Saturday, December 31, 2016

And Good Riddance - Wrapping Up 2016

Yes, definitely goodbye and good riddance! 2016 has been one of the weirdest and most disturbing years I can remember and I'm definitely glad to see it moving along. It's also been one of the slowest reading years I've experienced in — well, years. Not only did I not make my 50-book goal (didn't even get to 40 books — pretty bad), but I also fell way behind in my reviewing and blogging. Don't know why I had such a hard time, but I'm looking forward to getting a nice fresh start in 2017.

So, anyway...time for some wrapping up, taking stock, and looking ahead.

I don't always rate books here on the blog, but I do over at Library Thing; and as I look back over the books I did get through, I realize there were quite a few 4-star books in this year's crop (no 5-stars, but I don't hand out that rating to very many books). And I suppose if I had to pick one favorite from the entire list, it would be Henry James's Daisy Miller. I guess you can't go wrong reading the classics.

And in the more recent group, I'd probably have to say my favorite was Kate DiCamillo's 2014 Newbery Winner, Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures. Yes, I read kiddie lit, and don't mind admitting it! But Flora & Ulysses is really a treat for readers of any age.

From among the books published in 2016, I think my top picks would be Jonas Karlsson's The Invoice (although I believe it was originally issued in 2011), and Far From True, Linwood Barclay's second novel in his Promise Falls trilogy. Also very much enjoyed Dark Matter by Blake Crouch, The Girls by Emma Cline,  Miller's Valley (which was my introduction to Anna Quindlen's work), and Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler.

So, even though I didn't read as much as I'd hoped, I did read some books I really enjoyed and discovered a few new authors. Guess I shouldn't be too disappointed with myself.

For the New Year, I've been trying to come up with a list of bookish resolutions, but it always seems to come down to "read more books" and "be a better blogger." Not very helpful. I've never been very good with resolutions, anyway. I've also been trying to come up with a First Book of the Year choice. Ideally it should be something short, and involving — a book that grabs me right from the first page and doesn't let me go until that final exquisite sentence. And I don't run into many like that these days. Maybe I'll just stick with the tried and true, and pick a book from one of the many mystery series I've got going — very possibly a Mrs. Malory novel (by Hazel Holt), I only have three more of those to finish the series. Hmmm.

OK, time to shut up now. Happy New Year, everyone! And happy reading in 2017!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Challenge Wrap-Up: 2016 Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt

Host: Bev @ My Reader's Block

I read five books for the scavenger hunt, and the minimum requirement was six. So I didn't totally wipe out, but definitely could have done better. Still, this is one of my favorite challenges and I've already signed up for the 2017 edition.

I read Silver Age mysteries (1960-1989), so I was working with this list of objects:

And the books I read:

1. Lovely in Her Bones. Sharyn McCrumb (first published 1985)
....For the scavenger hunt: Skull on cover (cover photo is the actual paperback edition I read)

2. Picture Miss Seeton (Miss Seeton #1). Heron Carvic (first published 1968; read but not reviewed)
....For the scavenger hunt: Just One Person on cover (I have several editions of this book and this cover is one of them; I actually read an electronic edition which didn't have a cover picture)

3. Knots and Crosses (Inspector Rebus #1). Ian Rankin (first published 1987; read but not reviewed)
....For the scavenger hunt: Rope/Hangman's Noose on cover (above cover is from the mass market paperback edition; I actually read the Kindle edition, cover shown below)

4. The Clocks (Hercule Poirot #34). Agatha Christie (first published 1963; read but not reviewed)
....For the scavenger hunt: Clock/Timepiece on cover (cover below is from the Kindle edition I read)

5. Curtain: Poirot's Last Case (Hercule Poirot #39). Agatha Christie (first published 1975; read but not reviewed)
....For the scavenger hunt: Bottle of Poison on cover (cover below is from the Kindle edition I read)

I think I got all of that right. One of the things I like about this challenge is that keeping track of all the details is very.... well, challenging. Keeps the little grey cells churning, right Poirot? Anyway, it was fun and I'm looking forward to next year's hunt.

