Michelle FINISHES the 2015 Popsugar Reading Challenge (UPDATE)

Since I was off to a roaring start on my reading goals for 2015, (three and a half days in, three and a half books read) I added this Popsugar Reading Challenge to help me branch out some. If I can manage to follow along with it, it should get me close to my ultimate Goodreads goal of 80 (since it includes 52 books or one book per week if you count the trilogy as three). However, this challenge has specific requirements, so I may not get as far here, and while some books could count in multiple categories, I vow that I’m going to count each only one time. Check out the challenge itself here and then join me! Maybe we can keep each other on track. I plan to come back and update here as I read.

2015 reading challenge

A book with more than 500 pages – (Damn it, why did I finish Written in My Own Heart’s Blood in the LAST week of December??? I’m not ready to try that again any time soon!)  —-  Then, I decided to fill this slot with our book club read: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, but it became the Pulitzer Prize winner for 2015, so I moved it. (This MAY be the slot that never gets filled!!!)  Ok, finally, just to get this one over with, let’s make it, Grey by E.L. James

A classic romance – H.R.H. by Danielle Steel

A book that became a movie – Still Alice by Lisa Genova

A book published this year – Wreckage by Emily Bleeker 

A book with a number in the title – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North

A book written by someone under 30 - Looking for Alaska by John Green

A book with nonhuman characters – The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

A funny book – The Potty Mouth at the Table by Laurie Notaro

A book by a female author – The Rapture of Canaan by Sheri Reynolds

A mystery or thriller – The Black: A Deep Sea Thriller by Paul E. Cooley

A book with a one-word title – Anthem by Ayn Rand

A book of short stories – Dear Life by Alice Munro

A book set in a different country – The Unimaginable by Dina Silver

A nonfiction book – Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

A popular author’s first book – Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet – Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

A book a friend recommended – The Gatecrasher by Madeleine Wickham

A Pulitzer-Prize winning book – All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A book based on a true story – The Vow: True Events that Inspired the Movie by Kim & Krickitt Carpenter

A book at the bottom of your to-read list – The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (Honestly not sure why this was at the bottom of my TBR list, but somehow it was so, here this shall fit. I liked it and I’m not really sure why I’d put it off!)

A book your mom loves – The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

A book that scares you – The Deep End of the Ocean by Jacquelyn Mitchard (because kidnapping is definitely scary!)

A book more than 100 years old – The Awakening by Kate Chopin

A book based entirely on its cover – The Red Tent by Anita Diamant (ok, so this one is a definite stretch. I don’t normally pick books just because of their covers and this one I read for book club, and it was a re-read. But, that cover IS pretty cool.)

A book you were supposed to read in high school but didn’t – Lord of the Flies by William Golding (And just to clarify for all my teacher friends: I’m not a slacker; I read everything ever assigned to me. However, I should have probably read this as a senior as it’s still assigned to the seniors where I teach, but we got a new teacher my 12th grade year and she never assigned it and I read it on my own in college).

A memoir – Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

A book you can finish in a day – The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

A book with antonyms in the title – Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit – No Time to Wave Goodbye by Jacquelyn Mitchard (Set mostly in California, a place I’d sort of like to visit…these are getting hard as I approach the end of the challenge!)

A book that came out the year you were born – Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor

A book with bad reviews – Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

A trilogy - Infected, Contagious, and Pandemic by Scott Sigler

A book from your childhood- The Cay by Theodore Taylor

A book with a love triangle – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

A book set in the future – The Martian by Andy Weir

A book set in a high school – The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

A book with a color in the title – Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

A book that made you cry – Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (Ok, to be honest, I didn’t cry on this or on any previous read of this novella. However, this is likely because I am a terrible person and I NEVER cry at books. Still, this one comes close; I’m just not evil enough that I can squeeze out even a single tear for poor Lennie. I do have so much literary sadness over this one that I WISH I could cry.)

A book with magic - Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

A graphic novel - Resistance: Book 1 by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis

A book by an author you’ve never read before – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

A book you own but have never read – Sounder by William H. Armstrong

A book that takes place in your hometown – Sisters of Shiloh by Becky & Kathy Hepinstall

A book that was originally written in another language – Night by Elie Wiesel

A book set during Christmas – Winter Street by Elin Hilderbrand

A book by an author with your same initials – You Deserve a Drink: Boozy Misadventures and Tales of Debauchery by Mamrie Hart

A play – Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare

A banned book - To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

A book based on or turned into a TV show – Doctor Who: The King’s Dragon by Una McCormack

A book you started but never finished - Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers


And…for extra books I read while finishing the challenge that fit NOWHERE: Buried Onions by Gary Soto, Timothy of the Cay by Theodore Taylor, Animal Farm by George Orwell, Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella, Oedipus Rex by Sophocles (Dudley Fitts and Robert Fitzgerald translation) Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles (unknown translation), Antigone by Sophocles (Fitts and Fitzgerald translation again), The Seven Against Thebes by Aeschylus (E.D.A. Morehead translation), Longbourn by Jo Baker, andThe Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman.

