2015 Reading Challenge wrap up

Total number of books read for the year: 51

See the full list HERE on my GoodReads page.

Progress of books compared to the PopSugar Reading Challenge – not so good. It seems I only managed to actually read about 20 books that fit under the categories on the list (see this page).

I’m going to try again with the 2016 Challenge List! Check out the new progress page in the menu 🙂

I will also attempt to remember to do more reviews of the books I read.

~K

Books…

I’ve just updated my Reading Challenge 2015 page to show the books I intend to read for each item.

If there’s an item without a book title, it’s because I haven’t picked something for that one yet. Please feel free to suggest something!

For “A book your Mum loves”, I’ll take suggestions from any mothers or other people’s mothers, because when I asked my Mum she said she didn’t know because she doesn’t get much time to read. Also, most of the books she’s encountered in the last few years have been along the lines of “The Very Hungry Caterpillar”, with the most complex being the “Baby Sitter’s Little Sister” series (she’s a teacher aide, mainly for lower grades). She loves Dr Seuss, but I’ve read all those and I’d rather a slightly longer book… haha

For the “A book with bad reviews”, make it a book that had less-than-stellar reviews, but that you personally liked… I refuse to read books that are terrible or that I don’t like, and if I have to buy it I don’t want to spend money on something I won’t read.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

~K

Seventh Son

Title: Seventh Son

2015 Reading Challenge: #39 – A book with magic

Author: Orson Scott Card

I quite enjoyed this book – but I get the feeling I have read it before. Maybe I have actually read it, way back in high school or something, or maybe it just follows a fairly consistent “formula” that many fantasy novels tend to have. I’m not sure.

Either way, it feels like the book shouldn’t end where it did – it is a cliffhanger, and this is probably going to annoy the crap out of me because I’m not sure how I’ll be able to get my hands on the next book without buying it (which I can’t really afford to do) – none of the 3 libraries I have access to have it. I was bloody lucky the library even had this one, it was sitting in “storage” and I had to request it. Usually that’s the last step before a book gets turfed out of the library system.

One thing I should note, for anyone who goes off on the wrong tack – this IS NOT the book that the movie “Seventh Son” is based on. That movie is based on a Joseph Delaney book called “The Spook’s Apprentice”, but obviously that was not a snappy enough name (or sounded too childish) so they have given the movie a different name. Which just HAPPENS to be the name of a book by an incredibly popular author who has already had a movie adaption *Suspicious motives much?*.
I was very disappointed to discover this fact, and I’m now tossing up whether I should try to read the ACTUAL book the movie will be based on, just to see whether it’s really worth the hype.

But, back to the book I’ve actually read – quick read, and an interesting one, but I felt a little bit cheated. I am probably far to accustomed to reading enormous epic fantasy series, and this book just seemed lacking in depth. The length was also a bit short for my liking, that’s not too bad if I can go straight on to the next book. The main thing that stopped me giving this 5 stars was that lack of depth – I felt like there was so much more that I would have liked to know about backstories and stuff, but I guess that is not something that everyone necessarily wants.

I first started off listening to this on audiobook, but I had to switch to actually reading it because I was constantly feeling like I’d missed things – I hadn’t, they just weren’t there. It felt like bits of the story had been skipped over, which had no detriment to how the storyline progressed but did affect my enjoyment of the book a little.

Anyway, it was a welcome distraction from all the uni readings I’m supposed to be doing. Now I’ve finished it, maybe I’ll actually get on with my homework.

Who should read it? I’d say that people who enjoy fantasy series in general would probably enjoy this. It’s an easy read, and would be a good starting place for younger readers.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

~K

Memoirs of a Geisha

Title: Memoirs of a Geisha

2015 Reading Challenge: #42 – A book you own but have never read

Author: Arthur Golden

I loved this book – and now I’m wondering how it had been sitting on my bookshelf for so long without me reading it!

One thing I noticed is that the reviews on Goodreads seem to be a bit polar – people either seem to really love it, or they really don’t.

Purists would probably be in the “really don’t love it” camp, because it isn’t REALLY a memoir – it’s a fiction that is written like a memoir. And to boot, it’s written by a western male author. So the general gist of the low-star reviews is that some of the content isn’t entirely “authentic” – but there are several who thought this was an ACTUAL memoir and were disappointed when they realised it wasn’t.

