely again. It just doesn’t work for me!!!! and really the last thing I need is to feel bad for any reading I’ actually doing, or to feel guilty that i’m off list. How completely absurd.

Still, it’s true that most of the 35 books I’ve read from this list are really good. I still feel strongly that future favourites are hidden in the unread ones.

Here’s the updated list with the ones I’ve read in red:

  • The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
  •  Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
  • The Kitchen Boy by Robert Alexander
  • Brick Lane by Monica Ali  
  • Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood  
  • Emma by Jane Austen  
  • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen 
  • Oracle Night by Paul Auster  
  • Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury (review)
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov  
  • The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  • The Awakening by Kate Chopin (review)
  • The Meaning of Consuelo by Judith Ortiz Cofer
  • Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
  • Fat Land : How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World by Greg Critser
  • Cousin Bette by Honore De Balzac
  • Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia De Burgos by Julia De Burgos
  • The Red Tent by Anita Diamant  
  • David Copperfield by Charles Dickens
  • Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky  
  • An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
  • The Bielski Brothers by Peter Duffy
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  • Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn 
  • The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco  
  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner
  • Time and Again by Jack Finney
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald  
  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
  • Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Bee Season by Myla Goldberg
  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding  
  • Autobiography of a Face by Lucy Grealy
  • My Life in Orange by Tim Guest
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon 
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Sacred Time by Ursula Hegi
  • The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  • Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse
  • Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand
  • Rescuing Patty Hearst by Virginia Holman
  • A Quiet Storm by Rachel Howzell Hall
  • The Polysyllabic Spree by Nick Hornby (review)
  • Songbook by Nick Hornby
  • The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo  
  • Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  • How the Light Gets In by M. J. Hyland
  • The Lottery: And Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
  • Nervous System by Jan Lars Jensen  
  • The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka (review)
  • The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (review)
  • On The Road by Jack Kerouac
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
  • Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes  
  • The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd  
  • A Separate Peace by John Knowles
  • Extravagance by Gary Krist
  • The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson 
  • The Song of Names by Norman Lebrecht
  • The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem
  • Small Island by Andrea Levy
  • Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire
  • A Month Of Sundays by Julie Mars
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel 
  • Property by Valerie Martin
  • The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham
  • The Nanny Diaries by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus         
  • Quattrocento by James McKean
  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller  
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison (review)
  • Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books by Azar Nafisi
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger  
  • How to Breathe Underwater by Julie Orringer
  • 1984 by George Orwell 
  • When the Emperor Was Divine by Julie Otsuka
  • Bel Canto by Ann Patchett (review)
  • Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett
  • The Portable Dorothy Parker by Dorothy Parker
  • My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath  
  • Complete Tales & Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
  • The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  • Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  • The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters by Elisabeth Robinson
  • The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger (review)
  • Sybil by Flora Schreiber
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • Holidays on Ice by David Sedaris
  • Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris (review)
  • Hamlet by William Shakespeare
  • Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (review)
  • Unless by Carol Shields
  • Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress by Dai Sijie
  • The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (review)
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
  • Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray 
  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy  
  • A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
  • The Song Reader by Lisa Tucker
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  • Just a Couple of Days by Tony Vigorito
  • Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut (review)
  • Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
  • Night by Elie Wiesel (review)
  • The Picture Of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde  
  • The Code of the Woosters by P. G. Wodehouse
  • Old School by Tobias Wolff
  • The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

20 books of summer – 1 month in update

I joined the 20 books of Summer Challenge and wrote a list of 20 books I would try and read. They are the first 20 books on this list. I already know I’m no good at planning my reading to this degree, but didn’t think I’d go off plan so quickly! 3 books out of 6 I read this month were off list! I’m clearly a mood reader or something.

Books read in red. Links to reviews if they exist. I’ve started Everything I Never Told You as well, and I’m nearly finished with Reservoir 13 on an audio book free trial because I didn’t want to spend £9 on the kindle version or the hardback (it’s for my book club so I needed to read it before the end of this week). Audible it is. It’s taking a bit of getting used to but I might continue to listen to the odd audio book on my commute. I think some comedy would work well and I have a few books lined up to try on this free trial.

I’m keeping good pace especially considering I have summer holidays soon… so catch up will be easy. I also have a few short books ready to go if I need them.

I absolutely loved The Power. I’m recommending it to everyone who’ll listen! and Inferior is a great book about women and science and where the science has often been wrong, wrong, wrong!

  1. The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry (review)
  2. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
  3. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
  4. the Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  5. Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
  6. Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit (review)
  7. Nobody Told Me – Holly McNish
  8. Dear Fatty – Dawn French
  9. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  10. The Power – Naomi Alderman (review)
  11. The Lottery (and other stories) – Shirley Jackson
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  13. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
  14. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
  15. A Quiet Storm – Rachel Howzell Hall
  16. How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran
  17. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  18. The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  19. Wonder – RJ Palacio
  20. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  21. Queen of Spades – Michael Shou-Yung Shum
  22. Living the Dream – Lauren Berry (review)
  23. Inferior – Angela Saini (review)

How’s your summer reading going?

