2018 book challenge

book made into a movie you’ve already seen: The Circle

true crime: If I Did It

next book in a series you started: The Silkworm

book involving a heist: The Art Forger

nordic noir: Girl in the Spider’s Web

novel based on a real person: Lincoln in the Bardo

book set in a country that fascinates you: Girl Who Takes and Eye for an Eye

book with a time of day in the title: Midnight Assassin

a book about a villain or antihero: Manson: The Life and Times of Charles Manson

a book about death or grief: The Wild Truth

a book with a female author who uses a male pseudonym: Career of Evil

a book with a LGBTQ protagonist: I’ll Give You the Sun

a book that is also a stage play or a musical: A Raisin in the Sun

a book by an author of a different ethnicity than you: The Rose Society

a book about feminism: Alias Grace

a book about mental health: The Stranger Beside Me

a book you borrowed or that was given to you as a gift: The Fifth Child

a book by two authors: The Calling

a book involving a sport: Dream Team

a book by a local author: Whizbang Machine

a book with your favorite color in the title: Red Moon

a book with alliteration in the title: First Fifteen Lives of Harry August

a book about time travel: Kindred

a book with a weather element in the title: Girl in Snow

a book set at sea: Woman in Cabin 10

a book with an animal in the title: Tell the Wolves I’m Home

a book set on a different planet: Dawn

a book with song lyrics in the title: Ship of Fools

a book about or set on Halloween: Legend of Sleepy Hollow

a book with characters who are twins: Before You Leap

a book mentioned in another book: Invisible Man

a book from a celebrity book club: Big Little Lies

a childhood classic you’ve never read: A Wrinkle in Time

a book that’s published in 2018: TBD

a past Goodreads Choice Awards winner: The Fireman

a book set in the decade you were born: Everything I Never Told You

a book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to: The Stand

a book with an ugly cover: Pimp: The Story of My Life

a book that involves a bookstore or library: Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore

Your favorite prompt from previous challenge: Book over 100 years old: The Moonstone

bestseller from the year you graduated HS: Insomnia

a cyberpunk book: Homeland

a book that was being read by a stranger in a public place: The Robber Bride

a book tied to your ancestry: The Remains of the Day

a book with a fruit or vegetable in the title: Tomato Red

an allegory: The Little Prince

a book by an author with the same first or last name as you: Butterly and the Violin

a microhistory: Stiff

a book about a problem facing society today: Who We Be

a book recommended by someone else taking the challenge: Lamb


2017 book challenge updated and completed

Book recommended by a librarian: TBD Ended up with The Life We Bury
Book that’s been on your TBR list for too long: The Three Musketeers
A book of letters: The Historian
An audiobook: Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (didn’t review. It was SO SO boring)
Book by a person of color: Parable of the Sower
Book with one of the four seasons in the title: Winter’s Tale changed to The Winter Over
A book that is a story within a story: Jellicoe Road
A book with multiple authors: Rage Against the Night (didn’t review, but really enjoyed this)
An espionage thriller: Cryptonomicon
A book with a cat on the cover: Master and the Margarita (started but was bored. Changed to Pet Sematary
A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: the Cuckoo’s Calling
A bestseller from a genre you don’t normally read: Way of Kings (fantasy, ugh) Went with a different book by the same author Misborn
A book by or about a person with a disability: Ghost Boy
A book involving travel: Well of Lost Plots (time travel!) I haven’t been reviewing this series, but I HIGHLY recommended it. It’s the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde
A book with a subtitle: The Sex Lives of Cannibals: Adrift in the Equatorial Pacific
A book published in 2017: The Song Rising (third book in the Bone Season series) I haven’t reviewed this either, but it’s a really fun series. Fantasy YAish
A book involving a mythical creature: Dreams of Gods and Monsters changed to Borne
A book you’ve read before that never fails to make you smile: Subtle Knife
A book about food: The Man Who Ate Everything changed to Hunger
A book with career advice: Masterminds and wingmen (I am raising two boys) Good, but no review needed. Either it pertains to you or it doesn’t
A book from a nonhuman perspective: Watership Down (forgot to review, I guess, but I really liked it)
A steampunk novel: The Golden Compass
A book with a red spine: Sanctuary (Faulkner!)
A book set in the wilderness: All the Pretty Horses changed to White Fang, but didn’t review
A book you loved as a child: Sweet Valley Confidential (loved the series in middle school)
A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: HP and the Cursed Child
A book with a title that is a character’s name: Lisey’s Story
A novel set in wartime: 1984
A book with an unreliable narrator: Annihilation (love this series!!)
A book with pictures: TBD Hamilton
A book with a main character that’s a different ethnicity than you: The Joy Luck Club (can’t believe I didn’t review this. I loved it)
A book about an interesting woman: TBD but this won’t be hard to find (went with the last book in the Thursday Next series)
A book set in two different time periods: It
A book with a month or a day of the week in the title: December
A book set in a hotel: The Hotel on Place Vendome: Life, Death, and Betrayal at the Hotel Ritz in Paris (didn’t review. So boring)
A book written by someone you admire: Mycroft Holmes (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a childhood hero of mine, and his opinion pieces are fantastic)
A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: A Monster Calls (a reread. What an amazing book) WHY WHY WHY didn’t I review this??? It’s amazing!!!
A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: The Halloween Tree (about the history of Halloween. Was okay)
The first book in a series you’ve never read before: The Young Elites
A book you bought on a trip: American Pastoral (I was expecting better. Just very dull)

