Showing posts with label 2013 tbr challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2013 tbr challenge. Show all posts

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Challenges Wrap-Up

Oh, my 2013 reading challenges.  I knew from the start that I was taking on too much, but did I let that stop me?  No, of course not!

As a reminder, I took on five different challenges this year.  Some were completed...and some were epic fails.  Let's review!

1. Around The World in 12 Books Challenge: 58-67% completed
This book challenged me to read 1 book/month from a different country around the world.  This is COMPLETELY up my alley, and I was super excited for the push to read more internationally-set literature.  I did great with this challenge until we moved in August.  At that point, I got so busy that I was pretty much just reading what I had on hand, most of which was not set in the countries posed in this challenge.

Thus, sadly, I only completed 7 out of the 12 countries on the list.  HOWEVER, I did just pick up John Updike's Brazil, in hopes of being able to check off one more (plus I noticed on my 2013 Reading Map (see below) that South America was severely lacking--so I figured if I was going to add in one more country, it should be from there).  Hopefully I can finish it before the end of the month, bringing me up to 8 out of 12!
My 2013 reading map...shows all of the locations/settings of the novels I've read this year!  Sorry to Australia and South America.  lol.
2. Monthly Keyword Challenge: 100% completed!

This challenge was a lot of fun, and pretty easy to complete, given the flexibility of the rules.  Each month had a list of several words you could choose from, and you had to read a book that contained one of those keywords in the title.  Part of what made this easier for me is that the rules said it was OK to read the books in a different month than when the word was posted...so for example, the book I used for the June keyword was actually read in May.  As a result, I was able to wrap this one up in November.  Woohoo!

3. Mount TBR Challenge: 12.5% completed (ugh)

Oy vey, I did poorly here.  My goal was to read at least 24 books from my at-home TBR pile, and I was trying to only count paper books (not Kindle books), in an effort to clear my shelves a little bit.  I only managed THREE.  I blame this on two things: tons of ARCs (which are so hard for me to resist!) and the rest of these challenges (which often required me to use the library in order to find a book that fit a specific challenge).  Next year I am definitely cutting back on ARCs (and challenges!), so I'm hoping to try this one again.

4. Foodies Read Challenge: 100% completed!

I have no problem reading food books 'til the cows come home.  I finished this one mid-year and still read more of them before the end of the year...easy peasy!

5. Audiobook Challenge: 100% completed!

I am thankful that I finished this one just before we moved.  I used my commutes to/from work to listen to audiobooks all the time, so this was easy to finish by mid-year...but nowadays, I am hardly ever in the car, so I would have found it impossible to complete after I quit my job!  Definitely not one I will be able to do in 2014.

So there you have it: 3 challenges completed, 1 about halfway completed, and 1 miserable fail.  Not so bad, I suppose!  I'm pretty sure that my only challenge for next year will be Mount TBR, but we shall see.

How did your 2013 reading challenges go?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Book Review: July 7th by Jill McCorkle


Title: July 7th
Author: Jill McCorkle
Publisher: Penguin
Publication Date: September 3, 1985
Source: received as a gift

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Just after midnight Charles Husky, the cerk at the Quik-Pik in Marshboro, North Carolina, is found lying facedown near the Slurpee machine, suffocated with Saran Wrap. For the next twenty-four hours, novelist Jill McCorkle brings us into the lives of a cast of delightful small-town characters as they sort through the facts.

My Review:

This book came to my attention last Christmas morning.  I unwrapped a package from my husband, saw this book, and was immediately delighted.  You see, Small Fry's birthday is July 7th, so I thought it was pretty cool that DH hunted down the one random novel that happened to have that very title.  At the time I'd never heard of it, but I intended to save it and review it for you on (you guessed it) July 7th, in celebration of Small Fry's second birthday.


Well, you know my life has been crazy lately, so yes...I'm reviewing July 7th on July 11th.  Close enough though, right?  (And side note, Small Fry had a great birthday on Sunday.  I can't believe how big he is getting:)

Wait, book review?  Okay, let's get to that.

After I finished the last page, this book left me wondering how to pin down its genre.  It has a little bit of everything.  It's part murder mystery and part family drama.  It's romantic, humorous, and introspective all at the same time.  I'll admit that this could be a little disorienting, as I wondered what the author's central purpose was for much of the novel.  But in the end, I think it works and it has a little something for everybody.  I'd say it's especially good as a summer read, since the more serious parts are often lightened by the humorous situations and coincidences in which many of the characters find themselves.

The story begins and ends with Sam Swett, a recent college graduate who hitchhikes down I-95 and ends up abandoned and drunk at a truck stop in Marshboro, North Carolina.  Sam is trying to find his place in the world by observing others; this seems to be his attempt to find meaning in life, by discovering how others do so.  And he certainly gets to do a lot of observing in Marshboro.  At the truck stop, he witnesses a murder, and is quickly pulled into the life of this small town as its citizens attempt to figure out the identity of the culprit.

