November Monthly Challenge

Okay, I have to admit, I discovered and read some great new books earlier this year thanks to my monthly reading challenges, but I’m now feeling burnt out by them. There’s definitely a benefit in being intentional about what books you read, but it also removes the spontaneity of choosing a book based on your emotional needs at that exact moment. My monthly TBR’s were getting onerous by trying to accommodate my challenge, book club, and ARCs each month and it didn’t leave much (or sometimes any) room for spontaneity.

Book club is pretty much the highlight of my month and I’m really enjoying starting to work with publishers, so I think I will probably part ways for with my monthly challenge in the new year, but I’m going to try my best to see it through the rest of this year. As a side note, it’s coming up on my 1-year anniversary of starting this blog and I just want to say a huge thanks to all my followers and everyone who reads my reviews! I just surpassed 100 subscribers a few weeks ago and while that doesn’t sound like a lot, I really appreciate everyone who has given my voice power by reading and subscribing. I started a travel blog in 2010, but I didn’t really post in it that much the last few years, so I wasn’t sure how this experiment was going to go, but it has been a tremendous amount of fun for me. I’ve really enjoyed having a platform for my bookish thoughts and I’ve started actually building some relationships with publishers, which has been a really interesting learning opportunity for me and I’m really excited to see where it will go in the future.

But back to my monthly challenge. This challenge feels like a bit of a cop out, because I was totally going to do this anyways, but hey, you have to go with what inspires you. November is pretty much my favourite month as a reader because of the Goodreads Choice Awards. I LOVE reading new releases because it makes me feel hip and ahead of the curve, and I love celebrating those new releases by having the opportunity to vote for them. Since I’ve been more involved in the book world over the last year or so, I’ve gotten pretty good at guessing what books might be nominated for certain categories and once the nominees are announced, I always try and read as many as I can before the end of the voting period. This year I have already read 25 books that were nominated in the first round (more will be added in the second round), so I had a pretty sweet head start and have already voted in several categories.

So my challenge for November is to read as many of the Goodreads Choice Award nominees as possible.

I tend to read a lot of books in the fiction, mystery, historical fiction, young adult, and YA Fantasy categories and then focus on some of the other categories in November. Since the nominees were announced I’ve read All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover (romance) and For Every One by Jason Reynolds (poetry). I just started Everything’s Trash, But That’s Okay by Phoebe Robinson (humour) as an audiobook and I’m about halfway through Vicious by V.E. Schwab, with the intention of reading Vengeful, the sequel which was nominated in Sci-fi.

Once the winners are announced, I’ll follow up with a list of all the books I decide to vote for! In the meantime, I love hearing from you, so let me know if you’ve read any of the nominees? If so, what books did you love? Are there any nominees you’re planning to read this month?

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October Summary

I totally killed it this month, setting a new PB for most pages read in a month. I have Sarah J. Maas to thank because I’ve been re-reading her Throne of Glass series and those books are monsters. Plus, I flew through her 1,000 page finale! Here’s my summary:

Books read: 10
Pages read: 5,077
Main genres: Fantasy
Favourite book: Kingdom of Ash
Favourite Re-read: Empire of Storms

October and November have to be some of the best months for new book releases. I have so many anticipated reads spread over the last month and into next month that it’s hard to keep track. I started off the month with one of my most anticipated reads of the last 3 years with JK Rowling’s new book in the Cormoran Strike series, Lethal White. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this book forever and it did not disappoint. I love the balance Rowling strikes between the mystery investigation and Robin and Strike’s personal lives. My only regret is reading this one too fast.

Also new this month was the companion novel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, similarly named The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy; the new graphic novel Check, Please! #Hockey; and a novel about Boko Haram, Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree. The latter was probably my favourite of the three. Buried Beneath the Baobab Tree is a tough read about the atrocities Boko Haram is committing  in Nigeria, but important, I would recommend to everyone.

Check, Please! #Hockey is an absolutely adorable graphic novel about freshman hockey player Bitty’s first year in college. He’s gay, loves nothing more than baking, and has a huge fear about being checked. It’s a great book about friendship and the pressures of college and sports. I really liked it and can’t wait for part 2 to come out next year! Unfortunately I didn’t love The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy quite as much as it’s predecessor. It was still a fun read packed full of meaningful observations about 17th century women, but it wasn’t quite as funny and I thought the plot was a little lacking. All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover was my one romance read of the year and I was pleasantly surprised by it. It is a romance novel, but it packs a punch by addressing several other little talked about issues in the plot.

