Tag Archives: reading challenge

Reading Challenges for 2016

Time to set some reading challenges for the year. I’ve decided I want some challenges that will stretch my reading habits without being too difficult for me to keep track of. I did a nonfiction challenge for a few years until I decided I like to read nonfiction and read it just for fun. Then, I did a Pulitzer Prize challenge for a few years, and again, I’m reading it just because I want to. Having a challenge isn’t going to encourage me to read any more Pulitzer Prize winners than without it, so I won’t bother again.

So, challenges I will be doing:

#1 – I will continue the alphabet challenge, with the tweak of the X, Y, and Z counting as a single category. I know I actually finished this challenge this past year, but it does stretch my reading in an interesting way. It’s easy enough to keep track of, especially since the kids also participate. I’ve got to give it a new name, though. How about Reading the Alphabet Challenge.

#2 – I’m going to try to hit 100 books again this year. I’m going to state for the record that I will count audio books, but not graphic novels. I let the kids count them, but graphic novels are just too quick for me to read. I’ll call it the Maybe 100 This Year Challenge

#3 – For something new, I’m going to try to read 10 newly published books. I can never quite manage one a month, but 10 books published in 2016 should be doable. I’ll call it a New Books Challenge.

#4 – And finally, for something old, I’m going to add some rereading to my plate. I nearly finished the Game of Thrones rereading (I’m reading the last one right now). I’m going to reread David Brin’s Uplift series. After reading Existence, I was reminded how good that series was, but it’s been at least a decade since I’ve read them.

If you prefer your reading challenges to have a few more categories, there are some options out there for you.

The Modern Mrs. Darcy has a “one category a month” approach

Popsugar goes for 40 different categories. There’s bound to be a few that appeal to you and a few to stretch your reading chops.

Tim Challies has a tiered approach of categories, depending on how much you read. He has a number of Christian categories on his list.

And finally, you can try a keyword approach to your titles with the Book Coma blog.

So, anyone want to join me in a reading challenge? It’s a good excuse to read more books!

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2014: Year in Review

Yes, I know I’m late getting on the bandwagon of looking back on 2014. I was behind on book reviews and wanted to make sure all my 2014 books were reviewed before I looked back on the year.

So, how did I do on my reading challenges? Let’s take a look.

100 Book Challenge: I was so close this year at 98 books. If I would stop reading such long books (I read 12 books over 500 pages, although no 1000+ page books) I might actually reach 100. I’ll try again this year.

Check Off Your Reading List: I wanted to read a Pulitzer Prize winner a month, and I didn’t make it. Instead of reading 12 Pulitzer’s, I only read nine. However, if you include books that won any award, I made it to 17. So, I’ll count it as a qualified success.

Global Reading Challenge: Of the seven continents, I only got five. Turns out, I’m not good at picking books because of their setting.

Back to the Classics: There were six main categories and five optional categories. I managed eight out of the 11 categories, and while I put Justin Morgan Had a Horse in the historical fiction category, it would also have fit in the classic by an author new to me category, so I’m counting this challenge completed. Of the books in the challenge, I only read one (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain) specifically for the challenge.

Alphabet Soup Challenge: This was another challenge I got close on but just couldn’t finish. I was missing an I author (I started a John Irving book at the end of the year, so that will be my first book for 2015), an X author, and a Y and Z title. I do like the alphabet challenge, so I’ll continue this one in the future. Our family has a big chart in a hall with columns for myself, Mr. Curiosity and Miss Adventure to record our alphabet challenge books. I like that we can all participate.

For challenges this year, I probably won’t do so many. The alphabet challenge will stay, and I’m still working on my Pulitzer Prize list. We’ll see what else I can come up with, but it probably won’t be much. Any more than those two categories just feels like too much work.