A book recommended by an author you love: The Troop (Stephen King recommended)
A bestseller from 2016: The Underground Railroad
A book with a family member term in the title: Daughters of the North
A book that takes place over a character’s life span: Life After Life
A book about an immigrant or a refugee: Alexander Hamilton (didn’t review. Great bio)
A book from a genre/subgenre that you’ve never heard of: S by JJ Abrams (Ergodic literature)
A book with an eccentric character: Sherlock Holmes (didn’t review. He’s just so well known)
A book that’s more than 800 pages: Carrion Comfort
A book you got from a used book sale: the second Way of Kings book (changed to In the Woods)
A book that’s mentioned in another book: Tales of Beedle the Bard (no review needed)
A book about a difficult topic: The Hour I First Believed (about school shooting)
A book based on mythology: Lost Hero changed to Dreams of Gods and Monsters, but I didn’t review it. Really great, smart YA fantasy trilogy.

Desert Flowers

Big thanks to Goodreads for this free book! I have discovered that they now have Kindle book giveaways and not as many people enter these, so the odds of winning are greater. I’ve won a couple actual books, but several Kindle books. I’m picky about which giveaways I enter, too. Nothing too sad, dramatic, or romantic in nature, so I’m only entering a few here and there and am still winning books, so you should look into this!

So, this book was one that sounded intriguing enough to enter, but I didn’t remember a lot about it when I picked this one to read (back to Kindle lottery system. Literally, I pick a page using a random number generator and then a book with the same system. It’s brilliant. Desert Flowers was the lucky winner. The story takes place in Mexico, a hundred miles from anything. The father, Elmer, drives that distance to a job every day, leaving his wife, Rose, and daughters, Iris, Melissa, Daisy, and Dahlia (all flower names and they live in the desert, hence the title) behind. The family has a secret and keeps to themselves, aside from one daughter at a time visiting town once a month and a teacher coming to visit to educate the girls. Aside from that, they are completely isolated with no phone. One day, a traveler comes to the house. This immediately seems fishy because they are so remote, but this guy, Rick, swears he was there at random, had just been walking and stumbled into their area. We quickly learn Rick isn’t truthful and has secrets of his own. About halfway through the book, revelations begin pouring forth. They were believable and seemed to come out naturally. There were a few plot points that were a bit forced, but overall, the book was interesting.

This book was translated into English (from Spanish) and I wonder if anything was lost in the process. This book was very much character and plot driven, rather than language driven, so I would guess that not much would change. This book is 3.99 on Amazon right now and is worth reading, overall, but I’m not sure I would buy it. Maybe check your local library for this one.

The Southern Reach trilogy

My very favorite trilogy is His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. See reviews here: The Golden Compass and here: The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. And when I first read the Southern Reach trilogy, I had found my second favorite. A friend recommended the first book to me, but I was skeptical. I had read so many dystopian novels that finding any that were good and well-written just seemed like an impossible task. But I gave it a go. And I devoured the first book in days. It was terrifying. And it was brilliant. It was just as much science fiction as it was horror, and it was a perfect blend of the two. So, with the new movie coming out, trailer, I decided to give the books a reread. Here’s a link to the review of the first book, Annihilation, that I wrote a few months ago.

After the first reading of the trilogy, the second book, Authority, was my favorite. Book one takes place in Area X and book two takes place in the Southern Reach, which oversees Area X and the expeditions sent there. The third book combines the two areas and books, sort of. This time around, I think the third book is my favorite because so many crazy things happen that you just can’t see coming. There are horrifying events that happen in every book, but there’s scene that stands out in the second one that absolutely made shivers run down my spine, though.

There are many questions presented in the first book that are definitively answered in the second and third, but not everything is tied up for us. And I was okay with that, even after the first reading. After this second time around, I feel like I uncovered even more answers, since I knew where the story was ultimately heading. I know others who read the trilogy that were disappointed, and I get that, but I felt like I got more answers than I was expecting. The author, Jeff VanderMeer has written another, unrelated book Borne that has been also well-reviewed. He’s an author that I can guarantee I will read everything he publishes.

