Final Book Reviews for the To Be Read Pile Challenge
The end of another year means that reading challenges are wrapping up all over. For the last three years I’ve participated in the TBR (To Be Read) Pile Challenge hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader. The goal is to read 12 books off your bookshelf that have been sitting there for more than a year.
Not a bad way to save money too!
I’m proud to report I completed the challenge by finishing my book list.
My 2015 TBR Pile Challenge List:
- The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (1890)
- Persuasion by Jane Austen (1818)
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1905)
- In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (1965)
- The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula Le Guin (1969)
- Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J. K. Rowling (1999)
- Insurgent by Veronica Roth (2012)
- Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2013)
- The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry (2011)
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt (2004)
- Death Comes to Pemberley by P. D. James (2013)
- Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher (2012)
My favorite read was probably In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. I hadn’t read it before and his attention to detail really makes you feel like you’re in the room with the characters. Plus, it’s based on a true crime, a despicable crime, and yet the way he writes it, the reader is drawn to the story of the killers and what happens to them.
The final two books I have to report on are:
Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher
I loved this book. It’s the story of a teen girl who starts writing letters to a death row inmate. And in her letters, she confesses to a crime that she got away with.
I listened to this one on audiobook and highly recommend the audio version if you’re into them. While being a YA book, it deals with a lot of serious themes such as family dynamics, first love, finding oneself, and guilt.
What’s interesting about this book is we never actually meet the death row inmate. He’s a key character as Zoe, the teen girl, tells her story to him, revealing aspects of his own crime as she reads about it. We learn about him, but we never actually meet the inmate. I thought this book was exceptionally well written and very interesting.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
On the literary end of things, Donna Tartt’s Secret History also deals with a murder.
The book opens with a group of college freshman narrator. We know a body was found beneath the snow, and that the narrator was somehow involved, but we don’t know how.
Then the book zooms back to his first days at college, making friends, scraping money together for bills, and how Richard, the narrator, gets involved with a select group of students in a greek language class.
The students in the greek class are nothing like Richard. They come from wealthy families with summer homes in Europe and wear expensive suits to class and dine at fancy restaurants multiple nights a week. But Richard does his best to fit in.
Everything has a cost. And that’s all I’ll tell you about this one.
For those of you that are looking to join up with a reading challenge in 2016, I must sadly report that Adam is not continuing the TBR Pile Challenge, but will have other reading challenges available you can check out on his blog.
So I partnered with Adam and some of my favorite book bloggers to find another reading challenge that focused on the stacks that no longer fit on my bookshelf. Here’s what they recommended.
2016 Reading Challenges
In 2016, I’m joining forces with Andi from Estella’s Revenge for the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge and Maren from The Worn Bookmark for her #2016ReadMyBooks challenge.
Both challenges focus on reading books you already own, but that can be actual paper copies as well as ebooks.
There is no set number you have to read, it’s up to you to decide what is manageable and what you want to achieve.
Andi and Maren are both setting goals of 100 or more! I am shooting for 24. That’s 2 books/month. So truly, go as big or as small as you want!
Another bonus, you don’t have to pick the book titles ahead. (This is helpful to me since my reading varies on my mood. I like that these challenges allow for flexibility.) I’ll be adding a page soon with my full library to list all my reading options. Feel free to share your recommendations with me in the comments too!
If you have a blog, the hosts encourage you to write reviews of the books you read and share them with the hashtags above. You can also catch them on Instagram!
The first thing you have to do is count up how many unread books are on your bookshelf…and floors and desk and bedside table.
I have a grand total of 161 unread books.
And I asked for more for Christmas!
I’ll be kicking off the challenge with my gluttonous consumption of the Outlander series. I’m working on Voyager now.
So who’s with me?
Are you participating in reading challenges in 2016?
If you did any this year, how did they go? What was your favorite read?
P.S. Need help writing a book report? Check this out! 😉
P.P.S. In case you missed it, I guest blogged at Coach Daddy last week, hanging out with my pal, Eli Pacheco! I shared 3 books, 3 songs, and 3 quotes to inspire the world! Eli is always writing honest and inspiring blog posts. He just did a great one this weekend about gratitude. Stop by and hang out with us, it’s a fun group!
Top Ten Books On My Spring To Be Read List
What books are on your to read list right now?
The recent signs of spring have me extra energized to tackle my To Be Read Pile. I’m a pretty avid reader, and I recently discovered the blog, The Broke and the Bookish, who hosts a Top Ten list every Tuesday focused on various book themes. Today we’re talking about the Top Ten Books On Our Spring To Be Read List. I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time whittling down what book to read next because I want to read All. The. Books!!^$?!