2016 Reading Challenge Wrap-Ups, Part 1

Since it's very unlikely I'll be doing much more reading for any of my 2016 challenges, I'm just going to declare years-end and start posting my wrap-ups. Here we go, in (roughly) alphabetical order:

Host: Karen K @ Books and Chocolate

Only read two books that qualified for the challenge (there were twelve categories):
  1. Daisy Miller. Henry James
  2. To Have and Have Not. Ernest Hemingway

Host: herding cats & burning soup,
and Addicted to Happily Ever After @ The Herd Presents

Read one book that qualified for the challenge: The Last September, by Nina de Gramont.

I did pretty well with this challenge. Signed up for 4-6 books, and ended up reading 7 that qualified:
  1. The People in the Photo. Hélène Gestern; translated from the French by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz
  2. Villa Triste. Patrick Modiano; trans. from the French by John Cullen
  3. The Disappearance of Signora Giulia. Piero Chiara; trans. from the Italian by Jill Foulston
  4. This Too Shall Pass. Milena Busquets; trans. from the Spanish by Valerie Miles 
  5. Inkheart. Cornelia Funke; trans. from the German by Anthea Bell  
  6. Tainted Tokay (Winemaker Detective Series #11). Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noël Balen; trans. from the French by Sally Pane
  7. The Nightwalker. Sebastian Fitzek; trans. from the German by Jamie Lee Searle

Sorry to say it, but I completely wiped out on this one. Never managed to read any books for the challenge, although it still sounds good to me. Maybe just too much "structure."

Another one I managed to finish ‒ signed up at the 4-book level, and actually read 5 that qualify:
  1. The People in the Photo. Hélène Gestern; translated by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz (set in France, mainly Paris) 
  2. The Disappearance of Signora Giulia. Piero Chiara; translated by Jill Foulston (set in Italy)
  3. This Too Shall Pass. Milena Busquets; translated by Valerie Miles (set in Catalonia region of Spain
  4. The Invoice. Jonas Karlsson (set in Sweden)
  5. The Nightwalker. Sebastian Fitzek; translated by Jamie Lee Searle (set in Germany

Signed up at the 5-book level; read 5 books:
1. Dreaming Spies (Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes #13). Laurie R. King
2. A Christmas Escape. Anne Perry
3. A Fine Imitation. Amber Brock
4. The Port-Wine Stain. Norman Lock
5. As Good As Gone. Larry Watson 
That's probably enough for now. More to come....

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Banned/Challenged Books Reading Challenge 2017

Hosted by: Book Dragon's Lair
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2017

Censorship is something we all need to be aware of and concerned about. I've always believed that, and I think today it's more important than ever. So I just can't pass up this challenge.

The object is simple: Read books that have been banned or challenged; or, read nonfiction books about censorship, book burning, etc. See the challenge announcement page for more info.

There are four levels for the challenge:
  1. Read 1 book. You are an Ember. You're small but mighty just waiting to burn the structure down.
  2. Read 2-6 books. You are Creeping. You're burning with a low flame and spreading slowly.
  3. Read 7-12 books. You are a Blow-up fire. Sudden increase in fire intensity strong enough to upset control plans
  4. Read 13+ books. You are Uncontrolled. Any fire which threatens to destroy life, property, or natural resources.
I'm hoping to read several banned or challenged books next year, so I'll be signing up at the "Creeping" level. During the year, I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (HERE).

Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt 2017

Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2017

Over at her My Reader's Block blog, Bev is once again hosting the Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt in 2017. For this challenge, participants read vintage mysteries — either Golden Age (pre-1960) or Silver Age (1960-1989), or both — and hunt for a variety of objects on the book covers.

