Tag Archives: Read Harder Challenge 2016

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 6/6/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.

I am participating in Donalyn Miller’s #bookaday this summer, the idea being to, well, read a book every day (on average). I am doing well so far, although I didn’t quite read a whole book every day this past week. My front porch is my new favorite place to hang out with a great book, though, as the weather has been beautiful 🙂

On thing I love about summer is that my reading is all over the map, as you will see below….

Last Week’s Books:

Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephart is a beautiful and important story, told in two voices. Lily is a transgender girl who is struggling with the courage to be herself and especially to seek acceptance from her father. Dunkin has a bipolar disorder and has recently discovered that skipping his meds helps him be a better basketball player, something that he hopes will gain him acceptance at his new school. I love how their friendship develops not only tentatively but also uneasily, and with lots of ups and downs. This is definitely a book to add to my middle school collection. This book counts for my Read Harder Challenge 2016 (category 12–a book by or about someone who identifies as transgender).


Fables: The Mean Season (Vol. 5) is another great entry in the series, which includes Snow White giving birth to some definitely unique offspring.


Ink and Ashes by Valynne E. Maetani is an exciting adventure/mystery about a Japanese-American teenager who follows clues to figure out that her long deceased father was a member of the yakuza, the Japanese mob. In doing so, she puts her own life and the lives of her family and friends in danger. I love the relationships Claire has with her own brothers and the long-time friends that are as close as brothers. And Maetani masterfully writes such a sweet story of a best friendship blossoming into something more. In addition to being an up-and-coming young author, Maetani is a Team Member over at We Need Diverse Books.


Horrostor by Grady Hendrix is a fun twist on a haunted house story. Amy is a twenty-something slacker working at ORSK, an American rip-off of IKEA, and strange things have been happening there lately. When manager Basil calls her in, Amy is sure she will be fired, but instead he asks her to work overtime to help him and dedicated cashier Ruth figure out if there is someone hiding in the store and vandalizing the place after hours. Two other employees who want to be paranormal investigators show up as well. It turns out that ORSK was built on top of an old prison where terrifying experiments and punishments were inflicted on its residents. And you can guess that those restless spirits are very unhappy and will take it out on our five ORSK team members. The idea is a clever one, and the book is designed to resemble an IKEA catalog, including product ads and store information. It just could have been a bit more terrifying for my taste…or a bit more campy like Sean of the Dead. That it was somewhere in between made it a good read, but not a great one. This book counts for my Horror Challenge 2016.


Sorry Please Thank You: Stories by Charles Yu is my random read for June, and I got it done so early! This collection of short stories with a science fiction bent really kept me thinking. Some were a little far out there for me and might benefit from a second reading. My favorites were “Yeoman,” “Standard Loneliness Package,” and “Hero Absorbs Major Damage,” as they were written in a more straightforward traditional story style. Yu has been likened to both Douglass Adams and Kurt Vonnegut, as his stories are both humorous and thought-provoking. I would like to try his novel, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

I am reading 2-3 essays from Neil Gaiman’s The View from the Cheap Seats to make it last 🙂

On Deck: 

Advertisements

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 5/30/16

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.

I am participating in Donalyn Miller’s #bookaday this summer, the idea being to, well, read a book every day (on average). I am doing well so far 🙂

Last Week’s Books:

I finally finished Ghost Road Blues by Jonathan Maberry. I can’t say I finished listening to it, though, as my check-out period ended (again) and I was facing waiting behind four people…so I checked the paperback out of the library and read the last three chapters. It is the first in a trilogy–an adult horror offering from the Rot and Ruin series author. The small town of Pine Deep was once plagued by a serial killer, until some local boys took out the African-American man they believed to be responsible. Turns out that man had put a stop to the real killer, but not to the evil lying in wait in the woods. The local boys are now men and the evil gets its chance when some nasty criminals on the run crash their car on the side of the road near Pine Deep. Maberry does a top-notch of blending the supernatural with just plain horrible human beings. I thoroughly enjoyed this first book and plan on listening to or reading the others. This book counts for my Horror Challenge 2016.