Personally, I don’t really give a crap. It is well-written, and the author has really done his homework. I also found the “pretend memoir” style very interesting – I felt it made the characters that little bit more real.

Who should read it? Anyone who is interested in Japanese culture, particularly Geisha culture. Also, anyone who enjoys historical fiction of the Philippa Gregory sort – I think it would appeal to someone who enjoys the intrigue, insights, and slightly messed-up relationships of that sort of historical fiction (personally I love all of that stuff).

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

~K

Mother Tongue

Title: Mother Tongue

2015 Reading Challenge: #14 – A nonfiction book

Author: Bill Bryson

I’ve always enjoyed Bill Bryson’s writing style. I’ve read a few of his other books, and as always, there are a few things to note.

There are definitely some glaring inaccuracies (as about half the reviewers on Goodreads note). The main reason this misses on our 5 stars is because of these. The info that is correct is fascinating, and even the incorrect stuff is amusing.

As per usual with Bill Bryson, take everything with a grain of salt and take NOTHING as gospel unless you’ve confirmed it with another source.

This gets 4 stars because I like his writing style, and the essence of the information is reasonably correct. Some die-hard etymologists will disagree, and say that the inaccuracies mean this should get no stars at all… but pffft – it was a good read.

Who should read it? Anyone who is interested in language. Just don’t quote this for an assignment or anything.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

~K

The Power of No: How to keep blowhards and bozos at bay

Title: The Power of No: How to keep blowhards and bozos at bay

2015 Reading Challenge: #27 – A book you can finish in a day

Author: Beth Wareham

I picked up this book expecting a far deeper and more useful read than it turned out to be.

Yes, the author has a great writing style – it was an amusing book, and I quite like her sense of humour. It’s a quick and easy read. But I really just didn’t enjoy it or find it at all useful.

I think that reading it right after this book may not have been the best idea, as it made the stark difference in the depth the books go into is very obvious.

I found the book very cynical (which is saying something, according to Hubby – apparently my cynicism would frustrate an atheist sometimes) and a little bit condescending. This was probably a book I needed to read 6 or 7 years ago, when I was still well entrenched in the idea that saying yes is the route to making everyone like you, not now when I’ve already moved well into the territory of saying no on a regular basis.
I had been expecting a lot more practical, useful information about how to say no in difficult situations – but it didn’t deliver. There was a little, but it was more about “this is when to say an outright no, this is when to use a more round-a-bout way”. I know that already, but I was looking for a little more help in the “round-a-bout no” area.

Who should read it? People who are just coming to realise that they’re allowing themselves to be used as doormats by saying yes to everything.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️

~K

2015 Reading Challenge

So, as I mentioned here, I’m going to attempt the PopSugar reading challenge this year.

I’m having a little trouble with selecting books for some of the things though, so any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Before I go into it though, the following books are not being considered for the list:

  • Twilight series – because I read it once and that was enough
  • Hunger Games – ditto
  • 50 Shades of Grey – ditto again
  • My Sister’s Keeper – I’ve read it too many times to count, and I’d like a different tear-jerker
  • Harry Potter – I know the series upside-down, back-to-front, and inside-out. I need some new material.
  • Shakespeare – I did WAAAAY too much Shakespeare in high school and my first few years at uni. NO MORE!

So, here’s the list (the bold ones are what I need help with):