The 2016 Scavenger Hunt was one of my favorite challenges this year, even though I didn't do very well with it (actually, I'm still trying to finish one more book for it). I've dithered around a bit, but decided to give it another try in 2017. Since I seemed to have a hard time with the Silver Age, I think I'll try Golden Age mysteries this time around.

During the year, I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists over on my challenge blog (HERE).

Monday, December 19, 2016

Backlist Reader Challenge 2017

Hosted by: The Bookwyrm's Hoard
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2017

This is a really simple challenge, and something I definitely need. I'm planning to do more reading from my own "backlist" next year, so I've been looking at several TBR challenges. This one is perfect for me because it has very few rules, and you don't necessarily have to own the books already -- as long as they're on your "to read" list (and they were published before 2016), they qualify. That means a lot more flexibility in choosing books. I love that.

I have a (ridiculously enormous) GoodReads list of books I'd like to read, and an even longer written list (yes, on paper!) that I'll be referring to for picks. Also, I'll be keeping a list of possible reads on my challenge blog (HERE), and tracking my progress there throughout the year. My goal is to read at least a dozen books off these various lists -- I'd love to read more than that, but want to stay realistic about what I can hope to achieve!

2017 Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge

Hosted by: Claudia @ My Soul Called Life
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2017

This challenge presents six keywords associated with each month in 2017. Participants read one book each month whose title includes one or more of the keywords for that month.

Monthly Keywords:

  • JAN -- Court, Fall, Of, Way, Deep, Thousand
  • FEB -- And, Rose, Promise, Every, Deception, Blazing
  • MAR -- Shall, Go, By, Silence, Her, Saga
  • APR -- From, Trigger, Tale, His, Crown, Mist
  • MAY -- Four, Wind, All, Fury, Days, Shade
  • JUN -- Without, Know, Good, Watch, One, Have
  • JUL -- Before, Final, All, Freedom, Life, Dream
  • AUG -- Sun, Infinite, Big, My, Wherever, Most
  • SEP -- Sand, From, Between, Ever, Reasons, Clash
  • OCT -- Darker, You, Ashes, Out, House, Sea
  • NOV -- Place, War, Heart, Why, Give, Meet
  • DEC -- Forget, Twilight, Only, Crystal, On, Will

At first I didn't really intend to join in on the Monthly Keyword Challenge -- I was just going to play around with it a little. But I've been having so much fun matching up books with keywords, I decided I might as well go ahead and sign up. The concept is intriguing, and I think it could help me knock a few books off my embarrassingly huge TBR pile.

Also, I was especially happy to read this little note: "This challenge is simply for the pure satisfaction of reading so please don’t worry if you have to skip a month or if you have to read your books out of order!"

During the year, I'll be tracking my progress over on my challenge blog (HERE).

Some possible choices (definitely subject to change):

-- The Fall Guy. James Lasdun
-- Things Fall Apart. Chinua Achebe

-- Fathers and Sons. Ivan Turgenev
-- Hide and Seek (Inspector Rebus #2). Ian Rankin
-- Mrs. Malory and a Death In the Family (Sheila Malory #17). Hazel Holt
-- Rose Cottage. Mary Stewart

-- The Go-Between. L.P. Hartley
-- Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. Rachel Carson
-- North By Northwest. Ernest Lehman

-- Dancer From the Dance. Andrew Holleran 
-- Far From the Madding Crowd. Thomas Hardy
-- Flowers For His Funeral (Mitchell & Markby #7). Ann Granger
-- Speaking from Among the Bones (Flavia de Luce #5). Alan Bradley

-- Six Days of the Condor. James Grady
-- The Wind in the Willows. Kenneth Grahame
-- All Passion Spent. Vita Sackville-West

-- Good Morning, Midnight. Jean Rhys
-- A Red Herring Without Mustard (Flavia De Luce #3). Alan Bradley

-- Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Philip K. Dick
-- Dream When You're Feeling Blue. Elizabeth Berg
-- Final Curtain (Roderick Alleyn #14). Ngaio Marsh

