Category Archives: Reading Challenges

A Bad Beginning: My 2018 Reading Challenge

Of the 11 books I have read so far in 2018, 4 of them have been 1 star reads. 4! And not one of the remaining 7 books were worth 5 stars. I’m quite dismayed about this beginning. I hope it is not a sign for the rest of 2018!

P.S. My reading goal this year is 118 books, but I’m not sure I’ll make it. Especially if I continue choosing such lousy books! 

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Regency Rejects and Nothing Non-Fiction: My 1 Star Reads from 2017

My least favorite reads from 2017: 

A Civil Action by Johnathan Harr

After a semester spent discussing civil procedure, I understand why my professor assigned us this one to read. It served a purpose. My classmates almost universally loved this book; I hated it. It was over-wordy, extremely biased, and sloppy with details. For most of the book, I was ready to give it two stars and call it “excessively dull,” but the last hundred pages were too egregious to ignore. I wouldn’t accept this kind of bathos in my fiction; I fail to see why I should tolerate it in my non-fiction. 

The Ishbane Conspiracy by Randy Alcorn

Reading this book was a lot like tying a millstone around my neck and jumping into the ocean: dangerous, painful, and a waste of time. The message that comes across is  that if you avoid dating, prom dresses with a slit, and Harry Potter, you’re a good Christian who won’t let sin in. Besides carrying a dubious moral message, the book itself is awful. The writing is heavy-handed and over the top. The characters are one dimensional and boring. The climax is out of nowhere and completely dramatic. Not worth it!

Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead

Somewhat interesting plot idea…less than thrilling results. The writing was poor and the characters annoying. The plot never really went anywhere. The villains were super predictable. The relationship between the main characters was unhealthy and concerning, full of unhealthy emotional dependence. The menfolk have no personality. Not interesting or worth the time. 

A Jury of Her Peers by Jean Hanff Korelitz

This might win Most Disappointing Read of 2017. You know what is sexy? Lawyers flirting over their ACLU cards, said no one ever. Except possibly this author. A boring legal thriller that shoots itself in the foot by creating a self-righteous, dull heroine; an annoying romance; and a story line that revolves around a giant, government conspiracy. 

Plato and a Platypus Walk Into A Bar…: Understanding Philosophy Through Jokes by Thomas Cathcart

This is a very brief look at different philosophies. If you took a basic philosophy course, this will be old hat. I’d give it two stars for the philosophy portion and negative two for the jokes. This book was completely un-funny. The jokes are either old and well-worn or so vulgar I almost didn’t finish. 

In The Woods by Tana French

A dark mystery about missing children and murder. Unfortunately, also a story full of angst, angst, and more angst! Though it began promisingly, the book drags on and slowly kills all the things I liked about the beginning. Relationships are ruined for stupid reasons. The main character was a bore. A boring, angsty read! 

Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception by Maggie Stiefvater

 Yet another promising YA novel ruined by raging hormones. I liked that the heroine takes things in stride. She discovers she can see fairies and doesn’t wuss out. However, she mainly accomplishes this by obsessing over her love interest instead of worrying about imminent death. The writing and plot are sloppy, definitely can tell this book was an early work for Stiefvater.

A Marriage of Inconvenience by Marion Chesney

I. Hate. This. Book. So. Much. Definitely the worst read of 2017. A Regency romance about a woman who hates men and a solider forced to become her fiance. I hate this book for its awful, inaccurate use of regency slang, weird Freudian philosophy, and terrible conclusion. Just…bleh!! 

The Forrester Inheritance: A Regency Entertainment by Daisy Vivian

Miss Mariana Porter stands to inherit a great deal of money – provided she marry one of her cousins. Obviously that cousin will be the one she takes in immediate aversion for absolutely no reason. One of those one-star reads that left me feeling more amused than infuriated. The characters are one dimensional and lack basic personality. 

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin

A leadership book about…leadership? The internet? Something? Vague, repetitive, and cocky without the substance to back it up. Not bad ideas necessarily but the book alienated me.

The Bachelor Girl’s Guide to Murder by Rachel McMillan

“A female Sherlock Holmes”…except not.  This book is full of weird, switching POVs and a mystery that takes backseat to a confusing insta-romance. The book is super poorly paced. Action scenes are glazed over and character “change” comes out of nowhere. Half of the book was unnecessary and the other half didn’t fit anywhere. It lacked transition entirely. There are weird footnotes that don’t fit with the story. By the end of the book, I sort of forgot what the point of the mystery was in the first place and I am still confused about the motivation of the killer and his minions. I loved the title of this book and nothing else.

