#15in31 challenge update: Week 3 and Challenge smashed!

I knew it would happen, even without the 24-hour readathon smack-dab in the middle of my challenge month, but wow, do readthons help! It officially got me up and over the 15-book level. So with a little less than a week to go, how am I doing?

Book1711. How To Be a Good Wife, by Emma Chapman.  (St. Martin’s Press, 2013, 288 pgs.) I picked this up at the library for the readathon. It’d been on my to-read list for quite a while and I thought some thrillers might be just what a long day of reading required. I liked the Good-Girl-esque premise, although it was maybe closer to S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep. The execution, on the other hand, was maybe not quite for me. It sounded sparse, and maybe like it had slid in sideways from a world next-door, like maybe it had been translated. In fact, I checked three different times while I was reading to see if that was the case. So I’d still recommend if you’re looking for a quick thriller – I’d just make sure you borrowed instead of buy because even if you get through, it’s not something you’re likely to read again. 3 of 5 stars.

12. Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. Book18(Knopf, 2004, 438 pgs.) This is another long-time resident of my TBR list. I picked up the book at the used bookstore and then gifted it to myself for Christmas. There it sat on my shelf for months and months. I finally picked it up just to knock it out, and the start was very promising. It begins with the lyricism of Elegance of the Hedgehog meets the foreign whodunnit of Agatha Christie, mixed with the polished literary feel of a Khaled Hosseini. But then it bogs down and ughhhhhh. It drags. It ruins all good will. Maybe if it had actually been snowing outside and I had been stuck somewhere with nothing else to read, I could have enjoyed it more. 2 of 5 stars.

Book1913. The Resurrection of Tess Blessing, by Lesley Kagen. (Sparkpress, 2014, 325 pgs.) This was an ebook I grabbed from the library…and then quickly flung back. Our protagonist is a pseudo-whiny (except she prefers to play the matryr) modern woman who has it all – pain-the-ass college-aged daughter whom she used to be close to, except the kid’s eating disorder has gotten in the way; distant husband whose absence has caused a rift in their marriage; dead mommy issues; and an adolescent son who isn’t having the easiest time either. Oh, and an angel who narrates the story for us in vague and annoying ways, alluding to hippy-dippy foreshadowy crap before taking it back. Because ModMom has breast cancer. Are you seeing how this is NOT my kind of story? The execution is fine if it IS your kind of thing. It just really, really isn’t mine. 1 of 5 stars.

Book114. The Girl Who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson. (Knopf, 2009, 503 pgs.) A quality re-read from my own well-worn paperback. I was surprised how much I loved the story on the second read – I thought I’d enjoy it enough, but I wasn’t expecting to be hurrying through the pages! Good to know that the story stands up to multiple readings. I didn’t like the second book as much as I liked the neatness of the first, but it’s still great stuff. 4 of 5 stars.

Book2115. The Last Time We Say Goodbye, by Cyndia Hand. (HarperTeen, 2015, 390 pgs.) This was an ebook I borrowed on whim from the library, remembering nothing more than it was on my to-read list. Which was probably good, because I don’t know that I would have decided to read it. Let me say first: it was both gripping and incredibly difficult to read. I needed to know what happened, whether high school senior Lex ever felt whole again as she processed her brother’s suicide. I cared about the characters very quickly and needed to know they’d be okay, drifting along in their bookish ether. The problem is that the book is so honest and genuine and deals with so many true-to-life issues in such a convincing and graceful manner that you’re gasping for air as you navigate the space between words and emotions. It’s a tough read for those who have recently (and not so recently) suffered loss, so please enter with caution (and tissues). But I promise it’s a worthwhile read, especially for teens and tweens who might need to know there are others like them, and light at the end of the tunnel. 3 3/4 of 5 stars.