-- Farewell, My Lovely. Raymond Chandler 
-- Gently In the Sun (Inspector George Gently #6). Alan Hunter 
-- Travels With My Aunt. Graham Greene

-- Between the Acts. Virginia Woolf
-- If Morning Ever Comes. Anne Tyler
-- What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Henry Farrell

-- The Empty House and Other Ghost Stories. Algernon Blackwood
-- Wide Sargasso Sea. Jean Rhys

-- The Death of the Heart. Elizabeth Bowen
-- The Heart of the Matter. Graham Greene
-- The Summer Before the War. Helen Simonson

-- The Crystal Cave. Mary Stewart
-- The Forgetting Room: A Fiction. Nick Bantock
-- Murder on the Orient Express. Agatha Christie

(Notice that there are two keywords repeated: ALL in May and July, and FROM in April and September. I believe those are the only repeats.)

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Walter the Lazy Mouse

Marjorie Flack
Illustrated by the author
Two Lions, 2015; 96 pages
First published 1937

About the Book:

Walter is a young mouse who is so lazy he misses school and most of the other life events he should be attending to. In fact, he's so lazy that eventually his family forgets about him (!) and moves away without him. That sets Walter off on his quest to find his family and be reunited. The book is about his adventures on the way.

He meets a helpful turtle and some friendly (though forgetful) frogs. He gets his own island to live on and tries to be a teacher for his froggy friends. He learns to be self-reliant and responsible, and just doesn't have the time to be lazy anymore. Does he ever find his family? Does everyone live happily ever after? Well, you'll just have to read the book to find out!

My Thoughts:

Classic children's book from 1937, back in print with the original illustrations by the author. Not one of the books I remember ever reading, so I thought I'd give it a look. It's a very cute tale, and teaches some valuable lessons. I enjoyed the story and the charming graphics, but I'm not sure I'd have been so enthusiastic if I'd read it when I was little. Admittedly, I was a pretty insecure kiddo, but I think the idea of the family forgetting Walter and moving away without him would have scared me to pieces!

Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Kate DiCamillo
Illustrated by K.G. Campbell
Candlewick Press, 2013; 233 pages

I'm (very slowly) trying to read my way through more of the recent Newbery Medal winners, and this one took the prize in 2014.

Ten-year-old cynic and comic-book-lover Flora Belle Buckman saves a squirrel (Ulysses) from a horrible death-by-vacuum-cleaner, and that near-fatal accident imbues the furry victim with unexplainable super powers. He finds he can fly! And also write poetry! (Although he has a bit of trouble with spelling.)

Ulysses and Flora become fast friends, but Flora's mother is determined to exterminate the rodent. Lots of lovely excitement is stirred up before all the problems are solved.

I loved this wonderful book! The characters were quirky and lovable and K.G. Campbell's illustrations in comic-book form were charming. I've read DiCamillo's Tale of Despereaux, and wasn't much impressed. But Flora & Ulysses was a real treat!

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● Qualifies for the following reading challenge: 2016 Newbery Reading Challenge.

The People in the Photo

Hélène Gestern
Translated by Emily Boyce and Ros Schwartz
Gallic Books, 2014; 273 pages
First published 2011

Publisher's Blurb:
The chance discovery of a newspaper image from 1971 sets two people on the path to learning the disturbing truth about their parents' pasts. 
My Thoughts:

I enjoyed this story of a woman's search for the history of the mother she never really knew.

Parisian archivist Hélène finds an old photo of her mother (who died when Hélène was three) and two unidentified men, taken at a tennis match in 1971. She takes out a newspaper ad seeking information, and attracts the attention of Stéphane, a Swiss biologist living in Kent, who believes his father is one of the men in the photo. They exchange letters, phone calls and email, and a relationship develops as they set out on a journey to uncover the story they believe their parents were hiding from them. There are setbacks, false leads and misunderstanding along the way, but eventually their dual quest builds to a very satisfying conclusion.