 


2017 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 2

My favorite reads from 2017…continued! 

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell “looks at the complex and surprising ways the weak can defeat the strong, the small can match up against the giant, and how our goals (often culturally determined) can make a huge difference in our ultimate sense of success.” An interesting, challenging read that explores the takeaway lesson of a relatively familiar Bible story. 

Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund 

A futuristic, sci-fi retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel. I’d give the plot about 4 stars but the characters definitely bump it up to 5.  I love the characters. The author does an amazing job capturing the spirit of the The Scarlet Pimpernel but with a gender-bender twist. The science talk occasionally bogs the story down, but it was nice to have a YA book that “makes you think” while telling the story. Politics, science, moral responsibility, right and wrong, good and bad…it is all to be found hovering at the back of the characters and their actions and decisions.

Grounded: The Adventures of Rapunzel by Megan Morrison 

Book 1 in the Tyme series. Rapunzel retelling…starring Jack and his beanstalk. This is one of those books you have to stick with all the way through. Rapunzel starts off as a very annoying, naive, rude character who doesn’t know a map from a mother. However, her character arc is wonderful. The story is much more nuanced than most fairy tale retellings. Lovely world building and almost no romance!  

Disenchanted: The Trials of Cinderella by Megan Morrison

Book 2 in the Tyme series. Though billed as a “Cinderella retelling,” this book breaks from the usual Cinderella mold and has very little to do with the original story. It has a bit of an Ever After High vibe going but it transcends that with really solid, interesting characters and social justice themes. (A YA novel with a couple interested in something other than each other! Hurah!) That said, if I have one complaint with this book, it would be the romance. Overall, unexpectedly enjoyable.

The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas

Tessa and Callie have never talked about what they saw that night. After the trial, Callie drifted and Tessa moved. But Tessa’s return unearths buried memories and questions that don’t add up…leading back to the night of the murder. My Caveat: I’d give this book 5 stars for its genre. Not sure 5 stars compared to books overall. However, as a psychological thriller, I really enjoyed this one. It has deep, meaningful characters with twisted, broken personalities. There is no unlikely romance and there are strong, female friendships. It is creepy without being overwhelming. 

I Believe In A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Desi Lee can accomplish anything as long as she has a plan. Soccer? Student body elections? College applications? She has it down. Coming to terms with her non-existent love life, Desi decides the problem is that she hasn’t put together the right plan. And what better place to find a plan than in a K-drama? I am obsessed with K-Dramas so I loved all the references. But really, I loved this book in general. Desi could easily have been a goody-two-shoes character. Yet somehow she comes across as relatable and hilarious. While her behavior at times is downright crazy, all she had to do was reference a drama and I was totally for the plan. Why not stage a car accident or create a fake love triangle?

Loyalty and Legislative Action: A Survey of Activity by the New York State Legislature 1919-1949 by Lawrence H. Chamberlain 

This book focuses on three legislative investigations of “subversive” activities conducted by the New York legislature. While that doesn’t sound like a topic you’d want to curl up with in a rainy day, I found it surprisingly readable and interesting. What continually surprised me was how relevant the book was. Though specific examples may no longer apply, the government’s actions and arguments are only too familiar. From John Doe investigations gone horribly wrong to the overuse of (possibly illegal) warrants, the general facts sound eerily like something you would hear in the news today. 


2017 Reading Challenge: My 5 Star Reviews, Part 1

For those of you who don’t have time to read 119 books in 365 days (and even those of you who do), here are my favorites from this year! They all come with my recommendation. 

Good To Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t by James Collins

A business book full of interesting case studies and general principles for building a successful (“great”) business. Like many books in this genre, I enjoyed it because I saw elements of Good Profit in it. Since I love Good Profit, I was bound to like this one too. Overall a bit dated but intellectually engaging and well worth the time. 

Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker

I don’t normally like poetry, but I loved this little volume of poems. Parker is cynical, depressed, and heart-sore yet so real. She is occasionally trite and sarcastic but rarely dull. Sad, beautiful poetry.

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

Sir Gareth Ludlow has decided it is time to marry…but on his way to propose to his childhood friend, he meets a lovely young runaway! Determined to return her to her family, he enlists the help of his erstwhile fiance. Chaos ensues. This is a fairly standard Heyer plot yet perhaps one of her better uses of it. A fun, romantic romp! 