The introspective, serious nature of Sam's personality is quickly levied by the quirky cast of characters that he meets in Marshboro.  Granner, the 83-year-old woman celebrating her birthday, who's convinced she is being courted by a "foreigner" over the phone...Bob Bobbin, the local cop who sees himself as a real macho-Casanova...Juanita Weeks, who recently cheated on her husband but "didn't mean it"...the list goes on.  All of their stories overlap over the course of this one day (July 7th) in some very odd and hilarious ways.

I was impressed by McCorkle's ability to balance Sam's character with the big personalities of Marshboro's citizens.  While the situations they ended up in often made me laugh, McCorkle always brings you back to Sam: how he is processing the situation, what he's learning about himself, etc.  And the end of the novel wraps that up nicely, as Sam finally makes a decision about his next steps in life.  Despite the silliness of some of the things that happen on July 7th, in the end, the book does make you think about finding purpose in life, the meaning of "happiness", etc.

I've got to say, I was pleasantly surprised by this book.  It's a lighter read that still has a thoughtful message behind it, and the author balances her characters perfectly.  (Plus, who doesn't love a novel written in the 80's?  Hot pink shorts, high teased hair, "going steady", Princess Diana references left and right...AMAZING.  You should read it for that reason alone.)  July 7th definitely makes me curious about McCorkle's other novels, and I hope to check one out soon.

Now...it's GIVEAWAY TIME!

See, my husband had a little issue with Amazon when he ordered this for me, and he ended up getting 2 copies for the price of one.  You know I'm a good book blogger when my first reaction to that was, "AWESOME, the second one can be a giveaway copy!!!!"  Always thinking of you, readers.  Always.

So, this giveaway is for one (used) paperback copy of July 7th by Jill McCorkle.  Giveaway is open to US/Canada only, and will be open through July 17th.  Use the Rafflecopter below and get entered, y'all!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two Challenges DOWN!

I am pretty proud of myself, reader friends.  Remember all those crazy challenges I signed up for this year?  Of the five, I've already finished TWO!  And it's not even the halfway point of the year.  PATS ON THE BACK, YO.

The two that I finished are:

Audiobook Challenge (hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner)

I signed up to listen to at least 6 audiobooks and finished it when I completed The Round House last week.  I considered upping it to the next level (12 audiobooks), but I am going to lose my work commute in August when we move, so chances are I wouldn't make it.  However, I do hope to squeeze in another 1-2 before then.

Foodies Read Challenge (hosted by Foodies Read)

This wasn't tough, since I love food books so much!  I signed up for Pastry Chef level (4-8 food books) and hit #4 when I finished Pollan's Cooked last week.  I may throw in a few more throughout the year, but probably not enough to get above 8, so I'd say I'm done at this point.

As for my other three challenges...two are going great.  They are both monthly challenges (with a different category to fill each month) so I can't finish them until December, but so far I am right on track with both.  That's the Keyword Challenge and the Around The World in 12 Books Challenge.  As for the fifth one...let's just say the TBR Challenge is going to be a total wash.  I signed up to read 24 books from my TBR pile at home and so far I've read...1.  LAAAAAAAAAAAAME.  But there are just too many good library books and ARCs right now!!  Maybe next year...

Did you sign up for any 2013 challenges?  How are they going so far?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

So how are those challenges going? *squirm*

Remember all those awesome reading challenges that I was posting about late last year?  Just to refresh your memory, psycho-me signed up for 5 challenges for 2013.  Now that we're 25% into the year, I figured I would keep myself honest by reporting my progress (or lack thereof) to my reading audience.

Without further ado!

Challenge #1: Around The World in 12 Books Challenge
Read 1 book a month, each from a different specified country.
I'm not doing too bad here.  I kept up with the January and February countries, but fell a little behind with March (I have just a few pages left in my Wales novel now, so only a few days behind!).  I am hoping to read my Fiji book on time this month, and get back on track.

Current Grade: B+

Challenge #2: Monthly Keyword Challenge
Read 1 book a month, each with a different keyword in the title.
Pretty much the same as Challenge #1.  Did great with January/February, but my Wales book is doubling as my March keyword book, so I will be a few days late getting this one finished up.  Looking to get back on track in April!

Current Grade: B+

Challenge #3: Foodies Read Challenge
Read 4 food-related books.
I've completed 1 out of the 4 books that I signed up to read here, so I guess I'm right on track.  I have eleventy billion food books checked out from the library right now (as you can see here), so hopefully I will tuck another one under my belt soon.

