Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Reading Challenge Extravaganza!

Is it just me or does anyone else notice the boon of reading challenges that crop around the end of December/early January?
reading in the new year is FUN!

Here are a few I've heard about:

Modern Mrs. Darcy 2019 Reading Challenge
Book Riot Read Harder 2019
31 Day Read Aloud Challenge
The Unread Shelf 2019 Reading Challenge
The Reading Women Challenge

I'll be honest, every single time I hear about a new reading challenge I'm filled with excitement and hope.  Maybe it's my inner optimist, maybe it's my love for checking off items on a list.  I want to roll my eyes and scoff, but instead, I find myself taking screenshots and copying the prompts into my reading journal.  #nerd #nerdlyfe #inerdsohard

Ok...so now that I've got these challenges logged in my book journal all I can think of is how confining they are.  I don't actually want to read any graphic novels and does that make me a bad reader?

Reviewing last year's reading challenge pages I learned something about myself and these challenges.

They are so great for giving me some momentum.  I start January reading lots of books quickly because I'm so excited about the new year and my new challenges.  This is valuable to me.  After winter break I wonder if I will ever feel excited about reading again and then--boom--a kick in the pants just when I need it.  Reading is fun!  Checking books of these lists is fun!  Who needs Netflix?!

What the challenges have shown me about myself is this: I rarely, if ever, pick a book based on the challenges I've logged.  I'm such a mood reader that if the spirit doesn't strike me, I just can't be bothered to pick up a play/book of poetry, regardless if it's the last genre I need to check off on my book challenge.  I read widely and am almost always able to find books that fit the categories of any list (with the exception of plays...I mean really, who reads plays for fun).

I think a concept I'd like to develop that suits me even better than the beginning of the year challenges is an end of the year bingo card.  I've always been a big fan of bingo.  It wouldn't give me the same long term satisfaction as the reading challenges that stretch over twelve months, but I think I would feel even better about my reading life at the end of the year.

That would be awesome because the end of the year always makes me feel like a slacker reader.  Did you hit your Goodreads goal?  Did you complete all 76 challenges in your journal?  Did you read half as many books as the bookstagrammers you follow?

<If you'd also be interested in a reading Bingo card for December let me know in comments and I'll share a pdf in November-ish>

Brilliant bingo idea aside, I have plotted out some ideas for the challenges I'm doing.  Let me be clear, this does not mean I will actually read any of these books.  It's really a science experiment I'm conducting on myself.  Will I more successfully complete my challenges with a little ahead-of-time-planning?  Will I ignore my plans like I ignore the prompts until it is too late? 

We will see!

A Book You've Been Meaning to Read...Where'd You Go Bernadette
A Book By a Favorite Author...Help, Thanks, Wow 
A Book Recommended by Someone With Great Taste...The Goldfinch
A Book That Scares You...The Shining
A Book Outside Your Genre Comfort Zone...The Boys on The Boat or Team of Rivals

Are you doing a reading challenge this year?  Do you like the motivation or hate the pressure?  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Reading Recap: December Edition

In early December we found out my dad has cancer.  This news prompted a few trips to visit my family.  We also traveled to Dollywood to see my husband's family.  Lots of travel, but one theme: family.

After a year marked by family tragedy, we decided that our priority would be visiting family and inviting family to stay with us.  I feel like we did a good job making sure we got to spend quality time with loved ones--even when it was challenging. 

With all this driving around and trying to figure out how to live in this new reality (cancer sucks on so many levels), I still got some reading done.  I think I read more in December because everytime the world seemed overwhelming I cracked open a book.  Life often felt overwhelming.  Also, I learned that I can read in the car and that was a big win.  Here's what I read:

Holidays on Ice
This was...different.  I've never read anything by David Sedaris so this was my introduction.  Holidays on Ice a compilation of short holiday stories that are unrelated.  It was really good for a short attention span.  The stories are irreverent and bizarre but definitely humorous.  I can see that Sedaris wouldn't appeal to everyone, but I think I like him.  I'll definitely be reading more by him this year. 

My Sister, the Serial Killer
I heard about this novel from a podcast.  The story sounded so interesting: a sister who helps her sister clean up the mess after she kills her boyfriends.  I have been enjoying traveling the world in my books this year and this one is set in Nigeria. 

The most challenging thing about this book was the cadence, which is something I struggle to adapt to each time I read books set in other countries.  Also, the actual book was a small hardcover that I had to struggle to keep open.  I was surprised by how annoyed I was by the physical book.  