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New Year’s Resolution reading challenges

Last year was the first year I participated in a reading challenge. Before that, I’d always created my own challenges. Now that I know about the challenges, I decided to look for some new ones to join for the new year. Kelly, over at Reading Daydreams and Nightmares is a self-proclaimed reading challenge addict, so I used her list of reading challenges to find some new ones for myself. I’m not going to go as crazy as she has, but I did find a couple I was interested in.

awb2013_purpleI’m sticking with the Award Winning Book Challenge hosted by Gathering Books. I anticipate seeking out one Pulitzer Prize winning book a month, which would put me at Level 2 and give me a Silver Medal when I was done. I do have a long reading list, and some of the science fiction and fantasy books I read have won awards, so I’ll probably end up with more than 12, but I don’t see myself getting over 25 in this category to move me up to Gold Medal level.

nerdy nonfictionSticking with the theme categories, I’m going to do a non-fiction reading challenge as well. I’ve enjoy reading nonfiction (it was a new year’s resolution several years ago), so I’m going to aim for one nonfiction book a month, just like the award winning books. In the Nerdy Nonfiction Challenge, hosted by Bookmark to Blog, that will put me at the Dweeb level for nonfiction.

readalattechallenge_zps01d248d0Next is the Read-a-Latte Challenge hosted by Kimberly’s Bookshelf. I nearly hit 100 books this year, so I’m going to go for the Cappucino level of 100. I know for sure I’ll be over 75, so that level is just too easy. Although, since I can’t count any audio books, I will be counting all the chapter kids books that are evening read-alouds. All the new books I read, though, will fulfill this challenge, so it shouldn’t be too hard to do.

2013BingoChallengeButton-01Mr. Curiosity and I are both going to try the 2013 Book Bingo Challenge. I’m not sure how awesome we’ll end up being (see the “Ways to Be Awesome” at the end of the post I linked to), but I know we’ll each be able to get at least one bingo on the board.

BINGOChallenge2013Scorecard-01

Finally, the whole family will be doing the A-Z reading challenge hosted by Babies, Books, and Beyond. The goal is to read a book whose title starts with each letter of the alphabet. Rules allow X to be found somewhere in the title, but the rest need to be at the beginning. We’re all going to go with option B, picking our books as we go along, and I’ll keep a separate list for each of us. I think even Miss Adventure will be able to read her own books this year.

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March by Geraldine Brooks

No special review this week. Just another book review (to make up for the one I missed on Sunday night because we spent the day at Lego Kids Fest).

March_brooksPublished: 2006

Genre: historical fiction

Length: 280 pages

Setting: 1860s in the Civil War, with flashbacks to 20 years earlier

Interest: I was looking for a Pulitzer Prize winner, and when I saw this was based on the father from Little Women, I couldn’t resist since Little Women was a favorite of mine when I was younger.

Summary: We follow Mr. March as he acts as a chaplain for a band of Northern soldiers as they fight in the South. He comes across a plantation he visited as a peddler 20 years ago, which leads to flashbacks of his life as a peddler, meeting his wife, starting his family, losing his fortune, and heading off to war. He gets sent away from his soldiers and stationed with some freed slaves (contraband slaves) working a cotton plantation. The Confederated burn the crop and try to kill him and the overseer. March escapes, but gets very sick. Marmee comes to D.C. to nurse him and learns some details of his past (how he pined after the slave who was currently nursing him). The book ends with him coming home.

Final thoughts: A perfectly delightful book that lived up to my expectations. It perfectly captured the feel of Little Women, as well as the hardships of the Civil War. I loved getting some backstory on Marmee, and the events of Little Women were woven in expertly. Poor Mr. March never lived up to his standards, and we learn from the second part (that is told from Marmee’s point of view) that he really has no clue what his wife is thinking either. A satisfying, enjoyable book all around that I highly recommend to anyone who enjoyed Little Women and is looking for the adult version of the story.

Title comes from: The main character is Mr. March

Awards won: The Pulitzer Prize in 2006

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Possession by A. S. Byatt

Published: 1990

Genre: fiction

Length: 555 pages

Setting: England in the 1990s, and a bit in Victorian times

Interest: One of Time magazine’s 100 best English-language books from 1923-2005.

Summary: Roland Michell is a post-doc studying the Victorian poet R. A. Ash when he comes across some rough drafts of a very passionate letter never before seen. In chasing down who the letters were potentially sent to, Roland is led to Maud Bailey, who studies a contemporary of Ash, Charlotte LaMotte. Maud and Roland search for clues among letters and journals for a torrid affair between Ash and LaMotte. They hide their findings from their superiors, for a while, but eventually everything gets out in the open. Most of the book we’re in modern times, but parts of the book are set in Ash and LaMotte’s world.

