Wow, we’ve made it to month six already! That’s halfway through the year, and thus halfway through the reading challenge. How are we doing? It’s summer, so for many of us that means we can pick up the pace, but we also just got sidetracked by our book hauls from BEA. We’ve also had on of our new writers, Debbie, join in the fun. Check out how we did this month:
A book with nonhuman characters — Pip Bartlette’s Guide to Magical Creatures by Jackson Pierce and Maggie Stiefvater — This book was adorable. Initially, I didn’t feel like this book sounded like either author, which disappointed me, but the story was so solid I forgave it. Pip is adorable and I love all the creatures. Expect a full review later this summer.
A book set during Christmas — Hawkeye vol. 2: Little Hits by Matt Fraction and David Aja — Oh. Man. This run is phenomenal. I love Matt Fraction and David Aja.
A play — The Diary of Anne Frank by Francis Goodrich — I read this with my students, and I definitely got more out of it than they did, but I hope they still appreciated it.
A book you started but never finished — Hawkeye vol. 1: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction and David Aja — Wanna know what Hawkeye does when he’s not being an Avenger? This is that book. It’s gritty, funny, beautiful, and poignant. Bro.
A book written by someone under 30/A funny book — Lumberjanes vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, and Grace Ellis– Okay, technically this is a comic, but I really wanted to include it, since I loved it so much (Let’s be honest–I’m already doing my own thing by double-counting everything, so this one didn’t feel like much more of a stretch). Lumberjanes is about five campers, their counselor, and a summer camp that seems to have a lot of secrets and monsters roaming about. It was also nominated for a GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Comic Book, and, no surprise, I first heard about it on Autostraddle’s “Drawn to Comics” column (my source for most queer/lady-friendly comics). Now that I’ve read the first one, I can’t wait to get my hands on the rest of the Lumberjanes comics.
A mystery or thriller/A book by a female author — Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles — I’m not sure this book would be officially classified as a mystery or thriller, but I felt like it had elements of those genres in it, so I’m counting it. Despite the morbid title, I don’t think I realized just how dark this book was going to get. It was a very interesting look at sexual abuse, and how victims can themselves becomes abusers as they try to process their own experiences. Knowles did an excellent job of getting inside the heads of these two young girls, and looking at how concepts of “friendship” can change as you grow up.
A book you can finish in a day/A book that made you cry — George by Alex Gino — This was the very first book from BEA that I had to read, and though I didn’t quite read it in a day (work gets in the way of such things for me these days), I did race through it very quickly. George tells the story of a young transgender girl trying to find the words to convey who she really is to the world. George’s struggle felt very honest, and while I knew it had to have a relatively happy ending because it was a middle grade book, I still felt myself going along with the story, and wondering how everything was going to work out. Was George’s life perfect at the end? No, but she had started it, and she made me cry and smile as she started her journey.
A book with more than 500 pages — Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray — This second installment of the Diviners series is almost 700 pages long and every sentence is worth reading. The conflict centers around a mysterious sleeping sickness which causes its victims to give in to dreams and never wake up. The disease originates in NYC’s Chinatown and soon expands to the other neighborhoods, spreading fear and xenophobia with it. It is up to the Diviners, a group of youngsters who have developed special powers, to try to save their city. The whole series takes place in 1920’s New York, with the accompanying lingo and social issues, and the writing style is posi-tute-ly copacetic. Expect a full review and signed copy giveaway later this summer!
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit — The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks — This book takes place in Israel, or Yudah as the southern half of that region was known in Biblical times. From the author of People of the Book, comes a retelling of the story the Israelite King David. I’ve always wanted to visit Israel, given its importance to several of the world’s major religions and the special place it holds in the heart of many people close to me. This summer, I finally got my chance. In fact, as you read these words (if you’re reading within a few days of the post being published) I am in Israel right now! I am traversing the same harsh desert that Brooks describes Natan wandering in, and exploring the city of Jerusalem, which Brooks calls by the name Yebus. Nothing better to get psyched for a vacation than reading a book that takes place there, right? Well maybe not if the book is filled with bloodshed and vengeance but oh well.
A book that came out the year you were born — The Giver by Lois Lowry — The Giver was published in 1993. It is the recipient of a Newberry Medal and I had heard how great it was for ages, but for some reason, I always assumed it was about some topic I had no interest in. Recently, as I googled books that came out in 1993, I recognized the name of this book and read the description only to discover that it is actually a dystopian novel. As a major fan of dystopias, I wondered how I had gone so long without reading this distinguished member of the genre. Jonas is an eleven-year-old boy in a dystopian society known only as “the community.” In his twelfth year, he is scheduled to receive his assigned occupation for his adult life. But when the assigning ceremony comes around, his name is skipped. At the end, they tell him he has been selected for a very special role as the Receiver of Memory, the only one in the community who retains memories of life Before, in order to advise the Elders whenever they encounter something new. But with knowledge of a different way of life comes the temptation to leave this regulated one with such an emphasis on Sameness behind.
