2020 PopSugar Reading Challenge

Here is my plan for the reading challenge. Can’t wait!

A book recommended by your favorite blog, vlog, podcast, or online book club Lovecraft Country Matt Ruff
A book with the same title as a movie or TV show but is unrelated to it The Lucky Ones Mark Edwards
A book that has a book on the cover The Book of Lost Things John Connolly
A book by an author with flora or fauna in their name Little Voices Vanessa Lillie
A book set in a city that has hosted the Olympics Leaving Atlanta Tayari Jones
Book published in the month you were born Joyland Stephen King
Book with a map The Regulators Stephen King
A book published in 2020 If It Bleeds Stephen King
A book my a trans or nonbinary author An Unkindness of Ghosts Rivers Solomon
A book with a great first line Still Life with Woodpecker Tom Robbins
A book about a book club Mayhem at the Orient Express Kylie Logan
A bildungsroman Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe Benjamin Alire Sáenz
The first book you touch on a shelf with your eyes closed Doctor Sleep Stephen King
A book with an upside-down image on the cover Topics About Which I Know Nothing Patrick Ness
An anothology Spoon River Anthology Edgar Lee Masters
A book that passes the Bechdel test The Handmaid’s Tale Margaret Atwood
A book by or about a woman in STEM Cress Marissa Meyer
A book that won an award in 2019 The Testaments Margaret Atwood
A book on a subject you know nothing about Concussion Jeanne Marie Laskas
A book with only words on the cover, no images or graphics Doomsday Book Connie Willis
A book with a pun in the title Ella Minnow Pea Mark Dunn
A book featuring one of the seven deadly sins Misery Stephen King
A book with a robot, cyborg, or AI character Winter Marissa Meyer
A book with a bird on the cover Brief History of Seven Killings Marlon James
A fiction or nonfiction book about a world leader A Warning Anonymous
A book with “gold,” “silver,” or “bronze” in the title The Devil in Silver Victor LaValle
A book by a WOC Children of Virtue and Vengeance Tomi Adeyemi
A book with at least a 4-star rating on Goodreads The Talisman Stephen King
A book you meant to read in 2019 Broken Harbour Tana French
A book about or involving social media If We Had Known Elise Juska
A medical thriller The Farm Joanne Ramos
A book with a made-up language The Country of the Ice Cream Star Sandra Newman
A book set in a country beginning with “C” Dreams of Joy Lisa See
A book you picked because the title caught your attention Gnomon Nick Harkaway
A book with a three-word title The Perfect Nanny Leila Slimani
A book with a pink cover Bunny Mona Awad
A western Inland Tea Obreht
A book about or by a journalist The Girl Who Lived Twice David Langercrantz
Read a banned book during Banned Books Week Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
Your favorite prompt from a past PopSugar challenge- book set in a hotel The Shining Stephen King
A book written by an author in their 20s Everything is Illuminated Jonathan Safran Foer
A book with more than 20 letters in its title The Deep Dark Descending Allen Eskens
A book with 20 in the title 20th Century Ghost Joe Hill
A book published in the 20th century Black House Stephen King
A book with a character with a vision impairment or enhancement Blindness Jose Saramago
A book from a series with more than 20 books The Black Echo Michael Connolly
A book set in Japan Shogun James Clavell
A book with a main character in their 20s The Mothers Brit Bennett
A book by an author who has written more than 20 books The Dark Half Stephen King

2019 PopSugar Challenge complete

book becoming a movie in 2019 Woman in the Window

book that makes you nostalgic The Run of His Life 

book written by a musician The Dead Zone

book you think should be turned into a movie The Hero of Ages

book with at least one million ratings on Goodreads The Alchemist

a book with a plant in the title or on the cover Killers of the Flower Moon

reread of a favorite book The Goldfinch

book about a hobby A Voyage for Madmen

book you meant to read in 2018 Faithful Place

book with pop, sugar, or challenge in the title Challenger Deep

book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing 

a book inspired by mythology, legend, or folklore Circe

book published posthumously I’ll Be Gone in the Dark

book you see someone reading on tv or in a movie A Tale of Two Cities

a retelling of a classic Scarlet

book with a question in the title Who Fears Death

book set on a college campus The Secret History 

book about someone with a superpower Firestarter

book told from multiple character POVs An American Marriage

book set in space Dark age

book by two female authors An Anonymous Girl 

book with a title that contains salty, sweet, bitter, or spicy After Dark, My Sweet