My book club pick of the month was Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows. I decided to listen to this as an audiobook and ended up loving it! It wasn’t a favourite at my book club, but I thought it was a really fun read that actually packed a really meaningful punch about traditional and modern culture. My other audiobook of the month was The Woman’s Hour by Elaine Weiss, which is about women’s fight for the right to vote in America. I’ve been working on this audiobook for several months and while I liked that this book exists, I struggled with the audiobook being really boring. I wrote a brief review on my goodreads page, but I haven’t decided if I will share it on my blog or not because it’s hardly a review.

Finally, I re-read Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms in anticipation of Sarah J. Maas’ new book and epic series finale, Kingdom of Ash. I have been loving my re-read, but thank god it is now over because it was so emotionally draining at the end and now I really just need to read anything that is not fantasy. Surprisingly I didn’t love Queen of Shadows quite as much as I remembered on my re-read, but I think I may have loved Empire of Storms even more. I finally pinpointed what I liked about it so much, which is that the main characters are actually all together for most of the novel. I’ve gotten used to them being separate for the last few books, but it was great seeing them all come together in Empire of Storms. It made for a much faster paced book, and boy was it ever intense!

Kingdom of Ash is finally out there in the world. Despite actually quite liking the finale, I did write a bit of a critical review of it. I thought there were a few problematic elements and parts that I didn’t like, but overall it was a pretty fast paced and emotional finale. I liked the ending and I feel mostly satisfied with how the series finished.

I’m thrilled now for November because it is my favourite reading month! The Goodreads Choice Awards were just announced yesterday and I love challenging myself to read and vote in as many categories as possible, so I just added a ton of books to my TBR!

June Monthly Challenge

I was too busy in May to do a monthly challenge and I actually really missed it. I love the flexibility of just being able to pick any book you want off the shelf, which I rarely do anymore between my challenges, book club, and netgalley reads, but I felt like my reading was a bit aimless without any reading goals to work towards in May.

I’m super excited about my June reading challenge though and I think I’ve picked out 3 great books for it. Historical fiction was my favourite genre for many years, but I’ve been a little fatigued with it over the last few years because I feel the genre is over-saturated with WW1 and 2 novels and books about slavery. So I got a lot more into fantasy and discovered all these YA fantasy series that have huge online followings, but I am starting to get a bit fatigued with this genre now because while there’s so much out there, once you start reading a lot of it, it tends to get a bit repetitive.

In an effort to branch out a little more again and return to a genre I love, I’ve decided that in June my monthly challenge will be to:

Read 3 Historical Novels

It was really hard to narrow it down to just 3 books, because I do have a huge list of historical novels that I’ve been wanting to get to, so I tried to focus on reading about stories set in different countries and different time periods. The three books I picked are:

1. The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
2. I Was Anastasia by Ariel Lawhorn
3. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

 

I read Kristin Hannah’s other bestseller, The Nightingale, in 2015 with my book club and we all really liked it. My book club liked it a little more than me because this was when I was really getting fatigued with the WW1 and WW2 books, but I did still like it. The Great Alone is her new book and has been getting fantastic reviews – I bought a copy on sale in February and I’ve been trying to get to it ever since. I don’t like to know too much about my books when I start reading them, but this is set in Alaska in 1974 and examines the aftereffects of a former Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War when he returns to Alaska.

I Was Anastasia is a fairly new release, but I feel like I’ve been waiting to read this one since I first saw a synopsis of it months ago. This is actually my book club selection for June, so I’m happy to be able to combine two of my reading lists this month. This is a WW1 book, but bear with me because this sounds different than any other WW1 book I’ve ever read! It’s about the grand duchess Anastasia and her supposed execution with the rest of the Romanov’s during the Russian Revolution. There’s always been speculation that Anastasia may have survived and in this novel, a young girl shows up in Germany 3 years later claiming to be Anastasia. Was anyone else obsessed with 20th Century Fox’ version of Anastasia growing up? Because I was and I am super excited for some bestselling, historical fiction about her! I’m on a journey to the past with this one folks.