I also read Hell House by Richard Matheson, published in 1971. Horror fans who enjoy haunted house stories have this book, as well as Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House, to thank for a lot of what we see in today’s books and movies. Hell House is the tale of four people who accept an exorbitant amount of money from the house’s owner to get to the bottom of its supernatural activity, but they have to stay there for a whole week. There is a definite history to the house, which was owned by the (now dead) depraved Belasco, who subjected at-first willing guests to an excess of vices of every sort. Definitely for adults. This book counts for my Horror Challenge 2016. This book counts for my Read Harder Challenge 2016 (category 8–a book published in the decade I was born)


Paper Girls, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaghan is a graphic novel set in (an alternate) 1988. Four almost-teenage paper girls meet one day just before dawn and stumble upon some scary, malformed humans and a spaceship? time machine? in the basement of a house in their subdivision. The whole thing gets very confusing (in a good way), with characters coming in from the future? and the girls doing their best to remain tough while family and friends are disappearing all around them. I might need to re-read to figure some more things out, but I am definitely intrigued. This book counts for my Read Harder Challenge 2016 (category 17–a non-superher comic that debuted in the last three years).


I read another graphic novel, or rather, a two-for-one. Batgirl / Robin Year One by Chuck Dixon presents (separately) the origin stories of Dixon’s incarnations of these heroes. I must say that I have really gotten into reading various versions of Batgirl to see what has been done with the character. This one did not disappoint.


Thunder Boy, Jr. is Sherman Alexie’s picture book! It’s about a little boy who loves his dad, but doesn’t necessarily want to share a name with him. He proposes a variety of names to fit his unique personality, until his dad proposes the perfect one. Gorgeous illustrations by Yuyi Morales add to the delight of this book.


I also re-read The Story of Owen: Dragon Slayer of Trondheim by E.K. Johnston, which I have previously reviewed. I am creating an entry for it for the Rebecca Caudill nominee activity packet, so I wanted it fresh in my mind. And also, it is an all-time favorite 🙂

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck:

 

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 4/11/16

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.

Last Week’s Books:

So almost every Goodreads review of The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Vol. 1: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus starts off by wondering how to begin to describe this book. I understand. Daniel Kraus’ epic tale is a difficult-to-adequately-describe genre-buster of a book. In May 1896, at 17 years old, Zebulon Finch is murdered, and 17 minutes later he finds himself “alive” again. Zebulon is not truly alive in that he cannot eat or breath or feel pain, but he is able to think, feel emotion, communicate, and move. Zebulon proceeds to describe his previous life as an unsavory extortionist for the crime syndicate the Black Hand who fell in love with a local prostitute, Wilma Sue, before his violent death. Zebulon also recounts his experiences moving through the world after his resurrection, including his time spent in a medicine show, as a subject of scientific study of a mad doctor obsessed with death, as a soldier in World War I, and as the paramour of a Hollywood starlet. Forever haunting him is the memory of Wilma Sue’s, especially after he finds he has a daughter, Merle, who will grow older than he will ever appear. Kraus’ storytelling and Zebulon’s voice are masterful. Kraus invites readers to think about life, death, morality, war, and what it means to be human. I expected the author of the macabre works Scowlers and Rotters to include some disturbing images and scenes, and they were deftly woven in, although I cannot quite call this a work of horror. I do know that I will be eager to read volume two when it is published. This book counts for my Read Harder Challenge 2016–a book of more than 500 pages.


I definitely needed something lighter as my next read, so I chose How to Survive Anything by Lonely Planet. It presents the reader with step-by-step instructions on how to get out of such jams as meeting ones in-laws, being bitten by a snake, a zombie attack, falling through ice, a parachute that won’t deploy, and getting locked out of one’s hotel room while naked. So it is not quite a book that I would add to my middle school collection, although it’s comic panel style and often amusing illustrations would interest young and old alike. And despite the book’s lightheartedness, its advice seems quite sound. This books was my Surprise Me Challenge book for March.


And then back to some heavier stuff. I was recently urged by two colleagues to read Orbiting Jupiter by Gary D. Schmidt, and I was lucky enough to find a pristine copy of this quite recently published book in the public library’s used book sale for $3. It is the story of Jack, a sixth grader, whose family takes in a eighth grader Joseph as a foster child. It is the story of Joseph, a boy who was abused and incarcerated, and who is the father of the daughter, Jupiter, that he has not been allowed to meet. The two boys attend the same middle school where Joseph is feared, misunderstood, and even hated by many. Joseph’s father is complicating his adjustment to his new home by attempting to get back in his life, for selfish reasons. This book is a beautifully written heartprint book. Schmidt is able to say so much in simple, sparing text. He tells the story in a way that middle graders will understand, even though the topics are tough ones. I am not a book crier for the most part, but this one sent me over the edge not once, but three times, as I read it in nearly one sitting.  It is a book that I will not soon forget.

