Reading Challenge #49: A Book You Got From a Used Book Sale


Title: Foundation and Empire

Author: Isaac Asimov

How it fulfills the challenge: Every year our library has two huge book sales put on by the Friends of the Library. I helped run the fall sale, but I went a day early to check out all the books. I ended up with a huge box of books for  both myself and as gifts, including this old copy of Asimov’s book for 50 cents.

Genre: Science-Fiction

Quick Description: In Asimov’s second Foundation book, new forces are set to destroy the fledgling Foundation, which was established at the end of the Empire’s power. The Foundation started as a scientific endeavor to create a giant encyclopedia containing all knowledge to shorten the inevitable chaos that will follow the end of the Empire to 1,000 years instead of 30,000 years. To do this, the Foundation must weather different crises. The first ones are described in the first book, but the new ones threaten to topple everything the Foundation has ever stood for.

Opening Line: The Galactic Empire was falling.

The city was quiet under its conquest and curfew, and the hazy milk of the great Galactic Lens, with here and there a lonely star, dominated the sky of the Foundation.

Highlights: This book series is without a doubt a masterpiece of science fiction. It shows interesting views of all of humanity, since part of the premise is that large bodies of people are predictable, even though individuals are not. The writing is atmospheric and smart, and through the jumps in time and space, Asimov is simultaneously able to make his characters seem individual as well as a part of the bigger picture.

Low points: Like any book, you really have to be in the right mood to read this one in order to keep up with the plotting, the history that’s been set forth, and the political powers at work. It’s a book that demands a lot from the reader, and you have to be into that. I’m not sure this really counts as a low point though… It doesn’t for me.

Goodreads Rating: 4 stars–though it probably deserves something more like 4.5. I find series difficult to award 5 stars to consistently. It definitely feels like this book is set up for more intense galactic struggles to come.

Reading Challenge #8: A Book With Multiple Authors


Title: Bouchon Bakery

Authors: Thomas Keller & Sebastien Rouxel with Susie Heller, Matthew McDonald, Michael Ruhlman, & Amy Vogler

How it fulfills the challenge: Have you seen the list of authors? That’s a lot for one cookbook, even as big as this one is…

Genre: Cookbook

Quick Description: For the serious home or small professional baker. A collection of extremely detailed recipes for both updated and classic French treats. Lots of bread recipes.

Highlights: Absolutely gorgeous pictures and very detailed recipes.

Low Points: While I don’t consider myself a professional cook or baker in any way, I do have quite a bit of experience in the kitchen and I don’t usually think of myself as someone who is easily intimidated by a recipe. I cook across ethnic cuisines and love a new challenge. That said, I found this book to be extremely intimidating. Every step that you execute has to be done perfectly–or else. And while I admire the precision, I don’t really want to buy so many new tools to work on one recipe. This cookbook doesn’t give a lot of room for improvisation or creativity, which is one of my favorite things to do. Even though I’ve always wanted to try my hands at croissants or puff pastry, I couldn’t bring myself to cook anything for this book. But if you want to understand what a real French Bakery looks like in action, the amount of skill required to produce quality products continually, this book will make you appreciate all their efforts.

My Goodreads Rating: 4 stars, rounded up from a 3.5. The beautiful pictures and interesting story behind the bakery almost make up for how scary the recipes are. Almost. Did you know you have to weigh your eggs, and that you also have to strain them or your life will be ruined? You do now.

Reading Challenge #18: A Book You’ve Read Before that Never Fails to Make You Smile



Title: The Night Circus

Author: Erin Morgenstern

How it fulfills the challenge: The Night Circus is one of those books that uses its imaginative and fantastical powers to charm and delight. The circus Morgenstern creates is one that I would love to experience. It’s a book that made me happy the first time I read it, and it didn’t let me down the second time.

Genre: fantasy/historical fiction

Quick Description: The circus is merely a venue for two opponents to exhibit their skills. But more than just the two of them are involved in the complicated game, and their own attraction for each other could lead to disaster.

Opening Line: The Circus arrives without warning.

The finest of pleasures are always the unexpected ones.

Highlights: My absolute favorite part of this book both on my first and second reading is the nature of the magic both contestants perform and the illusions they create for the circus. The circus has to be one of the most enchanting settings I’ve ever seen. If it were real, I would definitely be someone you would see wandering around with a red scarf.