Anyway, the story is fast paced and modern noir and I love it.  It was thought-provoking but never preachy.  There were timeline jumps that were perfectly paced to propel the reader through it.  You just gotta find out what happens next.  One of my favorite characters was in a coma for the majority of the book.  When I finished I really wanted to talk about it with someone.  

The Count of Monte Cristo
This is a classic that I have been meaning to read FOREVER.  This year I got the audio and listened to all 52 hours of it.  And it was fantastic.  

I've heard lots of people say it's the only classic they love or it's the classic that got them reading classics.  It's such an adventurous story--love, drama, revenge.  *sigh*  There are lots of plot lines and at first I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep track of them, but each story is compelling and connected.  Dumas was an artist.  

I loved the audio because of the names and the French/Italian words.  I was able to talk about the book with my family and say things like "Jacopo," "Caderousse," and "Mercedes" like the narrator--with an over-the-top accent.  It was a delight.  

The Beautiful Mystery
Oh, Inspector Gamache, how I love thee!  

At first, this book, not set in Three Pines, made me annoyed.  What is happening to Clara and Gabri and Ruth???? But after 100 pages I got really engrossed in the mystery (basically a closed room set-up involving monks) and the trajectory of Gamache and Beauvoir's relationship.  It was so good!  

And, because I didn't listen to the audio I don't know how to say any of the French names.  I asked my daughters who are taking French how to say "Jean-Guy Beauvoir" and they have not stopped making fun of the way I butchered the name.  

The Bookshop on the Corner
Modern Mrs. Darcy Book club pick for December.  I don't usually read along but I every time I've heard this recommended it piqued my interest.  With all the emotional things happening in my life I thought nothing would be better to close out the month with than a rom-com in novel form.

This book helped me realize that I just don't like sweetness.  I mean, I like warm stories but not novels that I have to suspend all disbelief.  The story was ok, but a little far-fetched.  It was more Hallmark movie than rom-com and I am not a Hallmark movie fan.  However, if you are, you should totally read this.  You will love it.  Let me know if you want my copy--you can have it.

The book was begging for awws and I just can't.

So, that was December.  And I got this blog post before the 15th of January.  I'm pretty impressed with myself.  

good work me!

What was your best/worst of December?

Friday, January 4, 2019

Reading in My Real Life

Christmas Vacation

There's maybe a no better time of year to read than in the winter--blankets, fires, tea.  Night comes early and settling early feels right.  

With the structure that school provided we were able to read after dinner on most nights.  

actual photo of our family reading after dinner, try to contain your envy

But over Christmas vacation, things changed.  

Maybe you've seen that meme about Christmas Eve reading in Scandinavia or wherever.  Friends have sent that to me on more than one occasion.  It sounds like an amazing tradition but because our Christmas Eve can be described with words like, "frantic," "rushing," and "full" this meme kind of makes me resent our version of the holiday.  

We spent the day (as we do most years) cooking, cleaning, and packing for Grandma's house.  There is last minute wrapping and I always get the bug to catch up my laundry.  This bug leaves me alone the other 364 days of the year.  

I made apple rolls and a huge mess in the kitchen.  We had not visited Santa yet and so on Christmas Eve we found ourselves waiting in lines for pictures with the big guy.  Every year we go to church and out for a fancy dinner.  It's a lot for one day.  

There was no reading before bed.  There was no reading at all.  

We went to visit family and still, we did not read.  What was happening to us????  

But then we came home and the kids had lots of Christmas gifts to explore and I had a couple of books I was hoping to dig into before the end of the year.  A perfect match.  I opened my book and then, they started talking to me and didn't stop.  "Mom, look at this."  "Mom, do you want to play this game?"  "Mom, what's for breakfast?"  

I knew the right thing was not to hole up with my books and leave my kids to fend for themselves.  I was caught in the tension between doing what I wanted to do and doing the right thing for longer than I care to admit.  I'd engage with them grudgingly but eventually, I would find the fun of it.  We saw a movie, we played games, we talked and spent time together.  It never looked like a perfect family moment, but it was good.  Very good.  

Instead of getting hours of uninterrupted reading time I caught bits and pieces here and there and wound up finishing the books I had wanted to read.  

My life lesson this Christmas break: Live your life and don't get panicked about reading--it will happen if you really love it.  And I do really love it.  

Did you get any reading done?