Currently Reading/Listening To: 

My borrowing period for Ghost Road Blues was up, and I was only about 1/3 of the way done. Since two people had placed hods in front of me, it might be a while before I can get back to it, so I started listening to Serafina and the Black Cloak while I wait.

On Deck:

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? 3/14/16

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a meme started by Book Journey. The folks over at Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers have given it a children’s/YA spin. I thought it would be a fun way to recap last week’s reading and give a sneak peek of my TBR pile.

Last Week’s Books:

I read Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan because I wanted to feature a historical fiction graphic novel during our schools’ monthly Books and Bites. I thoroughly enjoyed the three tales contained within: of Boots, a medic dog during WWI; of Loki, a wily sled dog in Greenland during WWII; and of Sheeba, a scout dog in Vietnam. Each story emphasized not only the dog’s importance in our military efforts, but also the special relationship each dog had with it’s soldier. Exciting plot points and thrilling illustrations makes this a graphic novel sure to please middle grade readers.


 

I was very excited to read The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler, as I have read and loved other works by him (and Lemony Snicket). In some places, I have seen this book labeled “YA,” while in others “adult.” I would have to weigh in on the side of adult, as the characters are in high school, but the novel is really a satire of high school drama taken to the nth degree. It is a strange twist-up of a murder mystery, as the reader knows the killer right away, and then victim soon after, but it is the “why” and “how” that are revealed through the story. The characters are very over-done portraits of privileged and pretentious teens, who host dinner parties and experiment with absinthe. There was definitely a lot of dark humor in this book, which I loved. But it seemed overly-long at times, as the narrator, Flannery Culp, leads readers up to the crime day-by-day with her journal entries. I did not see the twist at the end coming, and when I went back to try to read sections and find clues, I wound up deciding I just didn’t want to read that much of the book again. And so I will say I liked this debut novel and can see how Handler developed his style and dark humor into his later works. This books counts for my Surprise Me! Challenge for February.


 

I have really been getting into audiobooks lately, and I thoroughly enjoyed Yes Please, a memoir written and read by Amy Poehler. Although her era of Saturday Night Live is one with which I am only passingly familiar, I’m a late-to-the-party fan of her TV show Parks and Recreation. In this book, Poehler not only recounts the comedy and acting jobs that got her where she is today, but she also shares thoughts and advice on things like parenting, divorce, and living in Chicago, NYC, and LA. I found myself doing a lot of laughing as I listened on my way to and from work, which is definitely a good thing. This book counts for my Read Harder Challenge 2016–listen to an audiobook that won an Audie Award).


 

Fables Vol. 3: Storybook Love is part of my continued quest to reread some early volumes and finish the others in this now-complete graphic novel series. I love the fairy-tale world that Willingham has created, and I love that I am devoting time to reading something just because I love it.

Currently Reading/Listening To:

On Deck: 

Surprise Me Challenge: March ’16

In 2016, I am continuing to let random.org choose a book from my TBR list, to be read sometime during the month. I currently have 340 books on this list. For those counting, that’s up 22 from last month…ensuring that I will get caught up, well, never….
howtosurviveanything
February’s randomly generated number is 219, so, SURPRISE!, I will be reading How to Survive Anything: A Visual Guide to Laughing in the Face of Adversity by Lonely Planet, which is sure to be fun, and possibly useful.

Here is the Goodreads description:

How to Survive Anything. A visual guide to laughing in the face of adversity. Earthquake imminent? Stuck in the middle seat on a long-haul flight? Here is a book that will teach you How To Survive Anything. Using the witty, graphic format it will help you withstand any challenge, from the extreme to the ordinary, that life might throw your way.

2016 Challenges: February Progress

  • Goodreads goal of 130 books: 13 this month, 31 total
  • 2016 Horror Reading Challenge  goal of 16+ books: Two this month, two total
  • Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge (24 specific categories of books): One this month, six total – category 1
  • Panels’ 2016 Read Harder Challenge (26 specific categories of books): One this month, one total – category 12
  • Surprise Me goal of one book per month: One this month, one total