This was Gestern's first novel, originally published in 2011. It's a fast, engrossing read that definitely deserves the "page-turner" label.

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(Full Disclosure: This review refers to an advance readers copy of the book received free of charge from the publisher, through the NetGalley website. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)

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● Qualifies for the following reading challenge: Books in Translation Challenge; European Challenge2016 NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge; Women Challenge; Women's Fiction Challenge.

The Children's Home

Charles Lambert
Scribner, 2016; 224 pages

Publisher's Description:
(The) debut novel from an award-winning British author about a mysterious group of children who appear to a disfigured recluse and his country doctor—and the startling revelations their behavior evokes.  
In a sprawling estate, willfully secluded, lives Morgan Fletcher, the disfigured heir to a fortune of mysterious origins. Morgan spends his days in quiet study, avoiding his reflection in mirrors and the lake at the end of his garden. One day, two children, Moira and David, appear. Morgan takes them in, giving them free reign of the mansion he shares with his housekeeper Engel. Then more children begin to show up. 
Dr. Crane, the town physician and Morgan’s lone tether to the outside world, is as taken with the children as Morgan, and begins to spend more time in Morgan’s library. But the children behave strangely. They show a prescient understanding of Morgan’s past, and their bizarre discoveries in the mansion attics grow increasingly disturbing. Every day the children seem to disappear into the hidden rooms of the estate, and perhaps, into the hidden corners of Morgan’s mind.
My Thoughts:

I'm not sure what to make of this one. The publishers have called it genre-defying and utterly bewitching. I suppose I agree with the "genre-defying" tag; it certainly seems to be in a genre all its own, even though it has splashes of sci-fi, fantasy, gothic horror, mystery, and several classic children's books. But I'm afraid I can't go along with "bewitching."

It was definitely atmospheric and mysterious ⏤ actually a little too mysterious. I'm assuming Lambert must have had some purpose in mind, but I never could figure it out. My reaction went from "What's going on here?" to just a constant "Eeeewww!" Sort of a yucky read, and definitely not one I'd recommend.

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(Full Disclosure: This review refers to an advance readers copy of the book received free of charge from the publisher, through the NetGalley website. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)

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● Qualifies for the following reading challenge: 2016 NetGalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge.

The Port-Wine Stain

Norman Lock
Bellevue Literary Press, 2016; 224 pages

Publisher's Description:
This gothic psychological thriller recounts the story of a young Philadelphian, Edward Fenzil, who, in the winter of 1844, falls under the sway of two luminaries of the nineteenth-century grotesque imagination: Thomas Dent Mütter, a surgeon and collector of medical “curiosities,” and Edgar Allan Poe. 
As Fenzil struggles against the powerful wills that would usurp his identity, including that of his own malevolent doppelgänger, he loses his mind and his story to another.

My Thoughts:

This one disappointed me. I thought it started well, but after a strong beginning, nothing much actually happened until very late in the narrative. I wasn't really expecting a lot of action, but even so, the story seemed to stagnate very early. And it certainly didn't come near the delicious eeriness you get when you're immersed in one of Poe's tales.

However, I did enjoy the writing style ⏤ not a downright copy of E.A. Poe's (and I wasn't really expecting that either), but pleasantly similar. For me, though, the problem was too much style and not enough substance, I'm afraid.

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(Full Disclosure: I received my copy of this book from the publisher, through Library Thing's Early Reviewer program, in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)

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● Qualifies for the following reading challenge: 2016 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge.

