Tag Archives: book challenges

Reading Updates: Halfway Through 2016!


Since we’re halfway through 2016 (what??? how???), I wanted to look back over my reading and see how I’m doing so far this year. Overall, it’s been a really great year for reading–I’ve had 6 five-star reads so far this year, and due to my extreme pickiness, I’m really happy about this. Last year, I only had 4 for the entire year. I feel like overall this year I’ve done a better job picking out books, and I hope that I can continue the good-books streak for the second half of 2016.

So here are my stats so far for 2016:

Number of books read: 45

#readmyowndamnbooks: 19

Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 14 (out of 24)


How am I doing on my goals for 2016? Well…let’s see.

Read more classics. I am doing very poorly on this goal; unless  you stretch the definition of “classic,” I really haven’t read a single one. Wide Sargasso Sea, a feminist reinterpretation of Jane Eyre written in the 1960’s, probably comes the closest.

Read more books by authors I know I love. I’m doing well on this goal so far, having read books by already-favorites Kazuo Ishiguro, Neil Gaiman, Octavia Butler, and Seanan McGuire.

Read more long books. I’m doing OK on this one; I think the longest books I’ve read so far have been The Wise Man’s Fear and A Court of Mist and Fury. I’d really like to get in a few more doorstoppers before the end of the year, though.

Make a dent in my physical TBR shelf. I’ve read a lot of books from my TBR shelf so far, but I’ve also bought a lot of new books, so…

Read at least 50 books. I am crushing this goal–it’s only halfway through the year and I’ve almost hit 50.

Read more books I think I will love, compared to books I will just like. This goal basically meant that I didn’t want to read as many filler-type books that I sometimes pick up because they’re readily available at the library, or cheap, or to get out of a reading slump. I haven’t read any 1- or 2-star books yet this year (!) so I’d consider this a win. I also have 6 5-star books already, which is high for me as I’m super picky about rating books with 5 stars.

Participate in at least one Dewey’s Readathon. I participated in the Readathon in March, although because of work, my participation wasn’t as intense as I’d have liked it to be. But I’m definitely going to participate again in October. Also, the #24in48 readathon is at the end of July, so I’m excited for that.


Goals for the second half of 2016:

Actually read at least one classic, for reals this time.
Examples: Brideshead Revisited, Persuasion, North and South

Read some books by authors I’m embarrassed I haven’t read  yet. Examples: Zadie Smith, Catherynne M. Valente, literally any classic Russian author, Nnedi Okorafor

Finish Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.
10 tasks left!

And…I also wanted to look back at my top ten books for the first half of 2016! I wonder how many of these will end up on my top ten list for the whole year? I guess it depends on how my reading goes during the second half 🙂 The first six of these were 5-star reads (or almost, and rounded up to 5 stars) and the other five were excellent 4-star reads.

The PassionBad FeministWide Sargasso SeaMr. SplitfootMy Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1)Every Heart a DoorwayThe End of Mr. YThe Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)The Story of a New Name (The Neapolitan Novels #2)The Girl Wakes: Stories

The Passion by Jeanette Winterson

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

The Girl Wakes by Carmen Lau

Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante


How is everyone’s reading going so far this year?

Bout of Books Days 1&2 Updates



I love reading challenges. I find they inspire me to read even more than normal, and I like the feeling of picking book options and going with whatever calls to me the most. I also get very Instagram-obsessed during these challenges because I love seeing what other people are reading. So far, days 1&2 of Bout of Books have been great, but the amount of reading I’ve done isn’t quite where I’d wanted it to be. It’s a good thing there’s still 5 days left 🙂 I ended up totally abandoning where I thought I’d go (of course) and not reading any of A Court of Mist and Fury OR My Brilliant Friend during the first two days; instead, I read a short novel and did some audiobooking.

Here’s where I stand at the end of Day 2:

Books finished: 1

What was I reading? Death My Own Way by Michael Graziano and Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (audiobok)

Pages Read: 127

Audiobook time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Mini-Challenges: 1

I participated in the #shelfieforboutofbooks challenges and posted a shelfie of my more organized bookshelf (my other bookshelf is not color-coordinated and the rest of my books are currently stacked on my breakfast bar and in piles in the closet, but this shelf makes me look super organized).



Mini-Review: Death My Own Way by Michael Graziano

This was a very short, philosophical novel about life, death, and art. The premise is that a man with terminal cancer sheds his clothes and former life for an anonymous escape through Central Park; he proceeds to have various encounters that shape his thoughts in different ways. As a reader, you become immersed in the book very quickly, and it’s a good book to read in one sitting. It’s well-written and thought-provoking without being pedantic; in addition to its thoughtfulness, the book is very self-aware and there is a lot of humor. I’d definitely recommend this book; it would actually be perfect for the #Weirdathon!