Book416. The Tsar of Love and Techno, by Anthony Marra. (Hogarth, 2015, 352 pgs.) This was one I pre-ordered, hardcover, because I loved the ever-loving stuffing out of Marra’s debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. I saved it for my readathon, and it was just my jam! I’m not one for short stories – I always want more, and more complex. But these worked. It was a kaleidoscope of all the hidden scenes and off-screen and where did that guy go? you don’t normally get to see when the camera’s following the main action. The mixtape set up – imagine each story is a song – worked really, really well here, as we follow a group of hooligans and rebels while they navigate the soviet states and former-soviet countries among sympathizers and diehard revolutionaries. My heart ached, I laughed out loud, I gleefully posted updates. It’s a book you will need to share to get the most out of. I mean, look: “You begin criticizing the casting choice of a certain director, and you end up comparing Putin, unfavorably, to Lord Voldemort. Who knows how these things happen?” and On making mixtapes: “My favorite cassettes were the Assofoto MK-60s because they came in bitching grapefruit pinks and sherbet oranges; plus you’d feel like James Bond because they were so poorly made they’d disintegrate after one listen.” You just can’t beat this. 5 of 5 stars.

Book2317. Love May Fail, by Matthew Quick. (Harper, 2015, 401 pgs.) I read and loved Quick’s Boy21 back when it came out. I struggled through Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock. I know Silver Linings is just about everyone’s favorite, but I was all Meh about it. This one, about a mid-class mod-woman who catches her porn-director husband cheating on her and Must Rebuild Her Life! with quirky character assists – this might be the book that finally breaks me from ever picking up a Matthew Quick again. I always think I’m going to recapture the freshness of Boy21. I always manage to find a book filled with the little things that went wrong with it instead. 1 of 5 stars.

Book2418. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo. (Ten Speed Press, 2014, 214 pgs.) So many friends have read this and then gushed about it that I had to grab a copy and peruse while the girls and I were hanging at the cafe in Barnes & Noble. My “perusing” turned into “quickly devoured” and I decided that Marie Kondo is on to something – because she perfectly captured how I went about purging my house this spring! Part coincidence, part listening to all my friends, I suppose! Either way, it’s a quick read that makes a lot of sense and gives several good “do this not that” examples for specific areas and categories in your house. What I did find helpful was how she broke down the projects. Don’t move about the house geographically (whoops); instead, tackle all clothes, all books, etc. etc. I definitely recommend picking it up if you need any sort of inspiration for de-cluttering! 4 of 5 stars.

Book2519. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, by Elizabeth Gilbert. (Riverhead Books, 2015, 288 pgs.) This was another book I’d heard a lot of praise for, and from a lot of people whom I really respect. So I grabbed it after speeding through Life-Changing Magic. Why not? The chapters are short and a bit rambly, but they’re exactly what the target audience needs. Comforting. Soothing. Permission-granting. It emphasized everything I kinda thought, and who doesn’t like to be validated? I’m glad I didn’t buy it, but it was definitely interesting and exactly as much time as I gave it. If you’re a bit lost and looking to hear YES, you should take ice skating lessons/painting lessons/go back to school, this is for you.  3 of 5 stars.

Book2620. The Good Girl, by Mary Kubica. (Harlequin MIRA, 2014, 352 pgs.) This is exactly what it sounds like: a thriller/romance that’s rough around all the edges (ALL OF THEM), but good for a few-hour romp. Especially on readathon days. Heh. A judge and socialite’s daughter is kidnapped and returned 3-months later. With selective amnesia…or not? The book follows the infamous “good girl”, the detective who finds her, her kidnapper, and the wacko mother. The plot was a little eye-rolly and the writing made me laugh at times, but all in all, it was good entertainment. It worked because it was exactly what I needed it to be: a big, juicy, fat dessert. If you can’t roll with all of that, this might not be for you. Unless you have lower expectations than I do. Then maybe. 3 of 5 stars.

So there you have it! That was my reading update for last week, because I skipped a week. I’m actually 28 books into October, but I figured you could only listen to my book blathering for so long! I’m glad to get the bump from the readathon because my reading production tends to dip around the holidays. I know, I know – thank god, right?!


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