Current Grade: A

Challenge #4: Audiobook Challenge
Listen to at least 6 audiobooks.
Doing awesome on this one!!  I only signed up to finish 6 audiobooks this year, but I've already done 4.  It helps that I listen to them so much during my commutes.  I may actually raise the bar here and go for the next level up (12).

Current Grade: A++

Challenge #5: Mount TBR Challenge
Read at least 24 books from my at-home TBR pile.
This one is going to be a total wash.  I have only read ONE out of the 24 books I was hoping to take off my TBR pile this year.  There is no way I'm going to finish this one, especially given all the review copies that I have coming up in May/June.  I'll honestly be surprised if I make it to 10 by the end of the year.  And this is all not to mention the TONS of new books I've added to my possession the last few months.  FAIL!

Current Grade: F-

Readers, did you sign up for any reading challenges this year?  How are they going so far?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book Review: Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad



Title: Heart of Darkness
Author: Joseph Conrad
Publisher: Blackwoods Magazine (originally published there in three parts)
Publication Date: 1899
Source: personal purchase

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

One of Conrad's finest stories, loosely based on the author's experience of rescuing a company agent from a remote station in the heart of the Congo, Heart of Darkness is set in an atmosphere of mystery and lurking danger, and tells of Marlow's perilous journey up the Congo River to relieve his employer's agent, the fabled and terrifying Mr. Kurtz. What Marlow sees on his journey horrifies and perplexes him, and what his encounter with Kurtz reveals calls into question all of his assumptions about civilization and human nature. 

My Review:

Last week, when I reviewed Just One Day, I was complaining to myself that there is nothing harder than reviewing a book that is a wildly-popular current fave.  But I was wrong--it's harder to review a classic!  What can you say about a book that's been around for 100+ years that hasn't already been said?

And what if you thought it was...just okay?  How do you approach a review of a classic with, "Eh, you know, it was so-so"?  English professors the world over would promptly drop dead.

Well, English profs, get your heart meds handy, because Heart of Darkness is going solidly in my "meh" category.  (The horror!)

...yes, that was a bit of a meta-joke, for those who got it.

Anyway, I think part of the issue for me was that my expectations were high.  I had no idea that the movie Apocalypse Now was based on this novella, and I think we can all agree that Apocalypse Now is a fan-friggin-tastic movie.  So when I found that out, I was pretty stoked.  However, I quickly realized that the movie is based more on the themes and tone of this book, rather than the actual details.

Heart of Darkness is the tale of Marlow, currently on a ship in England, who is telling his shipmates about a previous journey he took as a steamboat captain in the Belgian Congo.  The purpose of this journey was to recover Mr. Kurtz, an ivory trader gone rogue in the wilderness.  Which, if you've seen the movie, will get you amped up for some really weird stuff, because the movie-version Kurtz (Marlon Brando) is CRAY-CRAY.  However, the book-version Kurtz actually has very little physical presence in the story--he is only around for a small portion of it.  Instead, the "idea" of him and what he represents plays a much bigger role in the plot than what he actually says and does.

Don't get me wrong, the book is not a total disappointment.  I understand why it's used so much in literature classes, because Conrad touches on a lot of important themes (good vs evil, roles of women, colonialism, etc).  And the narrative style is interesting: Marlow is telling the story to his shipmates, so you get steeped in the plot for a while, and then randomly get pulled out of it as Marlow jumps back to present day at times. If I felt like doing a lot of analysis and interpretations, there's plenty here to keep me busy.  However, as far as just straight entertainment value, the book moved a lot slower than I expected, and ended on a rather anticlimactic note.

Overall, it's a classic, so I won't deter anyone from reading it.  It's one of those books you just have to say you've read at some point (at 105 pages, you have no excuse!).  But it's certainly a book to save for when you have the time for thoughtful reflection.

What are some of the best classics you've read lately?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Challenges!

OK y'all, I signed up for 4 more 2013 reading challenges.  Everybody, STOP POSTING AWESOME CHALLENGES.  I can't stop signing up for them.

I'm really done now though.  I already told you about the Monthly Keyword Challenge, and now I also am declaring:

Around The World in 12 Books Challenge, hosted by Giraffe Days
This is going to be SO FUN.  I love to travel, and doing it through books is fun too!

Mount TBR Challenge, hosted by My Reader's Block

I've signed up to read Mont Blanc (at least 24 books from my TBR pile).

Foodies Read Challenge, hosted by Foodies Read
 
I've signed up for Pastry Chef level (4-8 food-related books).

Audiobook Challenge, hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner

I've signed up for Flirting (listening to at least 6 audiobooks).

No more challenges, Kelly.  NO MORE.

(But look at them all...aren't they pretty...)

You can keep track of my progress next year on my 2013 Challenges page.
 
Imagination Designs