Tainted Tokay (Winemaker Detective #11)

Jean-Pierre Alaux and Noel Balen
Trans. by Sally Pane
Le French Book, 2016; 181 pages
First published 2006

Publisher's Description:
France’s top wine expert Benjamin Cooker sets off to enjoy the delights of Vienna, a romantic ride down the Danube, a gourmand’s visit to Budapest, and a luxury train through the enchanting Hungarian countryside. All too soon, stolen wallets, disappearing passports, guides who are a bit too obliging, and murder mar the trip. Meanwhile, in Bordeaux, Cooker’s assistant Virgile faces an annoying rival and a mildew crisis in the vineyards just as Cooker’s lab technician is the victim of a mugging.
My Thoughts:

I think I'm getting hooked on this series. I've read one of the earlier books, Backstabbing in Bojolais, and while I enjoyed that one well enough, I didn't think it was an experience I'd want to continue. Obviously, I was wrong about that because after finishing Tainted Tokay, I'm already looking forward to my next encounter with Benjamin Cooker, his assistant Virgile, and all their friends and enemies.

This one started out a little "iffy" ⎼ the narrative was divided between Cooker and his missus on a vacation cruise on the Danube, and Virgile back in Paris keeping the wine business running smoothly and also dealing with the mysterious attack on fellow employee Alexandrine. I kept waiting for the two story lines to come together, which was a problem at first. But once I abandoned those expectations and just let myself enjoy the read, I had a great time.

The only real criticism I have is that from time to time, Benjamin (and to some extent, all the other characters as well) sounds like he's quoting from a Wikipedia article. He seems to have massive amounts of information on wine (and every other subject, really) stored in his amazing memory banks, and he's only too happy to quote huge chunks of it for us. Have to admit, I skimmed through a bit of that.

But I did manage to pick up a lot of info about wine that was interesting and new to me. In fact, the wine and winemaking are almost like another character in the books ⎼ well, actually the central character; the character that all the action revolves around. It's an intriguing idea and more enjoyable than I would have imagined. But I'd still welcome a little more action and suspense.

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(Full Disclosure: I received my copy of this book free of charge from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review. No other compensation was received, and no one attempted to influence my opinion.)

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● Qualifies for the following reading challenge: Books In Translation Challenge.

More Challenge Sign-Ups

Since we're getting so close to the end of the year, I thought I'd go ahead and make it official with a few of the challenges I've been considering. All of these fit right in with my reading plans for next year, so I don't think they'll be too hard to keep up with. During the year, I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my book lists over on my challenge blog (HERE).

ebook Reading Challenge 2017
Hosted by: Book Dragon's Lair

Books for this challenge must be electronic (naturally), and must have an ISBN or equivalent. As the announcement page says: "If you can buy it or borrow it, it counts."

There are several levels for this challenge, and I'm going with "Byte" (10 books) even though I'm pretty sure I'll read more than that. (I love ebooks!)

You can view my progress HERE.

The 2017 New To Me Challenge
Hosted by: herding cats & burning soup

What counts for the challenge: Anything that's "new" to you; for example...
  • first time reading an author 
  • first book in a series 
  • first book you've read from a series (doesn't have to be book one) 
  • first time trying a genre/subgenre 
  • a debut book from an author (even if you've read them before)
Books need to be over 80 pages to count, and there's a minimum of 12 books for the challenge (but you can choose any amount over that). I'm going with "first time reading an author" and my goal is to read at least 20 new-to-me authors during the year. (View my progress HERE.)

What's In a Name 2017
Hosted by: Charlie @ The Worm Hole

I didn't do very well with the 2016 edition of this challenge, so I'm signing up for 2017 and hoping to redeem myself. Besides, it's always so much fun trying to come up with book titles to fit the categories! There are six of those categories, and I don't really have any books set to read yet, so I'll just be picking them as I go. (View my progress HERE.)

Monday, December 12, 2016

2017 Newbery Reading Challenge

Hosted by: Julie @ Smiling Shelves
Dates: January 1 - December 31, 2017

In 2017, Julie (at Smiling Shelves) is once again hosting the Newbery Reading Challenge. I like this challenge a lot, even though I didn't do very well with it this year (only read one book). Hoping to do better next year. Of course, that's what I said last year about this year. Hmmm. I seem to be repeating myself.