How is everyone enjoying Bout of Books so far??

#Weirdathon Update: Weeks 1&2



I missed posting my Week 1 update for the #Weirdathon (I was on vacation! Stay tuned for my upcoming post about vacation reading), so here are my combined updates for the first 2 weeks of weird reading in March.



To recap: the #Weirdathon is hosted by Outlandish Lit (http://outlandishlit.blogspot.com/) and for me has been a great excuse to read even more weirdly than I normally do.

So far, the thing that’s surprised me the most about the #Weirdathon is how dependent I’ve become on switching between genres while reading. I’m trying to think if I’ve ever been very good at reading for long periods of time within only one genre, and I’m not sure that I have been. When I’m caught up in a series I tend to want to read straight through (as far as I can until the series ends) but otherwise I’m sort of a genre-hopper. I like to be reading several books at once and I want all those books to be very different from one another. I thought that focusing on weird fiction for a month might prove an exception to my typical reading trend because all of the books’ individual weirdnesses would make them so distinct from one another, but it hasn’t. While I’m loving the focus on reading weirdly, I still apparently have genre ADD; in addition to my weird reading, I’ve finished 2 nonfiction books so far this month.

Here’s how it’s gone down so far:


Weird books I’m currently reading:

The Gone-Away WorldThe End of Mr. Y

The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas

I like both of these a lot so far, but to be honest I’m still at the beginning in both cases. The premises are very promising and also very weird.


Weird books I finished:

The Rook (The Checquy Files, #1)

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley – 4.25 stars

I absolutely loved The Rook. If you enjoy fantasy combined with humor and espionage (who wouldn’t?) you really, really have to pick this one up.

The book’s premise is that a woman wakes up in a park in London with no memories, surrounded by dead bodies wearing latex gloves. From letters she finds in her pockets, she learns that the body she inhabits used to belong to a woman named Myfanwy (rhymes with “Tiffany”) Thomas, a powerful figure in a covert supernatural agency whose function is to protect the United Kingdom from otherworldly threats. The old Myfanwy was forewarned in prophecies that she would lose her memories and that another prominent member of the organization would be responsible; it is up to the new Myfanwy to discover who would conspire against her and why.

Myfanwy’s organization, the Chequy, is populated by memorably unique characters with interesting supernatural powers. There’s a character who can invade and influence dreams; one who can secrete poisons from his skin; and a being with one mind but four distinct bodies. There have been a lot of X-men comparisons, most likely due to the varied powers and existence of a school to train the Chequy’s operatives from childhood, but for me The Rook’s premise is more far-reaching and intriguing. We’re constantly hearing how the Chequy interacts with and provides explanations to the mundane world, and we’re reminded of the complexity of saving the world through the fact that Myfanwy’s position in the organization, despite her formidable powers, is mainly administrative.

The main thing I want to impart about this book is how fun it is. You will get absorbed into the world of the Chequy and invested in its outcome, but at the same time you will be laughing hysterically at the absurdity of the book’s situations and its dry humor. For me, it was a perfect vacation book–consuming, enjoyable, and well-crafted.

But I do have one issue.

While I was reading The Rook, as the concentration of pages gradually shifted from my right hand to my left, I was heartened by the fact that I’d heard its sequel will be released in June. I was so glad that the story and these wonderful characters would continue in another book, since the worldbuilding is, in my opinion, too lush for just one. But then! I found out that the sequel focuses on two new main characters, relegating Myfanwy to the background, and it made me sad. I like her too much, and I’m too invested in her as a character, for her not to be the star of the second book.

So, I’m sad. But will I still read the sequel? Heck yes.


Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Complete!


I’m usually not a huge book challenge person. It’s surprising, since I’m obsessive and book nerdy in all other ways, but I don’t typically set challenges for the year and expect myself to finish them. I will pick an arbitrary number to set as a challenge on Shelfari and Goodreads, but I also cheat by continuously adjusting the numbers throughout the year depending on whether I’m feeling stressed about being behind on my reading or complete it early and feel like I should’ve set a higher goal for myself. But this year I discovered the Book Riot blog, which posts book reviews, lists, and bookish news, and their insightful and intriguing challenge to “read harder” in 2015–to challenge ourselves by reading more widely and pushing our typical genre boundaries. I was hooked. I even bought a “Read Harder” mug. And last week, I finally finished the 24-book challenge.