20 Books of Summer Reading Challenge #20booksofsummer

I’m not very good with planning my reading ahead of when I actually pick up a book and get started with it, so it’s with some trepidation that I’m putting together a list for the 20 books of summer challenge (I found out about it over at 746books).

I already know I’ll read at least 4 books for book club – I know what 3 of them will be at the moment, so need to leave a spare place… but I haven’t… I also have a few books I’m already part way into that I will definitely finish over the next few months. I will add a couple of classics, and a few trashier ones. I have to add some books from my year long challenge that isn’t quite working out as I expected – need all the help I can get with this, so making sure a few are from that challenge on this list will help! I’m also adding a few books I *really* want to read soon.

I’m lucky that I will have a 6 week holiday to help me out with this challenge! *high fives fellow teachers*

  1. The Essex Serpent – Sarah Perry
  2. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng
  3. Reservoir 13 – Jon McGregor
  4. the Invisible Man – Ralph Ellison
  5. Hope in the Dark – Rebecca Solnit
  6. Men Explain Things to Me – Rebecca Solnit
  7. Nobody Told Me – Holly McNish
  8. Dear Fatty – Dawn French
  9. Oryx and Crake – Margaret Atwood
  10. The Power – Naomi Alderman
  11. The Lottery (and other stories) – Shirley Jackson
  12. Half of a Yellow Sun – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  13. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks – Rebecca Skloot
  14. The Jungle – Upton Sinclair
  15. A Quiet Storm – Rachel Howzell Hall
  16. How to Build a Girl – Caitlin Moran
  17. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
  18. The Girl of Ink and Stars – Kiran Millwood Hargrave
  19. Wonder – RJ Palacio
  20. The Color Purple – Alice Walker

I’m going to reserve the right to make some swaps if I need to!

Anyone else want to join in? 😀

Book Review: Bel Canto – Ann Patchett

Oh wow, this book is beautiful. Beautiful. I’m so sad I’ve finished – I wanted to keep reading it for a while longer. I was never bored reading Bel Canto, and I couldn’t wait to find out how it all turned out. You are kept waiting and don’t get any resolution until the last few pages. It’s mainly about love, and falling in love, but it’s more than that and it’s captivating. It’s also about opera. I’m not an opera fan – you absolutely don’t need to be to enjoy this book.

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I won’t give any spoilers here – I wouldn’t want to ruin this book for anyone who hasn’t read it. If you haven’t read it I urge you to put it on your to-read pile and give it a go 🙂 I picked this up in a charity shop a few weeks ago because it is on my book challenge list for this year. I had no idea what it was about, but a twitter friend commented that it was a great book. I was sold, bumped it up my reading list, and it didn’t disappoint.

An unnamed south american country is trying to gain the business of a large Japanese electronics firm by holding a birthday party for its chief executive, Katsumi Hosokawi. He has no intention of investing in the country, but was persuaded to attend because they have managed to secure the internationally famous soprano, Roxane Coss, to sing at the event. Mr Hosokawi is a huge opera fan. Miss Coss is a phenomenal singer and people fall in love with her and/or her voice when she sings. The birthday party is well attended by many internationally important people who want the business of Mr Hosokawi’s company.

After the last note has been sung by Roxane Coss, terrorists storm the room to kidnap the country’s president. Unfortunately he didn’t attend the party because it clashed with his favourite soap opera. The terrorists have no back up plan and decide to keep the party guests hostage. This sets up the main events in the novel, and we are left with a cast of hostages and terrorists all cooped up in the large residence of the vice president.

The main characters are all interesting and the relationships between characters is the driving force of the novel. We don’t get to find out what’s happening outside of the house where the hostages are being held. I don’t want to give away any of the plot, but several characters fall in love, people make discoveries about themselves, and question what they have done with their lives so far.

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his and hers swimming lesson reads

I loved this book and I think I need to re-read the last chapter again just to go over it more slowly. I read it so fast because I just needed to find out how it all worked out. Sobbing, obviously, because it’s that sort of book. It reminded me of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin in that respect (one of my favourites, and the first book that had me in tears at the end). A good look for the swimming lessons waiting area, I think you’d agree 🙂

Book review: Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury

Oh wow, I loved this book. Unbelievable that it was published in 1953, it felt like it could have been written last year. It’s also written in beautiful poetic prose.

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reading at my desk at work.

Guy Montag is a fireman. Firemen set fires in this dystopian future where books are banned. If books are discovered, the firemen are sent in to find them and burn them.

The population are kept busy with frivolous soaps and constant meaningless, shallow entertainment. To think deeply is not ok. When recounting their society’s history, it is said:

‘the word “intellectual”, of course,  became the swear word it deserved to be’

There was a race to make everyone feel like no one was their intellectual superior, and books were banned before they knew it.

Guy begins to realise he is unhappy with his life. He is utterly disconnected from his wife. A war is going on for reasons he can’t recall. He remembers dimly knowing that firemen used to put out fires, not start them…

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It’s scary how current this all feels. Attacks on facts and science and intellectualism seem to be rife in politics, especially in America. I know I’ve been shocked by political events this last year (Brexit, Trump, ffs! ) and perhaps I’m realising how much of an echo chamber I exist in.

This book read like a warning that we could all do with. I urge you to read it if you haven’t already.