  1. A book with more than 500 pages
  2. A classic romance – Wuthering Heights; Emily Brontë
  3. A book that became a movie – The Book Thief; Markus Zusak
  4. A book published this year – Leila’s Secret; Kooshyar Karimi
  5. A book with a number in the title – One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest; Ken Kesey
  6. A book written by someone under 30 – I Am Malala; Malala Yousafzai
  7. A book with non-human characters – The Art of Purring; David Michie
  8. A funny book – something Terry Pratchett – or possibly Bossypants; Tina Fey
  9. A book by a female author – The Tiger’s Wife; Téa Obreht
  10. A mystery or thriller – Under the Dome; Stephen King
  11. A book with a one-word title – March; Geraldine Brooks
  12. A book of short stories – Lord Arther Savile’s Crime and Other Stories; Oscar Wilde
  13. A book set in a different country – Wild Swans; Jung Chang
  14. A nonfiction book – The Common Thread; Martha Manning
  15. A popular author’s first book
  16. A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet – Ship of Magic; Robin Hobb (and the rest of the trilogy)
  17. A book a friend recommended – The Opposite of Loneliness: Essays & Stories; Marina Keegan
  18. A Pulitzer Prize-winning book
  19. A book based on a true story
  20. A book at the bottom of your to-read list(this is hard because there isn’t really a “bottom” of my list as such – just books that I haven’t been able to get cheap or free yet)
  21. A book your Mum loves
  22. A book that scares you – The Shining; Stephen King (well it’s supposed to be scary, so I’ll see how I go)
  23. A book more than 100 years old – Emma; Jane Austen
  24. A book based entirely on its cover
  25. A book you were supposed to read in school and didn’t – Tess of the D’Urbervilles (by school, this was actually a book I was supposed to read in my first semester at Uni for an English Lit course…)
  26. A memoir – Me of the Never Never; Fiona O’Loughlin
  27. A book you can finish in a day
  28. A book with antonyms in the title
  29. A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit – (accepting suggestions from just about anywhere, I just want to travel!)
  30. A book that came out the year you were born – (1989)
  31. A book with bad reviews
  32. A trilogy – Farseer trilogy; Robin Hobb
  33. A book from your childhood – A Little Princess; Frances Hodgson Burnett
  34. A book with a love triangle
  35. A book set in the future 
  36. A book set in high school – Perks of Being a Wallflower
  37. A book with a colour in the title – The Silver Chair; C.S. Lewis
  38. A book that made you cry
  39. A book with magic – (probably something Terry Pratchett again – most of the “magic” books I know of are series, and if I read the first book in the series I’ll go and read the rest of the books and this list will be abandoned)
  40. A graphic novel
  41. A book by an author you’ve never read before – Eleanor & Park; Rainbow Rowell
  42. A book you own but have never read – Memoirs of a Geisha
  43. A book that takes place in your hometown – (I will find something for this, but if anyone has any Australian suggestions I’m open to anything)
  44. A book that was originally written in a different language – Kafka on the Shore; Haruki Murakami
  45. A book set during Christmas – 1225 Christmas Tree Lane; Debbie Macomber
  46. A book written by an author with your same initials – (KR)
  47. A play 
  48. A “banned book” – (What are ‘banned books’ anyway? I don’t think we do that sort of thing in Australia)
  49. A book based on/turned into a TV show – Call the Midwife; Jennifer Worth
  50. A book you started but never finished – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People; Stephen R Covey

Thanks guys, your assistance will be greatly appreciated!

~K

The Common Thread: Mothers, Daughters and the Power of Empathy

A fascinating book! My Mum is taking it to read next, hopefully she can get it finished before I run out of loan renewals at the library!

*Disclaimer* – I don’t think I’ve done a proper book report/review since I was in early high school, so I don’t really know what is “usual” for one. These may be less reviews than little essays/monologues on my thoughts/feelings/whatever about the book in question. I will attempt to at least give a rating of the book, and a recommendation of who I think would enjoy reading it though.

Title: The Common Thread: Mothers, Daughters, and the Power of Empathy

2015 Reading Challenge: #14 – A nonfiction book

Author: Martha Manning

This book is a very interesting read – it looks at the interactions between mothers and daughters across the lifespan, and how the dynamics of the relationship change over this time. Which makes it sound far more dry than it really is.

Manning has a very natural writing style that makes the psychology she includes in the pages very easy to read (though as I’ve got a psych degree behind me, I may leave the final judgement of that up to someone who doesn’t have that background).

She looks at a lot of the common mistakes, misconceptions, and misunderstandings that happen between mothers & daughters, and describes how these can change as both parties get older. It looks at both sides of the coin – where the experiences can strengthen the relationship, or break it.

I found this interesting from a very detached point of view – I know many of these things happen in mother-daughter relationships, but something along the way for me has meant that somehow, I seem to have missed the vast majority of the ups and downs that “everyone else” seems to experience! Reading about them in this book, I can see how they apply to the relationships I’ve seen between my sisters and my mum, between my Mum and grandmother, and between friends and their mothers. I don’t know if it’s just the way I look at things, or whether I am ACTUALLY missing something, but I feel like a lot of the tensions I saw in person (in other mother-daughter interactions) and in the book just weren’t there for me and Mum.

