2016 Reading Challenges!

All right, heaven help me, I’m going in again! 2015 was a success, so lets hope I can build on that! I doubt I’ll be reading 260 books again this year, but 40 of whatever I do read are going to be targeted towards these challenges.

Nonfiction Challenge: Explorer Level (6-10 titles, choose any)

  1. Santa Claus Man (done, 1/18)
  2. Georgiana: Duchess of Devonshire (done, 2/16)
  3. Packing for Mars (done, 2/16)
  4. Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (done, 3/30)
  5. How to Be a Victorian (done, 4/23)
  6. Hamilton: The Revolution (done, 4/24)

Same challenge as last year, but down a level. I might level up if I seem to be on a roll, but I wanted to make it an even number of books. Because that’s how my brain goes.

TBR Pile Club: A Firm Hug (11-20 titles, choose any published before 2015)

The challenge I used last year closed, so I found this one instead. I like that I’m not locked into titles, but can choose anything from my TBR list as the mood suits. I prefer freedom and really hate being told what to do, even by myself, ha. I also liked that it wasn’t limited to books I own, since I do so much of my reading plans from library books. Subgoal: half will be ones I own, half will be titles from my GR shelf.

  1.  The Other Side of the Night: The Carpathia, the Californian and the Night the Titanic Was Lost (2009) (done, 1/31)
  2.  Twilight at the World of Tomorrow : Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War (2010) (done, 3/30)
  3.  GI Brides: The Wartime Girls Who Crossed the Atlantic for Love (2014) (done, 4/23) 

Panels Read Harder comics challenge : I think this one will be the biggest challenge, as it doesn’t lend itself well to things I have an interest in. But then again, I did 10 of these last year, so I am sure that I will find ways to finish it this year!

  1. Read a self-published comic.
  2. Read a feminist comic: A-Force (done, 1/30)
  3. Read a comic featuring one or more teenage protagonists: Gotham Academy Vol 2 (done, 3/15)
  4. Read a superhero comic whose race or gender has been swapped from the original or traditional hero: All-New Captain America (done, 2/16)
  5. Read a complete run of a comic: Invincible Iron Man, 12 trades (done, March)
  6. Read a comic based on a book and the book it’s based on.
  7. Read a graphic biography: Amazing Fantastic Incredible, A Marvelous Memoir (done, 2/9)
  8. Read a comic that was originally published in a language different from your own.
  9. Read a comic set in space.
  10. Read a collected webcomic: Adventures of Superhero Girl (done, 4/15)
  11. Read a comic with at least one creator of color: Silk (done, 1/15)
  12. Read a comic set in Asia by an Asian creator.
  13. Read a superhero comic NOT by one of the Big Two: Adventures of Superhero Girl (done, 4/15)
  14. Read a slice-of-life comic not set in the U.S.
  15. Read a comic that has been adapted from a T.V. show or movie (not vice versa).
  16. Read a comic about a real-life historical event.
  17. Read a black-and-white comic.
  18. Read a watercolor comic.

Any recommendations for any of these? I know what I tend towards, and it’d be great to try new things again this year.

2015 Reading Challenges Final Update

Well, I did it!  I completed 3 of the 3 challenges I set for this year. Here’s a little known (or widely known, whatevs) fact about me: I am ridiculously competitive. I will turn anything into a competition. Which is why I raced to finish that third challenge in the final 4 days of 2015. It was niggling at me! I had to finish!

I also read 250+ books this year, because who would have guessed that I’d stumbled into a brand new genre and fall head over heels in love with graphic novels? That was a brand new direction for me, one that opened up a lot of genres and new experiences, so I guess I didn’t need the challenges after all. But they were fun to do, and I think I’m going to try them again. Even the To Be Read one, which wasn’t half as fun, ha. I think I need to do a better job picking those titles; it skewed heavily nonfiction and I think I’ll make sure to add in YA and other genres I like, too. I’m going to try for Panel’s Read Harder comics challenge, too. Stay tuned for the 2016 challenge post early next week!

My favorite books of 2015:

Ms Marvel, vol 4:  The whole run is fantastic, and clearly you can’t start with vol 4! But this was the best of an amazing four books, and I am so impressed with the absolutely perfect way they wrapped up the series. I can’t wait for the next one.

The Martian: The movie is better (the book excelled in space, less so on Earth), but the book is still a crazy awesome adventure. I could not put it down — I found myself carrying it from room to room as I walked and did other tasks.  There are a few extra character scenes I wish had made it into the movie (Beck and Johanssen, for example), but I love both madly.

Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye (vol 1, 2, 3, 4): This is the run that made me fall in love with comics. It finished up its 3 year run in July, and it was pitch perfect. The art is amazing, with some of the most gorgeous colorwork out there, and the story shines. I love Clint Barton, but Kate Bishop is my Hawkeye forever. I love how they get equal billing and equal importance in the narrative.