If I drink All. The. Coffee. I will never have to sleep again!
I can just read and read and read and read…
Hmm, maybe not.
But here are the Top Ten Books on my Spring To Be Read List:
1. Persuasion by Jane Austen
The last of Jane Austen’s six novels I have yet to read. Once I finish the story of Anne Eliot I will have completed her most well known works and can move on to some of her novellas like Sandition and Lady Susan. Judging from the film versions I’ve seen (many times), Captain Wentworth is indeed worth waiting for.
2. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
Claimed as the new Eleanor & Park meets The Fault in our Stars, I’ve been hungry to read this book for awhile but busy finishing up some other titles. I even bought this one in hardcover. I don’t even really like hardcover. I’m a paperback girl. I just wanted to read this one that badly. It’s the story of two teens – one a total loner who contemplates death and looks to the future with a strict eye, the other a free spirit who lives in the moment and sees life as an adventure. Their worlds are about to collide. I want to find out what happens!
3. Cress by Marissa Meyer
The third book in The Lunar Chronicles; I’m committed now. I absolutely loved the first book, Cinder. I thought the second book, Scarlet, was ok. But friends assure me that Cress is worth the read. A futuristic spinoff of classic fairytales, this is the continuing adventure of a cyborg named Cinder who is on the run after the evil Lunar Queen, Levana, has a call out for her head and plans to marry the good-intentioned Emperor Kai. With the help of some fellow misfits, will Cinder overtake Levana before the Queen takes over their world?
4. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
It’s been too long since I’ve read any Neil Gaiman and I must remedy that. What’s more intriguing than a pond that becomes an ocean? As a middle-aged man returns home for a funeral, he is reminded of the people he grew up with and the stories they each told.
5. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Bestseller in the early 2000’s, all my friends read this one, but I didn’t. I was afraid I couldn’t handle the subject matter. But this winter I happened upon the book in a Little Free Library near my house and decided it was time I checked it out. Despite its serious subject matter, I’m really looking forward to reading this one.
6. The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Long before there was Christian Grey, the leading man with the wealth and power was Dorian Gray. A favorite old film of mine, the black and white version of course, I’m excited to read the novel for the first time. This title was selected by my book club as our classic this year and I’m really looking forward to our discussion.
7. The Wild Truth by Carine McCandless
Another book I had to get in hardcover because I couldn’t wait. I’m a huge fan of author Jon Krakauer, who wrote Into the Wild, the story of Chris McCandless. Now, Chris’s sister, Carine, has written her own telling of her family’s history and the days leading up to her brother’s nomadic life.
8. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
A few years ago I had a year of comedy, where half of the books I read were humorous memoirs. I think this year may be my year of YA. I’ve got so many young adult books on my list. And one of them is Eleanor & Park. Even the colored pencil sketch cover looks like spring to me. How could I possibly say no to a love story between two misfit teens when the leading lady has red hair?
9. Wildalone by Krassi Zourkova
I’m not shy about admitting the fact that I disliked Jane Eyre. I know, I know, such sacrilege from an English major! What can I say? I’m more of a Heathcliffe/Wuthering Heights kinda girl. However, I really enjoyed This House is Haunted which is an adaptation of Jane Eyre, and Wildalone has some notes of Eyre as well. I do enjoy a good paranormal read and this one seems intriguing!
10. The Kitchen Daughter by Jael McHenry
I’m embarrassed to admit how long this beautiful book has sat on my TBR shelf. It’s been an alternate in the TBR Challenge for 2 years and since I never had to use my alternates I didn’t get to it. This year I made it part of my challenge, determined to finally read it. I love the idea that the lead character can see ghosts by cooking up recipes from them. And this is what sets her off on a journey of family secrets.
That’s my Top 10 books to read this spring.
What titles are on your spring list?
Insurgent: When Reading Interferes With All Your Other Plans
I’m one book into my 2015 To Be Read Pile Challenge already. I finished reading book 2 of the Divergent series, Insurgent, by Veronica Roth.
And I can’t wait to pick up the 3rd book, Allegiant. Alas, I’ll have to because I borrowed all these books from my sister and she hasn’t finished reading it yet.
Insurgent is the continuing tale of a dystopian society that has had its infrastructure broken apart. War is on the verge.
In Divergent, we learn about Beatrice “Tris” Prior, a sixteen year old girl born into the Abnegation faction. There are five factions in the world she lives in. Abnegation – the selfless. Amity – the peacemakers. Candor – the honest. Erudite – the scholars. And Dauntless – the brave.
