50 Book Challenge 2014

Because I am absolutely flush with time and energy*** I’ve decided to embark on a reading challenge this year. I’m going to try and read 50 books by the end of 2014 (so far, I’m on track). I’ve written up a shortlist of books that I want to read this year, and here is a small selection –

Shades of Grey by Jasper Fford
Hundreds of years in the future, after the Something that Happened, the world is an alarmingly different place. Life is lived according to The Rulebook and social hierarchy is determined by your perception of colour. Eddie Russett is an above average Red who dreams of moving up the ladder by marriage to Constance Oxblood. Until he is sent to the Outer Fringes where he meets Jane – a lowly Grey with an uncontrollable temper and a desire to see him killed. For Eddie, it’s love at first sight. But his infatuation will lead him to discover that all is not as it seems in a world where everything that looks black and white is really shades of grey.

Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
Amy Curry is having a terrible year. Her mother has decided to move all the way across the country and needs Amy to drive their car from California to the East Coast. There’s just one problem: since the death of her father, Amy hasn’t been able to get behind the wheel of a car. Enter Roger, the son of an old family friend, who turns out to be unexpectedly cute…and dealing with some baggage of his own. Meeting new people and coming to terms with her father’s death were not part of Amy’s plans for the road trip. But then neither was driving on the Loneliest Road in America, seeing the Colorado Mountains, visiting diners, dingy motels and Graceland. But as they drive, and she grows closer to Roger, Amy finds that the people you least expected are the ones you need the most – – and that sometimes you have to get lost in order to find your way home.

Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead
The Van Meters have gathered at their family retreat on the New England island of Waskeke to celebrate the marriage of daughter Daphne to an impeccably appropriate young man. The weekend is full of lobster and champagne, salt air and practiced bonhomie, but long-buried discontent and simmering lust seep through the cracks in the revelry. Winn Van Meter, father-of-the-bride, has spent his life following the rules of the east coast upper crust, but now, just shy of his sixtieth birthday, he must finally confront his failings, his desires, and his own humanity.

Vitro by Jessica Khoury
A death-defying tropical adventure delivers a frightening message about dabbling with creation from the talented author of “Origin.” On a remote island in the Pacific, Corpus scientists have taken test tube embryos and given them life. These beings–the Vitros–have knowledge and abilities most humans can only dream of. But they also have one enormous flaw. Sophie Crue is determined to get to Skin Island and find her mother, a scientist who left Sophie behind years ago. She enlists hunky charter pilot Jim Julien to take her there. But once on the island, Sophie and Jim encounter more than they bargained for, including a charming, brilliant Vitro named Nicholas and an innocent, newly awoken one named Lux. In a race for their lives, Sophie and Jim are about to discover what happens when science stretches too far beyond its reach.

*** sarcasm

Books 2013 (overview, final reviews + giveaway)

Goat Mountain by David Vann (6/10) – I saw this book sitting on the shelf at a book store and couldn’t resist the beautiful cover art. The blurb compared David Vann’s writing style to Cormac McCarthy, so of course I was sold. The writing in this book is beautiful, but I couldn’t stomach the subject matter. I’m not sure what it was but I was not in the right frame of mind to read this book. At one point I had to stop reading it while I was eating my lunch at work because it made me feel physically ill. Despite this little hiccup, the book was so beautifully written that I’d still recommend it.

White Horse by Alex Adams (5/10) – This book had so much promise: a strong female protagonist, a post-apocalyptic plot, beautiful cover art (heh), but it still fell short of my expectations. I wasn’t a fan of the overly wordy style of writing, and I’m still I’m still tossing up whether I’m going to read the other books in the series.

I usually do my book giveaway at the end of the year, but as I was on a hiatus throughout most of December it was pushed forward to January. So here we go! I have selected my four favourite books for the year, and will be giving away one copy of each. The books are: Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, Columbine by Dave Cullen, and The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment on this post telling me which of the books you’d like to win. Be sure to include your email address so that I can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. The giveaway is open internationally, and will be drawn on February 4th. Good luck!

Summer Reading List (+ Spring Reviews)

The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides 9/10 – I loved this book. Jeffrey Eugenides has officially cemented his place as one of my favourite authors (one of his other books, Middlesex, is one of my all-time favourites). I remember watching the film quite a while ago, but it didn’t affect me as much as the book did. The story of the Lisbon sisters is sad and beautiful and it lingered with me for quite a while after I’d finished reading the book.

Along Came A Spider by James Patterson 4/10 – I was in the mood for an easy read so I scanned through my list of Kindle books and selected this. It was basically just another run-of-the-mill crime novel, but it was exactly what I wanted at the time and I enjoyed it.

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach 8/10 – For some reason it took me a really long time to read this book. It wasn’t because I didn’t like it or that I wasn’t enjoying the story, it just took a while for me to pick it up and get stuck into it. I was glad once I did because this was one of the best books I’ve read all year.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn 7/10 – I was craving something quick and easy after my struggle to get going with The Art Of Fielding, so I picked this up. The subject matter is disturbing, but the story is good and Gillian Flynn’s style of writing is a breeze to read.

The Ultimate Book Tag

I am terribly slow and when someone tags me in something, I often don’t get around to doing it for YEARS (or perhaps weeks) afterwards. Such is the case with The Ultimate Book Tag. Thank you to Steph from The Book Salon for tagging me. Lets get this show on the road.