book set in Scandinavia The Bat

book that takes place in a single day 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn

debut novel Children of Blood and Bone

book published in 2019 Parkland

book featuring an extinct or imaginary creature Jurassic Park

book recommended by a celebrity you admire Disappearance at Devil’s Rock

book with love in the title All the Lovely Pieces

book featuring an amateur detective Body in the Library

book about a family The Book of M

book written by an author from Asia, Africa, or South America Six Four

book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title The Fourth Monkey 

book that includes a wedding Well of Ascension

book by an author first last names same letter Carry On

ghost story Heart-Shaped Box

book with a two-word title The Likeness

a novel based on a true story Invention of Wings

book revolving around a puzzle or game Wildcard

your favorite prompt from past challenge Birdman 

climate fiction book Gold Fame Citrus

choose your own adventure book

own voices book Shanghai Girls

read a book during the season it is set in Rage

LitRPG book Warcross

book with no chapters/usual chapters Survivor

two books that share the same title The Girls

book inspired a common phrase or idiom Fangirl

book set in an abbey, cloister, monastery, vicarage, or convent Redwall

The Dead Zone

Every year, I make a point to read old SK books that I have never read before. This year, I read Rage and Firestarter, as well as his newest, The Institute. Once the 2020 PopSugar Challenge comes out, I will see which of his books fit into more categories. It’s been a lot of fun going back and reading the old stuff. And although, I read The Shining decades ago, I think I’m going to reread and then read Doctor Sleep after, which is one I haven’t read.

The Dead Zone follows a young man, Johnny Smith, through an accident. He is in a coma for four years and wakes up with psychic powers. He touches someone and gets flashes of information about their past, but he can also see the future. For example, he sees that someone’s house is on fire and alerts her to call the fire department, which saves her life.

Johnny struggles with his “fame.” He’s a humble, kind man who just wants to be a teacher and fall in love. However, he also feels an obligation to do the right thing. He catches a murderer, tries to tell people about terrible events (most don’t believe him, because, well, he’s a psychic, which is hooey), but he knows his most important job is to stop a dangerous man.

This book was one of the slower ones. I fully expected to love this one and to think Firestarter was going to be a bit dull, but it was the opposite. Although I didn’t review Firestarter, I loved it and was really surprised at how well he captured the psyche of a young girl. But, of course, his books are great. I’m sure there are some that aren’t as great as others, but I have yet to find one that I didn’t enjoy.

14

I like a good creepy story. One that isn’t too graphic or gross but has some mystery and suspense to it. A friend recommended this to me, and the ladies of the Books in the Freezer podcast have mentioned it. This story went places I wasn’t expecting, which was awesome, but the style of writing wasn’t for me. The dialogue felt a bit forced and unnatural. But overall, it was a creative story that I enjoyed.

Nate moves into a dirt cheap apartment in Los Angeles, but he quickly realizes the place isn’t all he had hoped for. A light in his kitchen burns like a black light, although it’s a regular bulb. He notices the building isn’t hooked up to any electrical source. Every apartment is a different size and shape. Some apartments run cold, no matter the weather or temperature. Nate and a few of his neighbors decide to dig into the mysteries. Uncovering said mysteries takes time, and every layer they uncover leads them to a weirder and stranger place.

I can gladly say this isn’t a book about a haunted house, which I was expecting it to be. It took turns that I didn’t see coming. I really enjoyed the mystery behind the building, and specifically, apartment 14. The dialogue wasn’t my favorite part of the book, but that’s just my personal preference. Overall, the book was worth reading, and although not truly horrifying (I wouldn’t put it in the freezer), but definitely creepy and unique.

The Secret History

Donna Tartt has written three books, and her first was in 1992 with The Secret History. Next is The Little Friend, published in 2003 and finally The Goldfinch in in 2013. So about every 10 years, she has a new book. I’m not used to waiting so long in between books. Most authors publish every year or so, George RR Martin aside, of course. Stephen King cranks out two a year, thankfully. Markus Zusak waited 14 years between The Book Thief and Bridge of Clay. But when a book is as good as The Goldfinch or Bridge of Clay is, the wait is most definitely worth it.