Some tensions are beginning to raise their head now though, but not in the way that could necessarily cause problems (I don’t think, anyway) – for example, I do have very different opinions about how Mum should deal with certain things in the behaviour of my youngest sister (C – 10 years old). I feel that she is being too lenient, because she is trying to be the “good guy”, because if she isn’t, C might choose to go live with her dad (my ex-stepdad – that’s a story for another time) instead of Mum. This fear is not entirely unfounded – there is precedent. My sister B decided in year 10 that she was going to live permanently with our Dad, because Mum was strict. Mum always had high expectations of our behaviour, and B didn’t like that – Dad was a little more lenient, and living with him also provided a little more autonomy for B as he does shift work, so sometime she would have to “fend for herself”. She didn’t visit all that often, and the relationship between her and Mum has only begun to improve again in the past couple of years. I think Mum is worried that the same thing will happen if she is strict with C, and she doesn’t want to drive her away. There is a way more backstory to this, a lot of it having to do with siblings and half-siblings being treated differently in similar situations (e.g. Stepdad was way more strict with us girls than he was with his 2 sons, whereas Mum went out of her way to ensure exactly equal treatment – she still adds up exactly what everyone’s xmas and birthday presents cost, so everyone has exactly the same amount spent on them!), and I’m not sure how things have changed, because she is now treating C differently to how she treated the same behaviour in the boys at the same age.
This is purely my opinion, and it could be completely wrong, but there is one advantage of Mum’s early intensive “people watching” training – I don’t miss much. I pick up on everything, and I do it consciously, because I have to. I have this opinion but I am hesitant to offer it, because I haven’t been there personally. I don’t have kids, I haven’t been in the situation that Mum is, as a mother, to understand what else might be going on. I can only view it through the lens of what I know, so instead of telling Mum what I think, I have a rant to Hubby about it to vent my frustrations, and put it to the side.

This may all come back to bite me in the event of ever having children myself, but we shall see.

One thing I got from the book is that this hesitance is a good thing – because I can feel empathy for someone in a situation without having been there personally, and without having to agree with everything they do.

I have a very good relationship with my Mum, and for the past 8 years or so it has been more of a relationship between equals than a mother-to-child one. Several times in recent years, our roles have even seemed to “flip” at times – I have found myself in several situations where I’m left feeling like things went a little backwards, and that we’d swapped places (very “Freaky Friday”). Apparently, this is not exactly unusual – but what is unusual is how we seem to have dealt with it. We just accepted it, let the role reversal happen, then laughed about it a bit afterwards. The more expected response is that the mother has a bit of a freak-out that she might not be the fountain of all knowledge any more, and that her daughter may have surpassed her knowledge in some areas. Mum doesn’t seem to be bothered by this fact. I say seem, because I can only speak from my own perspective – I won’t really know unless Mum decides to enlighten me!

The book did raise several questions for me though, about choices I’ve made in my life and the fact that Mum has been pretty much universally supportive – mainly, “Is she really as happy for me as she is making out? Or did she have other things in mind for me?”.
A big one is the fact that I am very, VERY open about the fact that I’m not all that fussed on the idea of kids. Mum has been completely supportive, and not said anything at all patronising – but I do wonder whether she is actually as much ‘onboard’ with the idea as she seems. Is she convinced (like the rest of society seems to be) that I’ll change my mind later, and decide I do want kids? Is she disappointed that the likely grandchildren production (for what of a better description) has been reduced to 2 daughters – one of which is at least 10 years off from the idea?
I can’t say anything in this book has changed my thoughts on having kids – several of the descriptions are less-than-optimistic, and while the book expounds the benefits of the mother-daughter relationship, I can’t entirely see how they make up for the crappy bits.

For anyone thinking of giving this to someone who is undecided about children and expecting it to change their mind – don’t count on it! It could very well have the opposite effect to what you want.
If you want to try to better understand the dynamics of your own relationship with your mother/daughter/both though, this is a very insightful read – and it may help with some of the more elusive aspects of interactions.

My rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

~K