Low points: The ending of this book is definitely where it falls flat. The end comes quickly and is vaguely unsatisfying. Not only that, you’re removed from what little action there is and so the suspense and intrigue just isn’t there. Plot is definitely not the point of this book.

My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars (I kept my rating of this book the same because myenjoyment of it overshadowed my issues with it. It still feels magical)


(photo from Goodreads)


Reading Challenge #26: A Book By an Author From a Country You’ve Never Visited


Title: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Author: Gabriel García Márquez

How it fulfills the challenge: Márquez is from Colombia, and I’ve never been outside of North America

Genre: Literary Fiction/Classic

Quick Description: A sweeping family saga in a small Caribbean town filled with super long lived residents and plenty of mystery and intrigue. It follows the lives of the members of the Buendía family through multiple generations. Each generation has their own triumphs and tragedies and in the end the ultimate struggle is against forgetting–oblivion.

“He dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her.”

Highlights: I don’t even know where to start with this book. There are parts that are a bit difficult because some of the names and generations start to bleed together, but the prose is so intriguing, so evocative that it doesn’t even matter. The tone of the book is always in keeping with the nature of the town itself, and the magical realism is so deftly done that it the magical seems prosaic, though never boring. It was difficult to choose just one quote because there is so much the book says about love, obsession, survival, and death. Márquez is a true master, and I can’t even begin to imagine how amazing it would be to read this book in Spanish.

My Goodreads Rating: 5 stars

My Reading Challenge for 2017


So last year’s challenge did not go well. And not because I didn’t read a lot of books. I just sort of lost my motivation somewhere along the way.

I think the real problem had something to do with the nature of the challenge itself. My goal was to read more of the books that were on my shelves that had been accumulating for years, but the problem was they weren’t all winners. With some books, this was obvious right away, and I’d quit the book and throw it in the donation pile. But other books weren’t exactly bad, they just weren’t all that good. And reading a lot of meh books at the beginning of the year (combined with a lot of wedding-related excitement) was just not good for my reading goals.

Though there were some definite highlights, they were few and far between.

So this year, I still want to get through some of the books on my shelves (I have every intention of finishing last year’s A-Z challenge), but I want to look at my reading goal a little differently so that the completion of the goal is a creative process that takes way more forethought than just examining my bookshelves and choosing a book that starts with the given letter. I really liked the idea of fitting my reading to certain criteria over a set list of books, so I chose the Popsugar challenge as this year’s reading challenge. I like that there’s a lot of things on there I don’t normally read on the list, and there’s a lot of diverse criteria. We’ll see how it goes.


I’ll be blogging about the books I read, and if you have any suggestions for some of the more difficult/weird stuff on this list I would love them! For instance, does anyone know of some good steampunk writers? Or a book set around a non-Christmas holiday? Let me know in the comments! Also let me know what your reading challenge looks like for the year!

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books On My Fall To Be Read List


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is about the books you want to read this fall. I’ve read a lot of books this year, but I haven’t done a very good job of keeping up with my challenges, so this fall will be all about catching up the best I can.

For the A-Z challenge:

  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (though if I’m not enjoying it, I’ll probably switch to Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Player Piano)
  • QBVII by Leon Uris

For the Series Challenge:

  • The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (once I finish this one, I add another series to the completed category!)
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (two more left!)
  • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (there’s no way I’m going to be able to finish this series since there are nine books and three people ahead of me on the waiting list for the fourth book…but I’m still really enjoying them)

So that’s my fall TBR list. I have a feeling that I will be falling short of both reading goals this year, but I’ll do the best I can to finish the challenges.

How are you doing on your own reading challenges? Have you read any of these books/series? Let me know in the comments!

Series Challenge #1: The Divergent Series by Veronica Roth


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The first completed series on my list was one I read for book club. Our reading list for the year includes 4 trilogies, and this was the first one up.

Series Breakdown:

Books in Order: Divergent, Insurgent, Allegiant

Favorite Book: Divergent

Genres/Keywords: science fiction, young adult, dystopic

My Average Rating: 3.33

What These Books Do Well: feisty heroine, interesting societal makeup with the faction system

What These Books Could Do Better: the romance (I really don’t like Tris/Four’s relationship), science fiction elements (the tech is way cooler in the films), the storyline (the plot feels stretched), the ending (I won’t give it away, but I was not thrilled)

Overall Thoughts: I really like science fiction and I enjoyed the first two films, but the books did not really impress me. I liked the first book the best, which went deeper into the creation of the faction system and was the most clever.