The Quiet Gentleman by Georgette Heyer

Gervase Frant returns from the wars to claim his inheritance and take over the family estate. His family accept his return with hostility. Several “accidents” later and Gervase starts to wonder…do they hate him enough to murder him? This book perhaps deserves closer to 4 stars because the mystery is quite clunky. However, Gervase is charming and Miss Morville, the leading lady, absolutely wonderful. Another charming Heyer read. 

Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgis 

I was twelve years of age when I chopped of my hair, dressed as a boy, and set off to save my family from ruin. I made it almost to the end of my front garden.” So begins a charming, fun story about a girl who discovers she has magic and tries to use it to save her family’s waning fortune. Kat was a likable, spunky heroine and I loved her relationship with her sisters. The whole book kept me guessing with its twists and turns. A creative, magical adventure set in the Regency era written for middle schoolers. 

Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner  

Megan Whalen Turner is seriously the best. Thick as Thieves is book 5 in the Queen’s Thief series and let me tell you, it is just as good as the others. I won’t say much more because spoilers. If you haven’t already, go pick up The Thief. It is slow at first but worth it for the end. (And the rest of the books.) Definitely one of my favorite fantasy series! 

Ultraviolet by R. J. Anderson 

Sixteen-year-old Alison lives in a mental institute for teens, having murdered the most perfect and popular girl at school. But the case is a mystery: no body has been found. According to Alison, the body just disintegrated. But that’s impossible…right? This book particularly stuck out because I went in assuming it would be another YA fantasy and it turned out to be sci-fi. While this jarred with a lot of readers, I enjoyed the switch. The novel avoids most cliches and really nails the YA genre with its originality. 


2017 Reading Metrics

Let’s recap: 

2017 Reading Goals:

  • 170 books
  • 25 re-read books
  • Get my to-read list down from 960 to 900 (and keep it there!) 
  • Read some Greek classics and church fathers

And what actually happened? 

2017 Reading Reality:

  • 119 books
  • 12 re-reads
  • To read list: 924
  • Greek classics and church fathers: 0

…Kind of depressing, really. The last time I read so few books it was 2010. And in 2010 I wasn’t really keeping track of what I read, so I might actually have out-read myself then too. I had high expectations for this year…but then I went to camp. And then I went to law school. I guess I have an excuse!

This year I read: 40,247 pages. (Only down 1,162 pages from last year.)  The longest book was Civil Procedures: A Coursebook by Joseph Glannon (aka…my Civ Pro textbook) at 1,287 pages. The shortest book was Enough Rope by Dorothy Parker at 110 pages. My average rating was 3.2 stars. 

Keep an eye out for my annual 5 Star Favorites…coming soon! 


The Downside of Leaving

One of the downsides of moving to the middle of nowhere Idaho to work at camp is that I will have limited access to the internet. My blogging streak which has now lasted almost a year and two months will come to an end after Wednesday.  The upside of this is that when I do have internet, I’ll be uploading amazing pictures of mountains and nature. Stay tuned for that! The downside is, well, no more daily posts from me. 

This really is the end of a season. I’ve grown attached to these daily posts. It has kept me consistent in a way journaling never could. Thank you, readers, for being part of my life. I hope you’ll stick around for the next adventure! 

(And don’t worry, you’ll still have me on the weekends.)

P.S. The other downside to camp is that I won’t have time and/or access to books like I do now so I probably won’t make my goal of 170 this year. *sob*


Meandering Through Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows

Two years after putting it down, I’ve picked up Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling again. It is the last one in the series and I feel like I ought to have read it by now. The thing is…I can’t seem to get into it. Maybe too much time has past since I read book 6. But I tried reading it immediately following book 6 and I still struggled with it. That’s why I put it down! 

A part of me realizes this is a very interesting story but I’m just not feeling engaged with it. I put it down and think, ‘ughhhh, have to pick that back up again.’ To make myself finish, I’ve refused to let myself go to the library and so it is now basically the last book in the library basket. This measure is only partially working, however, because I’ve been inspired to read books I already own and never finished. 

Maybe my problem is with how long it is? That doesn’t normally daunt me, but in this case it feels like I’m not making any progress. 

I know it is dangerous to say anything bad about Harry Potter. I’m ready to accept the consequences because I’m trying. I really am. I’ll finish this! Somehow…someday!