(Noticeably, none of these were challenge titles, ha. I enjoyed most of those, but didn’t love them.)

GoodReads came up with my year in review with some fun stats, too. And now we move on to 2016 plans and challenges — I already have 20 checked out, heaven help me.

2015 Reading Challenges

I’m pondering trying some reading challenges this year. It’s not that I don’t read a lot – I hit 169 this past year, although I usually average about 110), but I’d like to broaden my reading scope a bit. So, playing up the Librarian part of my title, I included a GoodReads widget in my sidebar, and will see if I can successfully track two reading challenges here:

Nonfiction Challenge – I’m choosing to enter at the Seeker level, 11-15 titles: SUCCESS! 12 nonfiction titles completed.

1. The Secret History of Wonder Woman (done, 2/6)

2. Wonder Woman Unbound: The Curious History of the World’s Most Famous Heroine (done, 2/3)

3. When Books Went to War: Books That Helped Us Win World War II (done, 5/25)

4. Start a Revolution: Stop Acting Like a Library (done, 10/15)

5. Always on Sunday: Ed Sullivan, An Inside View (done, 1/25)

6. Pioneer Girl, The Annotated Autobiography (done, 2/1)

7. Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It (done, 6/15)

8. How to Be a Heroine: What I Learned From Reading Too Much (done, 3/15)

9. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (done, 1/11)

10. No Drama Discipline (done 2/8)

11. Wild Things: Acts of Mischief in Children’s Literature (done, 1/15)

12. 1939: The Making of Six Great Films from Hollywood’s Greatest Year (done 4/15)

and the TBR Pile Challenge, to knock off some of the 95 titles living on my To Be Read Shelf: DONE! I read four books in the final 3 days of December, ha.

1. At Home, A Short History of Private Life (2010) (done, 1/24)
2. The Indifferent Stars Above: The Harrowing Saga of a Donner Party Bride (2009) (done, 12/31)
3. Through Lover’s Lane: LM Montgomery’s Photography and Visual Imagination (2007) (done, 10/15)
4. Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society (2007) (done, 5/30)
5. The Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England (2008) (done 12/29)
6. Must Have Done Something Good (2008) (done 1/20)
7. Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street (2008) (done 9/20)
8. Below Stairs: The Classic Kitchen Maid’s Memoir That Inspired “Upstairs, Downstairs” and “Downton Abbey” (1968) (done, 12/30)
9. Jamestown (2007) (done 12/29)
10. Dreaming of Dior: Every Dress Tells a Story (2009) (done, 2/14)
11. Maud Hart Lovelace’s Deep Valley: A Guidebook of Mankato Places in the Betsy-Tacy Series (2002) (done, 3/28)
12. Janie Face to Face (2013)  (done, 3/15)

Alternates:
1. White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickenson and Thomas Wentworth Higgenson (2008) DNF: Boring
2. To Be Queen: A Novel of the Early Life of Eleanor of Aquitaine (2011)
3.  Twilight at the World of Tomorrow : Genius, Madness, Murder, and the 1939 World’s Fair on the Brink of War (2010)                                                           4. The Other Side of the Night: The Carpathia, the Californian and the Night the Titanic Was Lost (2009)

Hmm hmm hmm. That’s a lot of history, which is not exactly broadening my scope! But it’s all history I’m interested in? Geez, what other kind of nonfiction IS there? I have a clear narrative bias happening here. I maybe need to investigate this more – although at least the nonfiction challenges doesn’t ask for a list of titles up front, so that list can change throughout the year. Anyone have any non-narrative nonfiction recommendations?

To balance all that history, I’m also going to try for the Eclectic Reader Challenge: Success!! This was actually really fun, and only some of them were hard to find ideas for.

  1. Retellings (of fairytale, legends or myth): West of the Moon (done 1/11)
  2.  A book set in a country starting with the letter S (Scotland): Call the Nurse: True Stories of a Country Nurse on a Scottish Isle (done 6/26)
  3.  PI Crime (fiction featuring a private investigator): Mr. Kiss and Tell (done, 2/8)
  4.  A novel published before you were born: Time and Again (done, 6/9)
  5. Contemporary romance: The Daddy Audition (done, 6/17)
  6. Fiction for foodies: Better Than Chocolate (done, 12/10)
  7. Microhistory (Non Fiction): One Summer: America 1927 (done, 3/15)
  8. Science Fiction set in space: Captain Marvel (done, 2/23)
  9. Sports (Fiction or Non fiction): Kammie on First: Baseball’s Dottie Kamenshek (done, 9/19)
  10. Featuring diversity: Revolution (done 1/11)
  11. Epistolary Fiction: Unusual Chickens for the Extraordinary Poultry Farmer (done 6/8)
  12. Middle Grade/YA Adventure: Chasing Secrets (done, 9/13)

I think the hardest of those, for me, will be sports, ha. The rest are things I’d probably stumble on, but this will make me a little more intentional.