The Secret History is set in the 1980s at a small liberal arts school in Vermont. Richard is the new kid in an elite group of students studying Greek intensively. Francis, twins Camilla and Charles, Edmund (Bunny), and Henry grudgingly accept him into the circle, although Richard doesn’t really know what he is getting into. Joining a tight-knit group is extraordinarily difficult in the best circumstances, but whilst in the middle of an academic setting is near impossible.

Richard handles it as well as possible, mostly aided by alcohol. But when the original group gets into some hot water, to say the least, Richard is put into a very difficult situation. They do try to protect him, realizing he is truly innocent, but unfortunately that doesn’t last. Basically, the group does something terrible, tries to keep Richard out of it, but he ends up in it anyway.

This book is a beautiful character portrait, much like The Goldfinch. Plenty of things happen, but the focus on the character is first and foremost. Before the big terrible things happen, you spend half the book wandering around the college with the kids, getting to know and like (or dislike) them, so when the terrible thing happens, you are gut punched by it because you are so wrapped up in their lives.

I really did love this book, though The Goldfinch is her masterpiece (Pulitzer winner for a reason). The Secret History is an excellent, solid debut book.

The Institute

My love of Stephen King has been well documented. I’ve read and reviewed more of his books than any other author’s. I’ve read over half his work and when a new one comes out, I preorder it not even bothering to read the summary. I like being surprised by the subject matter and diving into the story not having any clue where it will lead.

Certain authors only write female characters well, male characters, teenagers, whatever, but King manages to tap into the characters’ psyches and write them authentically and realistically. And it’s hard to write from a kid’s perspective when you are an old man. And make no mistake, King is well removed from his teenage years. But the main character of this one, Luke, is a great kid.

Luke is brilliant. At 12, he’s probably going to start college, if his parents are on board. But Luke’s intelligence isn’t what makes him special. He can make things move. Cabinet doors shut, pizza pans shake, book pages flutter without him even trying. When Luke is kidnapped by people from “The Institute,” he’s thrown into the worst situation possible. He’s been taken to a place with other telekinetic and telepathic kids and experimented on. The sadistic guards and doctors have no concern for the well-being of the children, as long as the kids do what they are told. They are essentially tortured to enhance their abilities. Then they go to the Back Half and are never seen again. What happens in the Back Half is about as bad as you can imagine.

When it comes to King, you really never know what kind of book you will get. And although this one deals with some rather unpleasant things, it’s not true horror like some of his other works. Maybe he’s mellowing out a bit as he ages, or maybe the next book will be flat out graphic horror. That’s what I love though. You really just never know what you’ll get with him.

The Goldfinch

I try to keep up with Pulitzer winners, but many of them are rather dull. I read The Orphan Master’s Son, American Pastoral, The Shipping News, all were rather dull. However, some like The Underground RailroadBeloved, and Middlesex were amazing and worth reading. So when I hear a book has won the Pulitzer, I’m a bit leery. I first read The Goldfinch a few years ago and absolutely fell in love. It was the best book I read that entire year. I’ve recommended it to everyone, but I realize it’s not a book that all will love. It’s not always the most exciting book, but it is beautifully written and kept me engaged from the first page. I reread it in anticipation of the movie coming out this week.

300px-Fabritius-vink

The story of Theodore Decker is a difficult one. His mother is killed in an art museum bombing. Theo was spared, but in a moment of insanity, he steals a painting during the chaos. A simple little painting of a bird. Theo’s entire life revolves around the fear of the authorities discovering the painting. As a teenager, he bundles it up, hides it, doesn’t think much about it. But as an adult, he realizes the magnitude of what he’s done and doesn’t know how to handle it.

The story is told in two big chunks, Theo as a teenager and as an adult. As a teen, he his mother has died, his father abandoned him, and he ends up living with a family friend. Once his dad resurfaces, Theo moves with him to Las Vegas and ends up meeting Boris, a classmate. Boris is hands-down the most interesting character in the book. You love Theo and are heartbroken for his life, but Boris leaps off the page, both in the teenage years and when he reappears in Theo’s adult life.

I don’t want to say much about the plot because it doesn’t go the way you expect, but it all revolves around the painting. Theo is flawed. He’s a drug addict, a thief (aside from the painting), a liar, and you still love him. But Boris is the dynamic one, and I can’t wait to see him portrayed on screen. He equally oozes charm and violence. He’s a scoundrel to the highest degree. But he is loyal and protects Theo. So far the trailers seem to get the book right. I’m cautiously hopeful for this one.