Final thoughts: It turned out to be a very sweet story. We got to watch a love story unfold in the preset and in the past and everyone had a purpose by the end.

Title comes from: The idea of possession, starting from Roland taking and wanting Ash’s letters.

Awards won: 1990 Booker Prize

*Sorry this book review is up a bit late. I had a late hockey game last night and forgot to post before I went to bed. Enjoy!

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Gateway by Frederik Pohl

Published: 1977

Genre: classic science fiction

Length: 278 pages

Setting: far future Earth and surrounding space

Interest: It’s a science fiction classic (see the list of awards won). I like to read some of the oldies-but-goodies as well as the new stuff.

Summary: We follow the story of Robinette Broadhead. He is currently on Earth and being analyzed by a computer acting as a psychiatrist. In a series of flashbacks, we see how Broadhead got the point were he felt he needed therapy. He had been a prospector on Gateway, a satellite built by the elusive Heechee, an alien race known only from their artifacts discovered in various locations. On Gateway, there were hundreds of spaceships that would go out to a programmed destination and back. Gateway Corporation paid prospectors to try different setting in the hopes of discovering aliens or new alien technology. The rewards were high because the ships often never returned or the prospectors were injured on the trip. Broadhead was usually too scared to try a trip, although occasionally he’d go with his girlfriend, Klara. As we get his backstory in bits and pieces, we also see his antagonistic relationship with his holographic therapist.

Final thoughts: A fine enough story that had an interesting set-up, since every other page was a bit of ephemera relating to Gateway or Broadhead’s analysis, but I didn’t really like either Broadhead or Klara. He was selfish and whiny and the twist at the end that explained his trauma didn’t redeem his for me. I was just more annoyed he couldn’t let it go and move on. I think part of the annoyance was that it was written in the 70s, and styles have changed significantly since there. Pohl’s depiction of women in particular wasn’t particularly positive. Also, while the story at Gateway was interesting, the story with the computer psychiatrist was annoying. Any time we were in the present, I hurried through to get to the good stuff on Gateway. Apparently, Gateway is the first in a series, but I don’t think I’ll bother with the others.

Title comes from: Gateway was where all the action was in the story.

Awards won: 1977 Nebula Award, and the 1978 Hugo Award, Locus Award, and John W. Campbell Award (see – a classic novel that was seen as quality back in the day.)

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The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo

Read by: Graeme Malcolm

Published: 2006

Genre: YA fantasy

Length: 262 pages, 3 hours 31 minutes

Setting: a castle in a Middle Ages setting

Interest: I was looking for some audio books for our long drive to Charleston. I picked up this one because I’ve enjoyed DiCamillo’s work in the past and she’s known as a good YA author. It’s a book I’ve seen around, but haven’t been able to convince Mr. Curiosity to read on his own.

Summary: Despereaux is a mouse. He’s the only surviving mouse in his litter, the last his mother is willing to have. Not only is he a very tiny mouse with large ears, he doesn’t act like a mouse. Instead, he is entranced by stained glass windows and music, going so far as to reveal himself to humans (the Princess Pea) in order to get closer to the source of music. Another character is Roscuro, a rat living in the dungeon who is fascinated with the light. He wants to have access to light all the time, and conceives of a method to do so, with the help of the servant, Miggery Sow. Miggery Sow wants to be a princess. Roscuro convinces Miggery Sow to kidnap the Princess Pea and bring her into the dungeon. Only Despereaux is able to find Princess Pea and return her from the dungeons.

Final thoughts: A great little story. It does have some scary parts, when the Princess is taken into the dungeon and Despereaux is sentenced to death and sent to the dungeon to get eaten by rats, so be aware of that if your child is sensitive. The subject matter is child appropriate, and Despereaux makes for a good role model, not giving up on his dreams or his chance to do the right thing, even if the other mice don’t believe he can do it.

We listened to the story, and the reader was excellent. He had a number of accents he used for each character that made it easy to keep them all straight. We liked to repeat some of his phrases (Miggery kept saying “Gor!” all the time, which we used every chance we could that weekend). There is a movie, but once again we haven’t seen it. Now that we’ve read the book, we might make an effort to see the movie.

Title comes from: Despereaux was the main character and we get his story in the book.

Awards won: 2004 Newbery Award

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