Anyway, I'd like to read at least half a dozen books for the challenge, and will be signing up at the first level ("L'Engle"). I don't have a set list of books to read, but I do have quite a few that've been on my TBR list/pile for a number of years decades:

Newbery Winners and Honor Books
  • By the Shores of Silver Lake. Laura Ingalls Wilder 
  • The Cricket in Times Square. George Selden
  • Hitty, Her First Hundred Years. Rachel Field
  • Miss Hickory. Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
  • The Westing Game. Ellen Raskin
  • When You Reach Me. Rebecca Stead
  • The Witches of Worm. Zilpha Keatley Snyder 
Caldecott Winners
  • The Funny Little Woman. Illustrated by Blair Lent; text: retold by Arlene Mosel 
  • Golem. David Wisniewski 
  • The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Brian Selznick 
  • Many Moons. Illustrated by Louis Slobodkin; text: James Thurber 
  • Owl Moon. Illustrated by John Schoenherr; text: Jane Yolen 
  • Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. William Steig 

This year, Julie is allowing Caldecott Honor Books as well as winners, so that gives me a few more books to explore. During the year, I'll be tracking my progress and keeping all my lists over on my challenge blog (HERE).

Sunday, December 11, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Yes, it's Monday. And heading very rapidly for the middle of December. Can you believe that? I certainly cannot.

So. What am I reading this week? And the answer is... I'm really not reading anything much. I'm addressing Christmas cards, finishing up the shopping, and getting ready for a mid-week gathering of old friends. I might be able to fit in a little reading during all that, but it's not extremely likely. If I do find the time, I'll be trying to finish one of several books I started last month — probably either...

As Good As Gone, by Larry Watson

or, possibly...

Faithful, by Alice Hoffman

The Larry Watson book was an Early Reviewer book from Library Thing and I'm very, very late in getting to it — so that one should really be my first priority, I suppose. But the Alice Hoffman novel really grabbed me and I'd love to finish it this year even though that seems like wishful thinking at this point.

Although I haven't been doing much actual reading lately, I have been looking at all the new reading challenges cropping up, and thinking about the ones I might like to take on. I've only signed up for one, so far (the European Challenge, hosted by Rose City Reader), but I have several more in mind. I was sort of overwhelmed by all my challenges this year, so I'm trying very hard to be more selective in 2017. (We'll see how long that lasts!)

So, what about you? Will you be doing more reading in 2016? Or just trying to struggle through the holiday hubbub?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? is now hosted by Kathryn at Book Date. If you want to let the world know what you're going to be reading this week, head on over to her blog and leave your link. It's also a great way to discover new books and new blogs.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

2017 Reading Challenges

[Note: For a more comprehensive list of 2017 reading challenges, just click on the Challenges tab above.]


Still thinking about reading challenges for the coming new year. I'm posting this mainly as a way to keep track of the new challenges that interest me, so it's by no means a comprehensive list of ALL the challenges out there. Basically, I look for challenges that are not terribly restrictive and allow for different levels of involvement (so, no set number of books per week or month). Also (with one or two exceptions), I'm not really attracted to the long-list challenges with a lot of different categories or subjects ("Read a book that was published on a Thursday" "Read a book that has lamb chops on the cover" "Read a book recommended by your cousin Reg" etc.)

Anyway, these are just some I'm thinking might be fun. I've mentioned a few of them before. They're in (roughly) alphabetical order, and I'll probably be adding to the list as the month goes on.

In general, the links are to the announcement/sign-up pages. I will NOT be signing up for ALL of these. Well, probably not.