A-Z Reading Challenge: #: 13 Rue Therese by Elena Mauli Shapiro


While the world is filled with more amazing books than you can read in a lifetime, there’s also plenty of not-so-great ones, or ones that just don’t click with you. This book was definitely one that didn’t appeal to me.

The book was billed as a “puzzle” book, set in and between the World Wars, and I thought I couldn’t go wrong with it. The description in the book is lovely, but there isn’t much in the way of puzzles, not much in the way of mystery even. The story follows a bored housewife whose biggest issue seems to be whether or not to have an affair with the good-looking married neighbor who moves in upstairs. There are some interesting characters (like the girl she gives piano lessons to), but on the whole the character development is hampered by a strange chronology that involves an investigation into the incidents of the past because of a strange box of artifacts (which are all pictured and described in great detail) that are found in the present. I’m all for jumping around in time, but there’s got to be some rhyme to it and some reason for it.

I got to the end of the book, hoping that if there wasn’t a lot of mystery in the book, maybe the ending would reveal some amazing plot twist. And there was a twist of course, but it left me even more upset. Overall, I couldn’t bring myself to hate the book, but I have ambivalent and even conflicted feelings about it. It’s inspired by real artifacts, which is probably the coolest part about it, but I just didn’t like the book very much, and I recommend that you give this one a wide berth if you come across it on the sale shelf at B&N like I did.


Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I was Excited to Buy and Still Haven’t Read


Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Today’s topic was a freebie, so I thought I’d do a post related to one of my challenges for the year, which is to make more of a dent in the books I actually own.  I normally find this a bit difficult because there are always more books and there’s all the wonderful things to be found at the library…

It’s easy to pick things up and then abandon them immediately for something new and exciting.

But these are ten books I’m eager to check off my list:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith–I’ve wanted to read this for ages, but the new movie coming out gives me a bigger push. Has anyone read this? And if so, did you enjoy it? I’m kind of worried about it.

Birds Without Wings by Louis de Bernieres–I picked three separate copies of this book up during one trip to a thrift store book section and figured it was fate.

World Without End by Ken Follett–I read the first book about building the great cathedral and really enjoyed it and all the perspectives it included, but the sequel has been gathering dust on my shelves.

The Women by TC Boyle–Mention Frank Lloyd Wright and I’m in. Add a woman’s perspective and I’m sold.

Dearie by Bob Spitz–So technically my mom purchased this one for me, but I picked it out. You can never read too much about Julia Child.

How to be a Movie Star by William J Mann–This biography of Elizabeth Taylor caught my eye during a closing sale at Borders.  I love Hollywood biographies.

Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay–I picked this one up at Costco and have been waiting for the right mood to read it.

NW by Zadie Smith–Actually I bought this book this weekend. It was on sale at B&N and I couldn’t resist.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan–I was happy to find a copy in good condition at a thrift store and snapped it up.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley– When I was really little I tried to read the Wishbone version of this book, and it scared me too much to finish. But I’m ready to give it another go with the adult version.


As you can see, some of these, even on this short list, start with the same letter, so it’s quite possible that I won’t get to them all this year. But I’m hoping to have fewer books on my shelves at the end of the year than the beginning. Although knowing myself, it’s possible I’ll just fill any room I make…

Are there books languishing on your shelves? Which were you most excited for when you purchased or received it?


Women Writers Reading Challenge #67: Possession by A.S. Byatt


A.S. Byatt is a master. This book is pretty amazing, as Byatt has to create not only her protagonists, their world, and their quest, but also two literary figures and great portions or excerpts of their works. It’s quite a feat.

This is a book that takes a great deal of effort and time, but it’s worth every moment that’s put into it. It’s easier if you’re already familiar with literary analysis (and if you like it) because there’s a great deal of that involved, but it’s also about the power of stories, the power of writing–especially as it pertains to knowledge, and, of course, it’s about love.

This book is perfect for:

  • English majors
  • people who like reading about books and academia
  • people who don’t think books should be shorter than 500 pages