My last pick of the month is a brand new, not-yet-released book that I only heard about recently. I’m not even sure where I first heard about Fruit of the Drunken Tree, I think Goodreads may have featured it in one of the lists of their blog, but it sounds so good. It’s a debut novel by Ingrid Rojas Contreras that was inspired by her own life growing up in the 1990’s in Colombia. It’s a coming-of-age story during a period of great upheaval and violence in Colombia and features a piece of history that I am not knowledgeable about and haven’t seen featured in historical fiction before. A big thanks to Penguin Random House Canada, who happily provided me with an advance copy of this book so that I could include it in my monthly challenge.

Brown Girl Dreaming

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Jacqueline Woodson
Genres: Poetry, Young Adult, Childrens
Pub Date: Jan. 2014 (Read April 2018)

Thanks for sticking around everyone! I’ve been travelling around Vietnam for the past 3 weeks, so my book reading has been a little slow, but I have several books to update you on now!

I did accomplish my April Reading Challenge, which was to read 3 award winning books. Brown Girl Dreaming was the last book I read right before I went on holiday, but I didn’t get a chance to write a review before I left, so please forgive me for already starting to forget a bit about this book, but I’ll do my best to review!

I really enjoyed reading this book. I thought this was a fictional book about growing up in the south (written in prose), but I was excited to discover its actually a non-fictional account of the authors childhood! I’m sure some is partially fabricated and written through other people’s memories (the author is very young for some of the experiences). But it is indeed written in prose and it was a joy to read.

Jacqueline Woodson was born in Ohio, spent several years living with her mom and grandparents in South Carolina, before her mother moved her and her siblings to New York. Brown Girl Dreaming tells of her childhood and her relationships with her mother, grandparents, and siblings. Her older sister was a voracious reader who did very well in school, while Jacqueline struggled in school but discovered a deep love of writing and storytelling. As a child she is frustrated by the injustices she sees around her and develops a hunger to see and create change.

It’s not really the story I was expecting, but I really liked the way it was told. I’ve been reading more prose and poetry lately and I thought this was a fantastic medium through which to tell her story. It’s a quick read, but wonderful!

April Reading Challenge

I am really late posting my April Reading Challenge, but I have been working on it!

March was probably my least successful reading challenge to date. I really liked The Thief, but I didn’t love either of the other books I read. I may have went too broad with the “read 3 fantasy books” idea, so I’ve decided to narrow it down a little more this month. My April Reading Challenge will be to:

Read 3 award-winning books

The three books I’ve chosen are:

  1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Aliré Saenz
  3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

My first book, The Underground Railroad, was published in 2016 and won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award for fiction. It was also one of Oprah’s book club reads and it won the Goodreads choice awards in historical fiction. The Underground Railroad looks at slavery in the early 1800’s, prior to the civil war, and re-imagines the underground railroad as an actual underground railroad, instead of just the network of secret routes and safe houses that it was in reality. It tells the story of Cora, a young girl who tries to escape the cotton plantation in the south where she’s spent her entire life.

The second book I selected was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I like including young adult books to capture a wide variety of experiences and this one has won a litany of awards. It won the Lambda Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award for LGBT fiction, the Pura Belpré Narrative medal for Latino fiction, and the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award honour and the Michael L. Printz Award honour. I don’t know a whole lot about the plot of this book, except that it focuses on the friendship that develops between two boys, Aristotle and Dante, and has LGBTQIA+ themes. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from vloggers I follow, so I’m excited to read it!

The last book on my list is Brown Girl Dreaming, which I bought a copy of a while ago and have been meaning to get to. I have no excuse as this is a middle grade novel written in prose, so I’m expecting it to a pretty quick read. Brown Girl Dreaming won the John Newberry Medal, the National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature. It tells the story of a young girl growing up in the Jim Crow era in South Carolina.

I will admit that I’ve been working on The Underground Railroad for the last week and that I haven’t gotten very far because it has a pretty slow start, but it is finally starting to pick up and I am optimistic.

I am going to have to do some serious reading to fit these all in (plus my book club’s selection) over the next 2 weeks because I am going on vacation towards the end of April to Vietnam for 3 weeks! You likely won’t hear a lot from me during this time, but I’m really looking forward to doing some travel and I’m sure I’ll knock out a book or two on the planes, trains, and beach.