  1. Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Escape With Dollycas Into a Good Book 
  2. Aussie Author Challenge 2017 | Host: Book Lover Book Reviews 
  3. Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017 | Host:
  4. The Backlist Reader Challenge 2017 | Host: The Bookwyrm's Hoard  **signed up 12/19/2016: see my sign-up post**
  5. Back to the Classics Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Karen K @ Books and Chocolate 
  6. Banned/Challenged Books Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Book Dragon's Lair 
  7. Cloak and Dagger Reading Challenge 2017 | Hosts: Stormi @ Books, Movies, Reviews! Oh My! and Barb @ Booker T's Farm
  8. Cruisin' thru the Cozies Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Yvonne @ Socrates' Book Reviews
  9. ebook Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Book Dragon's Lair **signed up 12/15/2016: see my sign-up post**
  10. Epistolary Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Jamie @ Whatever I Think Of!
  11. European Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Rose City Reader **signed up 11/25/2016: see my sign-up post**
  12. Humor Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Jamie @ Whatever I Think Of! 
  13. Monthly Keyword Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Claudia @ My Soul Called Life **signed up 12/19/2016: see my sign-up post**
  14. Mount TBR Challenge 2017 | Host: Bev @ My Reader's Block 
  15. Netgalley & Edelweiss Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Katrina @ Bookish Things 
  16. Newbery Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Julie @ Smiling Shelves **signed up 12/13/2016: see my sign-up post**
  17. New Release Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Bookviews
  18. New To Me Challenge 2017 | Host: Herding Cats & Burning Soup  **signed up 12/15/2016: see my sign-up post** 
  19. Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Read-at-Home Mom  
  20. Paranormal Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Whole Latte Books
  21. Pick Your Genre Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Herding Cats & Burning Soup
  22. Picture Book Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Becky @ Becky's Book Reviews
  23. The Purrfect Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Yvonne @ Socrates' Book Reviews
  24. Reading Challenge Addict 2017 | Host: Bev (from My Reader's Block)
  25. Retellings Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Jo @ Once Upon a Bookcase
  26. Russian Literature Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Keely @ We Went Outside and Saw the Stars
  27. Victorian Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Becky @ Becky's Book Reviews
  28. Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunt 2017 | Host: Bev @ My Reader's Block  **signed up 12/21/2016: see my sign-up post** 
  29. The Well Read Pagan Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: The Domestic Witch
  30. What An Animal Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Yvonne @ Socrates' Book Reviews
  31. What's In A Name 2017 | Host: Charlie @ The Worm Hole   **signed up 12/15/2016: see my sign-up post** 
  32. Wired Into Sci-Fi Reading Challenge 2017 | Host: Sci-Fi and Scary
  33. The 2017 Witchy Fiction Reading Challenge | Host: The Domestic Witch 
  34. You Read How Many Books? Challenge 2017 | Host: Book Dragon's Lair

More to come....


Thursday, December 01, 2016

Book Beginnings: The Fur Person

The Fur Person, by May Sarton (first published 1957; Kindle edition illustrated by Barbara Knox). This is the book's first sentence:
When he was about two years old, and had been a Cat About Town for some time, glorious in conquests, but rather too thin for comfort, the Fur Person decided that it was time he settled down.
About the Book:
This "enchanting story and classic of cat literature is drawn from the true adventures of Tom Jones, May Sarton’s own cat. Prior to making the author’s acquaintance, he is a fiercely independent, nameless Cat About Town. Growing tired of his vagabond lifestyle, however, he concludes that there might be some appeal in giving up his freedom for a home." The book is a charming description of his adventures as he searches not only for a home, but (most importantly) the perfect housekeeper.
Initial Thoughts:

I'm sort of a sucker for books with cats in them, and I just stumbled upon this one while browsing Amazon. I've read some of May Sarton's poetry, but didn't know anything about her cat book. Haven't finished it yet, but so far it's been a lot of fun, and quite a change from all the thrillers and ghostly tales I've been reading lately.

Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Friday.  As she says, the idea is to post the first sentence (or so) of the book you're currently reading, along with any first impressions or thoughts you have about the book, the author, etc.  It's a wonderful way of adding new books to your must-read list, and a chance to connect with other readers and bloggers.