A book that takes place in your hometown – The Good Nurse by Charles Graeber — This book is an account of the true story of a nurse named Charles Cullen who used his access to medicines and IV bags to kill patients in multiple hospitals across New Jersey and Pennsylvania. A large portion of the book takes place in my home county, in the towns surrounding mine, and in one scene, in my own town. My hometown is hardly famous or interesting, so it was very difficult to find a book that took place here. Since they are so rare, it was weird to see the names of roads and places I knew laid out on the page of a book, to recognize the area code of phone numbers mentioned. The events of the book made headlines in the early 2000’s, so whenever my parents or their peers asked me what I was reading, they would say, “Oh yeah, the Angel of Death. I remember when that was in the news.”
A book written by an author with your same initials — The Crown (Queen of Hearts Vol.1) by Colleen Oakes — After several fruitless google searches of “authors with the initials C O,” I realized the most efficient way to fulfill this category would be to go to the library or bookstore and scan the “O” section until I found someone with a “C” first name whose book looked interesting. It only took a couple of minutes of doing this with my sister before she pulled out a book with Queen of Hearts in big letters, and an enticing red, black, and white cover. I am a bit of an Alice in Wonderland fan, so this retelling from the queen of heart’s perspective had appeal. It also didn’t hurt that it was a rather thin book. I knew I had less than a week to read as many books for this challenge as possible before I got distracted by my new haul from BEA, so short works were welcome. Overall, the story maintained a good balance of harkening back to the original and introducing unique content.
A book published this year — Hunter by Marcedes Lackey — I was incredibly disappointed with this novel. The ending was AWESOME and I couldn’t put it down, but before that, it was too much exposition and just some really pathetic writing. There were whole sections that seemed to be copy and pasted over the course of the novel. But, really, the ending was by far one of the most satisfying I have read in a while. The novel as a whole was part Hunger Games, part 1984.
A book with a number in the title — Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti — Overall, this was a good book. There were a few too many characters so I didn’t feel as connected to some of them as I wanted to, but overall, it was interesting. Really cool plot ideas. I was disappointed to find that this was going to be a series–I don’t know how I feel about that.
A book with a one-word title — Awake by Natasha Preston — I really didn’t like this book. Not incredibly well written, seemed like it was all over the place plot-wise, and you’re waiting half the book for a plot point revealed on the back of the book to happen. Ugh.
A non-fiction book — When Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty — I really enjoyed this book! It was really interesting, and Doughty had a lot of historical knowledge and personal thoughts that really made me think. The one thing I didn’t like what that there was almost a love story, that just didn’t really make sense with the rest of the novel as a whole, and even though I understand why it was included, I thought it could have been integrated much better.
A book set somewhere you want to visit — The Marvels by Brian Selznick — I’m not going to say too much because I plan on writing a full review of this book, but GO AND READ IT RIGHT NOW. Part of the book takes place in a museum that is based on the Dennis Severs’ House in London. When I visited there just this past month, I tried to visit the House, but it was unfortunately closed the day I went. I fully intend on going again, though, especially after completing this book.
A book set in the future — After The Red Rain by Barry Lyga, Peter Pacinelli, and Rob DeFranco — I enjoyed this book for the most part. It was clearly written with the intention of being made into a film (Pacinelli is an actor and DeFranco is a producer), which I was okay with. I thought the story was well-structured and interesting, but some parts just made me laugh at the absurdity of the situations.
A book with a color in the title — Black Widow: Forever Red by Margaret Stohl — Stay tuned for my upcoming review! I really liked this book and highly recommend it!
A book with more than 500 pages — Shadow Scale by Rachael Hartman — Seraphina is part dragon and part human and she is awesome. In Shadow Scale, Seraphina wants to bring peace to her people, stop a war from happening and still come home to the man she loves. This book has some heavy themes, but still remains fun and entertaining.
A book with a number in the title — Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld,Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti —
This is definitely not to be missed. Westerfeld has done it again, just like the Uglies series he has created all new heroes in a alternate universe.
A book that was published this year — Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo — You’ll have to wait until September to read this one, but when it comes out make sure you don’t miss it.
A book with nonhuman characters — The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison — This was an interesting novel–high fantasy with absolutely no humans and it even has a new language.
A book by a female author — The Girls at the Kingfisher Club by Genevieve Valentine — This is a realistic fiction version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses as flappers during the prohibition. I loved this spin on the fairy tale.
A book with a one-word title — Jacaranda by Cherie Priest — Jacaranda is a stand alone novella that is part of Priest’s Clockwork Series. It is scary fun that includes a haunted hotel and lots of gory deaths of the guests.
A book of short stories — Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman — Gaiman named this book aptly, because he wanted you to know before you opened it that some of stories are scary and some are just downright weird.
A book a friend recommended — The Bookseller’s Daughter by Pam Rosenthal — This would be a great on-the-beach summer read. Lots of silly romance.
A non-fiction book — Smoke Get in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty — Smoke Gets in Your Eyes gives the reader a whole new way to look at death and the industry for death. It’s not morbid, although it was sad and touching in certain parts. I loved this book and felt like it helped me look at a very tough topic.
A book more than 100 years old — A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens — What can you say, it’s Charles Dickens? You either appreciate him or you don’t.
Only six months left! Do you think we’re on track? How is your own reading challenge? Any of these books sound like something you’d read? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!