Every year, the sixteen year olds attend the choosing ceremony, where they select the faction they will belong to the rest of their lives. Beatrice has a duty to her family to uphold her abnegation birthright. But Beatrice doesn’t choose abnegation.
She chooses Dauntless. And that’s not all that’s unique about Beatrice.
She is also Divergent – a person who doesn’t belong to any one faction, but has aptitude for multiple ones. They can’t be controlled, and they are viewed as threats.
This is why I stayed up late at night and read all morning on the weekends. Why I’ve got barely any writing done. Why I missed mealtimes. And why I didn’t bother to shower every day.
I was too busy reading Insurgent.
I was totally hooked. Someone get me a copy of Allegiant STAT!
Even my Instagram account is being taken over by Divergent and Insurgent…
What am I going to do in the meantime???
Have you ever been this hooked on a series?
Have you read any of the Divergent books?
What should I read in the meantime???
Looking for the Next Hunger Games?
Suzanne Collins’ trilogy The Hunger Games has taken America by storm. There’s already entire tables at Barnes and Noble of additional fan fiction and literary reviews of her works. I’d say she’s achieved mass success. The first book even premieres in theaters this month! Excited? You should be! It’s going to be awesome!
But for those of us who’ve finished reading the series and lost sleep because we had to find out what became of Katniss, fear not! I’ve got a great suggestion for you. Pick up a copy of Bethany Wiggins’ new book, Shifting, released this past September and already a 4.1 rating on goodreads! (That’s really good, in case you didn’t know.)
Some of you may remember I interviewed Bethany back in September right before her book was released. I’ve recently finished reading it and you should know, it’s AMAZING!
Here’s the Goodreads blurb:
After bouncing from foster home to foster home, Magdalene Mae is transferred to what should be her last foster home in the tiny town of Silver City, New Mexico. Now that she’s eighteen and has only a year left in high school, she’s determined to stay out of trouble and just be normal.
Agreeing to go to the prom with Bridger O’Connell is a good first step. Fitting in has never been her strong suit, but it’s not for the reasons most people would expect-it all has to do with the deep secret that she is a shape shifter. But even in her new home danger lurks, waiting in the shadows to pounce. They are the Skinwalkers of Navajo legend, who have traded their souls to become the animal whose skin they wear-and Maggie is their next target.
Full of romance, mysticism, and intrigue, this dark take on Navajo legend will haunt readers to the final page.
Intrigued? It’s well worth the page turning. Wiggins’ writing is well paced and similar to Collins, you won’t be able to finish a chapter without wondering what happens next?! And it’s just my opinion, but I find her writing much better than that of Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer. And I loved that series too, but I think we all can agree it wasn’t exceptionally written, it was just that good of a story! For a first time author, Wiggins shows great promise and the only disappointment I have is that she’s not currently working on Maggie Mae’s sequel.
But paranormal YA books are so overdone, you say? To that I reply, can you tell me what a skinwalker is? Didn’t think so! Based on Navajo legend, a skinwalker is an evil spirit or witch that takes the form of the animal it kills. Their goal is power and they are exceedingly conniving. Think of your history books, most Native American tribes only wore animal headresses in ceremony, so that their powers would not overwhelm them. The stories of skinwalkers are difficult to find, as people believed talking about them brought their evil near. But Bethany, being totally consumed with research on this topic, shared with me some sites that gave examples of these witches, including actual court cases recorded! You can see these tales at the end of my interview post by clicking the above blue link.
Other things to love? Let’s start with our protagonist, Maggie Mae. She’s not the accident prone, yet hot new commodity at school like Bella Swan. She’s not a trained hunter or altruistic sister like Katniss Everdeen. She’s a foster child, tossed from home to home after a record breaking number of case files for indecent exposure. An unlikely heroine, to be sure. And yet, there’s a devout need to do good in Maggie Mae. She is kind and she is grateful, though life hasn’t exactly raised her that way.
And of course, there’s a boy. Sorry girls, no love triangle here, but Bridger O’Connell will keep you guessing anyway. Why is he always leaving Maggie when trouble arises? How does he know when to return? What’s the deal with his on and off again caring tactics? Gosh, boys are stupid!
If it’s adventure you’re looking for, go no further than Bethany Wiggins’ Shifting. It’s a fast, entertaining read with as much action as there are awkward teenage moments.
To learn more about Bethany, check out the blog she and her sister write, Shooting Stars, which focuses on writing teen fiction. Or you can follow her on twitter via @wiggB.