I’m currently working on One Second After by William R. Forstchen and Winter Stroll by Elin Hilderbrand to try to finish up my overall 80 for the year. With 18 to go and only about 6 hectic holiday-prep weeks left in the year, I don’t think I’m going to make it.


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Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris

Well, this was GOING to be a Two Dorks, One Book feature post, but SOMEONE didn’t read it. So it’s just me. Reviewing alone again. Like a solitary, non bookdorky, book blogger. Because where are you, Kelley, and what are you reading? And don’t say Wheel of Time or Outlander again! Anyway, this was the February book for our book club but lots of folks didn’t read it, apparently, except me.

midnight crossroad

So here’s what I think:

In general this was a good pick, although I really did not like the cutesy caricature names. I probably would have been able to like this story better without that (it might even have been a love!). I mean, characters should not be named Bobo or Fiji or the Rev if you expect me to take them seriously (although I do suppose that is PARTLY the point). I also felt like a couple of the characters weren’t developed enough (Olivia, Joe Strong, Madonna & Teacher, and even main character Mernardo…which I know wasn’t his name, but I read it that way anyway every DAMN time), but since this is a series, that will probably take care of itself in later novels. I suppose I can live with it.

My other complaint: the ending annoyed me. It just did. I don’t want to spoil anything, but that is NOT okay, Charlaine Harris. Not okay at all. I do not like my evil villians to fall into quite that category. Maybe it is the teacher/mom in me.

I did find the supernatural twists: leeching vampires, eccentric small-town witches, talking pets, and possibly maybe shapeshifters and angels (?) fascinating, refreshing, and fun. Overall, I liked the story, found it had a few surprises and quite a believable small town feel. My favorite parts were definitely the cat familiar (yes, cliche I know, but perfect here) and the detailing of the Cartoon Saloon. Awesome.

Will I read additional books in this series? Likely at least one (too early to say if this is a long-term commitment yet) and maybe more if I’m in a rut, or want something easy and breezy.

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Wreckage by Emily Bleeker

wreckageThis reads a little like Lost mixed with Castaway mixed with Days of our Lives. Lillian and her mother-in-law, Margaret, win an all-expenses-paid vacation to Fiji courtesy of a yogurt brand. While on the promotional trip, the two women, the pilot, a flight attendant, and an executive from the yogurt company go down in their chartered plane. Several of the passengers survive and make it to a small island. Several others do not. When the survivors are rescued a few years later, the coverups and lying begin.

I enjoyed this book, although I could see a few of the big secrets coming a mile away. It was a quick read and enjoyable, but I did wish a few of the characters were a bit more developed. I also craved a different ending, but that’s just personal preference, I think. Still, I’d recommend it, particularly as a good beach read.

This was a Kindle First promo for February and I read it for book published this year. You can get it for $1.99 for the rest of the month :)

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming has been winning all sorts of awards (Newbery and National Book Award). It depicts a young black family’s moves from Ohio to South Carolina to New York City amid segregation and racial violence. Woodson also tells the story of growing up as a Jehovah’s Witness and how that made her different from other children. And while those elements are all certainly present, running like an undercurrent through the memoir, they don’t interfere with or overpower the narrative of Woodson’s childhood. Instead, historical events inform and color the verse so that we can learn from the effects on the family without feeling we are being taught. Woodson’s poems are beautiful, subtle, and yet still clear and evocative of a different time.

brown girl dreaming

I even had to read this one twice. I gobbled it down once super quickly to get the story of Jacqueline Woodson’s family life down, and then a second time slowly to savor the images and the language. It was that good. Although I’m not a huge fan of free verse, some of these poems I yearned to read aloud just to hear them spoken.

My favorite is “Composition Notebook” because as a writer, I KNOW the feeling of promise a new notebook brings:

And somehow, one day, it’s just there

speckled black-and-white, the paper

inside smelling like something I could fall right into,

live there — inside those clean white pages.


I don’t know how my first composition notebook

ended up in my hands, long before I could really write

someone must have known that this

was all I needed.


I read this for book with a color in the title and also because I don’t read nearly enough poetry. I’m sure glad I did.

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The Mermaid’s Sister by Carrie Anne Noble

I read this for my challenge book with non-human characters.

This is the story of babies left with a childless old healer woman on a mountaintop. The woman’s name is Verity, and as one might expect, she can tell no lies. One baby was delivered by a stork, Clara, and the one who was delivered in a conch shell is Maren. (And, by the way, isn’t Maren the perfect name for a mermaid?) Clara and Maren also have an orphaned half-brother who was discovered under an apple tree. That’s a lot of orphan discovery for one family but since it is fairy tale-like, I’ll suspend my disbelief about that, the mermaid baby in the conch, and the wyvern they keep as a pet. The old woman keeps the foundling girls, and her longtime love, a traveling caravan peddler, takes the apple tree baby, a boy named O’Neill. Over time they grow, and Maren the mermaid girl begins to transform into her true fishy self at sixteen. Since she cannot survive atop the mountain any longer, Clara and O’Neill must return Maren to her true home in the sea.