Turtles All the Way Down

I have a lot of respect for John Green and the books he writes. He doesn’t shy away from difficult topics, and his characters are real. I feel like so much YA lit today is so unrealistic and watered down. I get that a lot of it is escapist, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t also be honest, so I appreciate books where the characters deal with difficult stuff and frequently fail at it.

And this one hit home. Hard. The main character, Aza, has anxiety. She gets into thought spirals that she has trouble escaping. She is constantly worried about germs, C diff, infections, etc. And, my gosh, can I relate to this. This book was really difficult for me to read because it was so accurate. And while Aza seems to struggle more than I do, her thoughts are my thoughts a lot of the time. I related to her in such a basic way. I have had anxiety most of my adult life. I was okay as a teenager, but it has definitely ramped up in the past decade.

The story just follows Aza and her circle of friends trying to solve a mystery. The plot isn’t all that complicated, or even all that interesting, but being inside her head is the best (and worst) part of this book. As hard as this book was to read, I still enjoyed it because how easy it was to relate to Aza and her best friend, Daisy. Daisy doesn’t have anxiety and she struggles with how to help Aza. She is also frustrated with how Aza gets wrapped up in her own thoughts. But the thing about anxiety is that the person truly can’t help it. Anxiety isn’t being self centered or narcissistic. The anxious person doesn’t WANT to have these thoughts, doesn’t enjoy having these thoughts. So the struggle is keeping them at bay while preserving some kind of life outside of them. It is hard and John Green captured this struggle well.

Dear Martin

Let me get right to the point. This is one of the best YA books I’ve read in ages. Most YA these days is just drivel. Maybe it’s because I’m not in that age range anymore, but I feel like so much of it is watered down with nonsense. Finding a well-written book with meaning and heart is hard to find. But, this book has it all. I was so moved by the book’s first chapter that I decided to live tweet as I was reading, which I haven’t done in I don’t know how long.

Justyce is a black teenager from a single mom household. He goes to a very expensive private prep school. He doesn’t have money, but has great grades, a good head on his shoulders, and aspirations to be something great. But he is struggling with who he is and his place in the world. In the first chapter, he has a run-in with a police officer who gives Jus zero opportunity to speak, explain, or justify his actions. Jus was simply trying to help someone he cares about, and the officer jumped to conclusions and slapped Jus in cuffs. Sound familiar? This story draws from what is happening today and is relevant in so many ways.

Justyce quickly gets the situation resolved, but doesn’t forget what those cuffs feel like. He begins writing to Dr. Martin Luthur King, Jr. (hence the Dear Martin title) and you get some first person insight into Justyce’s life. The rest of the story is told in third person. There are several white kids in the book that are perfect representatives of white privilege and ignorance. There are a few conversations between these teens in class that just made me cringe because I’ve heard these words time and time again, whether it be in my own classroom, the hallways, or on the Internet. There are white people in Justyce’s life who, thankfully, aren’t ignorant and are very aware of their privilege, namely his debate partner, Sarah Jane and her family.

There are many things I want to say about the book’s plot, but I hesitate to give anything away. Let me just say that the book takes a turn that I didn’t want it to and it broke my heart. But what happens is today and now and relevant and current and impactful and powerful and honest and I could go on and on. At just over 200 pages, this is a book that is accessible to students who might not like to read because books can be intimidating. What the author, Nic Stone, has done is create a story that is meaningful to teenagers (all people really, but especially teens) today. The situations Justyce and his friends (and enemies, even) find them in are recognizable and probably ones that readers have already faced. Kids need to read this book. Teachers need to teach this book. Libraries need to purchase this book in multitudes. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

Parable of the Talents

This book freaked me out. Entirely. My jaw literally dropped as I was reading it. See my review of the first book in the series here: Parable of the Sower. And as much as I liked Sower, this one just absolutely blew me away. Because in 1998, Octavia Butler saw the future. She knew we would be making American great again. I shit you not.

Jarret is the hypothetical president of the United States in this future society. His followers are uneducated and zealous. They will follow him anywhere in the name of Christianity and “progress.”

Our story picks up a few years after Sower ends. The family Lauren haphazardly collects has started to thrive and Earthseed is spreading. I love that fighting the evils of Christianity, within this book, means creating a new religion of love and change. Because the Christians in the book are evil, plain and simple. Not all, of course, but enough that it is a major issue in the book. The story is Lauren’s, but some details are added by another narrator, who I won’t name here to avoid spoilers.

This is just a two book set, and it is worth every word. I don’t know how Butler did it, but she had the foresight almost 20 years ago to know where our country was headed. I look forward to reading much more from her.