Book Q&A Rules

1. Post these rules
2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover
3. Answer the questions below
4. Tag a few people to answer them too
5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them
6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

What are you reading right now? I have a few books on the go at the moment because I can’t seem to settle on one in particular. I’m reading Columbine by Dave Cullen, The Magicians by Lev Grossman and Filth by Irvine Welsh.

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that? I still have some books left in my winter lineup, Both Flesh And Not by David Foster Wallace, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott and the second book in 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. I probably won’t get around to reading any of these anytime soon though. I imagine that I’ll be moving on to more Spring-feeling books towards the end of August.

What 5 books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to? Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, Dracula by Bram Stoker, Possession by A.S Byatt, A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh, and City of Falling Angels by John Berendt.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now? I don’t read magazines.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read? I have a longstanding hatred for Wuthering Heights. I read it years and years ago, so my opinion may have changed since then but I’m not game to try for a re-read. It’s certainly not the most poorly written book I’ve ever read, because I HAVE READ TWILIGHT guys – just putting it out there.

What book seemed really popular but you didn’t like? As a general rule I have absolutely no interest in chick lit, which is obviously incredibly popular with the masses. Also to give a more specific answer, I would rather eat arsenic laced donuts than read 50 Shades of Grey.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone? Easily ‘The Book Thief’ by Markus Zusak. READ THIS BOOK.

What are your three favourite poems? Just one, by Rilke –

“God speaks to each of us as he makes us,
then walks with us silently out of the night.

These are the words we dimly hear:

You, sent out beyond your recall,
go to the limits of your longing.
Embody me.

Flare up like flame
and make big shadows I can move in.

Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror.
Just keep going. No feeling is final.
Don’t let yourself lose me.

Nearby is the country they call life.
You will know it by its seriousness.

Give me your hand.”

Where do you usually get your books? I shop at The Book Depository a lot. Having said that, if I’m at a shopping centre and I happen to walk past a book shop I always pop in and buy something. I also frequent second hand book stores as often as I can because they seem to be disappearing far too quickly for my liking.

Where do you usually read your books? I commute via train to work, so I get some reading time done there. Other than that I read during my lunch break if I’m not having lunch with someone in particular, and I often read in bed before I go to sleep at night.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits? I was a voracious reader when I was a kid, so I flew through most of the book series available at the time. Babysitters Club, Babysitters Little Sister, Pen Pals, Nancy Drew, Roald Dahl, Sweet Valley High, Goosebumps, Sweet Valley University etc. I remember visiting the local markets and scouring the second hand bookstore shelves for Sweet Valley High or Goosebumps titles that I hadn’t read yet. I was a lot less pedantic about reading things in proper order back then.

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down? Sleep is a major joy in my life, so not much tops it and I rarely stay up late reading. I did stay up until after midnight a little while ago reading The Long Walk by Stephen King because I wanted to know how it ended.

Have you ever “faked” reading a book? Not that I can remember, no. Although it’s highly likely I winged a few of my high school English literature exams based on very little reading of the allocated texts.

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover? More often than I should.

What was your favourite book when you were a child? The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton.

What book changed your life? The entire Harry Potter series was a life changing experience.

What is your favourite passage from a book? “When death captures me,” the boy vowed, “he will feel my fist in his face.”

What are your top five favourite authors? J.K. Rowling, Markus Zusak, Khaled Hosseini, Cormac McCarthy, and David Foster Wallace.

What book has no one heard about but should read? Consider The Lobster by David Foster Wallace (I’m pretty sure people have heard of this book, but still – read it anyway).

What 3 books are you an “Evangelist” for? The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, the Road by Cormac McCarthy & A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

What are your favourite books by a first-time author? The Secret History by Donna Tartt.

What is your favourite classic book? 1984 by George Orwell.

Five other notable mentions? (do these have to be classics? I hope not…) Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck, The Beach by Alex Garland, We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Schriver, Cloudstreet by Tim Winton, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.

A lot of the people I had originally intended to tag in this post have since completed it anyway, so I’m throwing an open tag out there but singling out Dee because I’m quite curious to read her answers.

Winter Reading List (+ Autumn Reviews)

(note: I will be reading book 2 of 1Q84)

Ten by Gretchen McNeil 4/10 – This was an easy read, I think I managed to get through it over the course of one weekend. Not an amazing book, but good for what it was – a fairly basic young adult thriller.

The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell 5/10 – I had high hopes for this book, and enjoyed how it started out but wasn’t that impressed with where it ended up. Another fairly easy read although I slowed down a little bit towards the end because I just wasn’t that interested in picking it up.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 8/10 – I read this because I wanted to have it fresh in my mind before seeing the film when it came out this year. I love this story, and it’s nice and short so it was easy to devour in a few sittings. I found that while I was reading it I was imagining the characters as the actors playing them in the new film, which was interesting.

Red Dragon by Thomas Harris 7/10 – I’m in love with the new Hannibal TV series that started up recently, and I’m now inspired to read the books that the show is based on. I started at the beginning of the series with Red Dragon. I enjoyed this, it was another easy read and I devoured it (lol) pretty quickly.