the mermaid's sister

This is a light-hearted and fun read with quite a few surprises and scares. Overall, I love this if only because it was a NaNoWriMo novel. I only wish it had had a series of pictures to make it even more lovely. It’s clearly meant for young adults, I’d say, but The Mermaid’s Sister was enjoyable nonetheless. It was also one of the Kindle First promotional items for $1.99 this month, so if you get it quickly, you can get it cheap :)

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Doctor Who: The King’s Dragon by Una McCormack

I read this as myking's dragon DW “based on a TV show” book for the challenge. I’d read several other Doctor Who novelizations and they’ve been pretty good. This one doesn’t disappoint if you accept it for what it is: a light read that captures and extends the stories of some of our beloved characters ;)  I could actually hear the voices of the Doctor, Amy, and Rory as they tried to save a peaceful little city covered in a mind-melding gold substance called Enamour while simultaneously trying to avert intergalactic war. Breezy and fun without requiring much thought to follow. McCormack captures the characters well. A quick, easy read.


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Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Oh, I liked this one so much better than Dark Places!!! I hate when I have to do a bad review ;)

sharp objects


A not-super-good reporter at a fourth-rate paper in Chicago is sent back to her tiny hometown to do some investigative reporting. It seems little girls in Wind Gap are disappearing and then showing up murdered and missing their teeth. Camille Preaker is troublingly real and far from perfect (unlike the heroine/reporters in many crime novels), given her tendency to drink too much and ritualistically carve words into her flesh. Needless to say, growing up in that tiny town was not good for her, so she isn’t eager to go back and reunite with the family members she left behind.

At times predictable, I still enjoyed Sharp Objects quite a bit and I gobbled it up in two days. I don’t know if I’m reading too many mystery/thrillers lately or if this one just had lots of clues, but I did know whodunit considerably before the big reveal at the end. I recall a similar feeling when reading Gone Girl, although I admit I hadn’t quite figured that one out. Still, the unreliable/unlikable protagonist seems to be a thing that Flynn does well (even though I couldn’t get past that very fact when reading about Libby Day, who I should have pitied, but instead, I just couldn’t stand). Flynn gets another win with this one, and I’ll just pretend Dark Places doesn’t exist.

I read this for “popular author’s first book” for the Popsugar challenge.

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We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

Well, this is not what I was expecting. It was a whole bunch of Martha’s Vineyard “I’m fancy” with more than a little bit of King Lear who-is-the-favorite-daughter and the Kennedys all-American family thrown in.

we were liars

So Cadence Sinclair Eastman is 15 and and blonde and rich. (I hate her already.) She and her cousins (who are also 15 and blonde and rich) and a not-really-related Indian boy friend, regularly summer on the private island owned by her uber-rich Grandpa. So they all hang out, being snooty, swimming, enjoying clambakes, and pretending they are too good for the younger siblings (who are also rich and blonde, so WTH?), while their parents and grandparents act even snootier and fight about race and divorce and who should inherit. It’s sort of icky, actually.

EXCEPT… the first lines of the story tell us that they were all lying, so we spend the entire book questioning what is actually true and what is just a lie. Maybe they aren’t all that priviliged and jerky. Maybe their summers aren’t quite that idyllic. And then…BAM! It’s like the rug is torn out from under us and we discover that NOTHING is what it seems. There are some big freakin’ lies going on and they’re painful and NOT idyllic or all-American at all. There is supposed to be this super-crazy reveal that I sort of saw coming, but then I had to question if THAT was false, so…

While I don’t think this is the best book ever written or anything, it was an interesting one and unlike anything I’ve read lately. I do think I might read it again to see what clues I can find about the lies and the sort-of-surprise ending. No love triangles, no dystopia, just YA with a twist.

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My TBR is filled with crap.

And I need a new book to read. And NOT Sarah’s Key, Audible – that book scares the shit out of me, so quit trying to shove it down my throat! Ugh, I am tired of contemporary stuff and want to read something historical, but my entire TBR is just, like, every book ever written about the Tudors. Blah. I’m in a slump.


I am thisclose to just re-reading Scarlett again.


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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach


By turns ghastly and intriguing, this nonfiction piece looks at what happens to our bodies after we die, particularly for cadavers willed to science. The realities are somewhat unsettling, but Roach treats the subject with a light, irreverent tone that reminds us we have nothing to fear once dead and no reason to try to control what happens to our bodies. After all, it is irrelevant because SOMETHING is going to happen to us all eventually, none of the choices are particularly dignified, and we won’t be around to call the shots anyway :)

My husband asked WHY I was reading this…I replied that I simply didn’t know. Stiff had been on my TBR for quite some time, and I was in the mood for something DIFFERENT. Well, different it is. And I loved it. It is by turns well-informed and full of useless trivia, and only a tad disturbing. It might make you gag, but Stiff likely won’t cause any sleepless nights. It’s worth a read, if you’ve ever wondered how long a dead body will actually stay preserved when embalmed, what might happen to corpses sent to universities for research, how exactly medical examiners can determine precise times of death, or what innovative new methods of body disposal might be around if you aren’t too keen on cremation or traditional burial. Fascinating.

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