And I’m so glad I did! I loved finding books to fit the categories–most came directly from my own TBR shelf, and a lot of them I most likely would have read anyways, but some were books that I’ve been meaning to read for awhile and now had a deadline-induced reason to pick up sooner.

Favorite reads of the challenge? So many of them! The best for me were probably Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, and All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang. But there were so many other great ones–a lot of my favorite books of the year came from this challenge.

I was probably most surprised by the audiobook category–I’ve always been best at absorbing information through reading, not listening, and tend to zone out a lot. But the audiobook of Ready Player One was fantastic, and the story transcended the medium in which it was told. I went from being an audiobook snob who thought that listening to books would never work for me to a frequent audiobook listener who uses the books to liven up my commute.

The biggest stretches for me were poetry (because I like reading and thinking deeply about the occasional poem but am not a big fan of reading a lot of poems one after the other) and, surprisingly, a book written before 1850. I used to read a lot of classics (although, in retrospect, this may have been because when I was younger there wasn’t Shelfari or Goodreads and most of my book recommendations came from written lists in my school library) and this challenge really showed me how behind I am on my classics reading. I ended up choosing Northanger Abbey, Jane Austen’s first novel, which is sort of a satire on Gothic romance novels as well as a typical Jane Austen romances, and really enjoyed it. One of my bookish goals for 2016 (blog post for that is upcoming) will definitely be to read a few more classics than in the past years.

Least favorite book of the challenge? Weirdly, this was for the award-winning book category: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I bought this at a library used book sale and thought it sounded like an interesting, intelligent read; what it actually was was pretentious. I hated it. I got it, but I felt like the entire book was just about the author celebrating how smart and tricky he was. I also was not a huge fan of The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, which was my pick for the “retelling of a classic story” category. This was the only book that was a real disappointment for me–the idea of feminist fairy tale retellings sounds right up my alley, but other than the title story, I didn’t really enjoy any of them. They weren’t as creative as I expected, and tended to be very repetitive read one after the other.

Here’s my challenge in its entirety:

✓ 1. A book written by someone when they were under the age of 25
The Mime Order (The Bone Season, #2) by Samantha Shannon The Mime Order by Samantha Shannon

✓ 2. A book written by someone when they were over the age of 65
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion  The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

✓ 3. A collection of short stories
Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link Stranger Things Happen by Kelly Link

✓ 4. A book published by an indie press
All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang All is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost by Lan Samantha Chang

✓ 5. A book by or about someone that identifies as LGBTQ
Carry On by Rainbow Rowell Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

✓ 6. A book by a person whose gender is different from your own
Perdido Street Station (Bas-Lag, #1) by China Miéville Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

✓ 7. A book that takes place in Asia
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

✓ 8. A book by an author from Africa
Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

✓ 9. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture (Native Americans, Aboriginals, etc.)
Euphoria by Lily King Euphoria by Lily King

✓ 10. A microhistory
Stiff The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

✓ 11. A YA novel
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

✓ 12. A sci-fi novel
Cloud Atlas by David MitchellCloud Atlas by David Mitchell

✓ 13. A romance novel
Steel's Edge (The Edge, #4) by Ilona Andrews Steel’s Edge by Ilona Andrews

✓ 14. A National Book Award, Man Booker Prize or Pulitzer Prize winner from the last decade
The Sense of an Ending by Julian BarnesThe Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

✓ 15. A book that is a retelling of a classic story
The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela CarterThe Bloody Chamber and Other Stories by Angela Carter

✓ 16. An audiobook
Ready Player One by Ernest ClineReady Player One by Ernest Cline

✓ 17. A collection of poetry
Ani DiFranco Verses by Ani DiFrancoAni DiFranco: Verses by Ani DiFranco

✓ 18. A book that someone else has recommended to you
The Eyre Affair (Thursday Next, #1) by Jasper Fforde The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

✓ 19. A book that was originally published in another language
The Shadow of the Wind (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books, #1) by Carlos Ruiz ZafónThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

✓ 20. A graphic novel, a graphic memoir or a collection of comics of any kind
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

✓ 21. A book that you would consider a guilty pleasure
I Didn't Come Here to Make Friends Confessions of a Reality Show Villain by Courtney Robertson I Didn’t Come Here to Make Friends: Confessions of a Reality Show Villain by Courtney Robertson

✓ 22. A book published before 1850
Northanger Abbey by Jane AustenNorthanger Abbey by Jane Austen

✓ 23. A book published this year
A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1) by Sarah J. Maas A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J Maas

✓ 24. A self-improvement book
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Now that it’s over, I’m a little sad–and extremely pumped for the 2016 Read Harder Challenge. Bring on the categories, Book Riot! I’m ready to go!