———–

December 2015 update: Success! 36 challenge books completed. And then there’s the other 250 books I read this year, because who would have guessed that I’d stumbled into a brand new genre and fall head over heels in love with graphic novels? That was a brand new direction for me, one that opened up a lot of genres and new experiences, so I guess I didn’t need the challenges after all. But they were fun to do, and I think I’m going to try them again. Even the To Be Read one.

Book Reviews: Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire

 

CodeNameVerity RoseUnderFire

Code Name Verity

I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.

That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.

He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.

We are a sensational team.

Rose Under Fire

Rose Justice is a young pilot with the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War. On her way back from a semi-secret flight in the waning days of the war, Rose is captured by the Germans and ends up in Ravensbrück, the notorious Nazi women’s concentration camp. There, she meets an unforgettable group of women, including a once glamorous and celebrated French detective novelist whose Jewish husband and three young sons have been killed; a resilient young girl who was a human guinea pig for Nazi doctors trying to learn how to treat German war wounds; and a Nachthexen, or Night Witch, a female fighter pilot and military ace for the Soviet air force. These damaged women must bond together to help each other survive.

 

I am not known for enjoying books that emotionally break you. I tend towards genres – romance, science fiction, etc. But I have always loved historical fiction deeply, and World War II in particular. Last summer, I read Code Name Verity. I heard amazing reviews about it for months, but always coupled with, “It broke me.” I do not like books that break me. But everyone kept reading it and everyone kept raving and then Susann said, “One of the characters is half Peter Wimsey/half any Ellen Emerson White heroine!” and, well. How could I not read that?

It totally broke me. In the sitting there on the floor, can’t stop reading, omg, I have to reread it again RIGHT NOW even though my heart is broken way. The first part was astounding on its own, but then the second? It illuminated the first part in ways I couldn’t have dreamed. I was constantly flipping back and forth, seeing it all come together. I put some things together on my own but there was always more.

So, basically: World War II, England and France,  English and Scottish female war pilots/workers, intrigue, enemy territory, deep friendship . The story of one girl captured by the Nazis for war information and the story of love and friendship that she told them, surrounded by horror and hate. It sort of defies description, especially since I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s beautiful, even in its darkness, because the light shines the more brightly for it.

And then, in May, I learned that the companion book, Rose Under Fire, was coming out this fall, but it was available as an advanced reading copy for librarians and bloggers on NetGalley. I immediately logged in and requested access. Huge thanks to NetGalley and Disney Hyperion for the chance to read and review.

Here we have a new protagonist, 18 year old American Rose, and a few familiar faces from Verity are in the mix as well. I went into this knowing nothing except that it was a companion – I didn’t even get a description (letting me know that it was a concentration camp story) until I was about 50 pages in.

It started slow. I had no idea what to expect, which probably made it go more slowly. When it started to pick up, things started happening out of order and I wondered if this was really the best way to tell the story. Then it turned into a flashback and I was pretty lost, wondering, “She lost X? So what? What does that mean?” I kept going and very quickly my response turned to, “Oh my GOD. She lost X. SHE LOST X. How did that happen? Oh my God.” And then I stayed up until 2:30 in the morning, utterly absorbed and heartbroken.

Like Verity, this is sophisticated narration with complex emotions on a basically straightforward story. It stuck with me for days after finishing it – the stress and horror of what she saw at Ravensbruck, but also the sadness and hope at the end. There’s no real neat way to tie up a story like this, but the ending felt true. And I only let out a tiny wail of despair that it ended – I wanted so much more. The story was complete, but I just loved these characters too much to say goodbye. It’s beautiful, like Verity, in its exploration of friendship, love and devotion even in times and places of horror.

You don’t need to read Verity first, they stand alone. It might be hard to get teens to trust the story/storytelling if they aren’t familiar with and blown away by Verity, but it’s worth the push through to watch it all come together. Both titles are highly recommended.

Updates

Outfit posts are coming! I’ve been reading up a storm this week, which means less time on the computer for blogging.

I’ve finally managed to update my current jam, hurrah. I’ve also added links to my sidebar – I totally dig Rue La La and Zulily, and think you guys might, too.

I also added a link to my GoodReads account. As my blog title says, I am a librarian. It’s actually a pretty big part of who I am –  sometimes that informs my clothing choices (no short or a-line skirts on storytime days!), hee – but I’ve been thinking that it might be nice to add a little bit of my other passion, books, here as well. I’ve recently been able to start getting advanced copies of new titles, before they’re available for sale, and I’d love to share some books I recommend (or, you know, don’t), too.

Fashion is clearly the driving force behind this blog and always will be, but let’s test it out and see if these two big interests of mine can co-exist. A little experiment.