Category Archives: Reading Challenge

Reading Challenge: March 2017

March was a tough challenge month for both Word Nerds.  The challenge was a “Best Books before…<insert your age here>.” One of the Word Nerds has a milestone birthday this year. We liked the list from here: http://www.listchallenges.com/oprahs40book

Each chalks up a DNF, which doesn’t necessarily bode well for “Must Read” book lists for either of us…Read on for more details.

download.jpgStacie’s Pick:  I selected Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  A friend loaned me a copy and a few days later, the audio version from the library showed up as well.  It was a win all around…until it was time to read the book.  I really liked the style of the author and the narrator, but given the already heavy brain work I was doing in order to pass the exam (results in 5-7 weeks time) I couldn’t absorb this book.  I need time to pause, reflect, and process against my own journey.

I’m starting to recognize a pattern for myself with books like this.  I put them down to think about them, and don’t always pick them up.  I definitely read for entertainment, primarily, and thoughtful books like this are always good, but take me time to actually finish in a way that applies them to my life (I’m still working on the January Reading Challenge book, which was along these lines as well.)

Bethany’s Pick: Mine was a DNF. Technically, a DNS (Did Not Start.) All the books on the list seemed so heavy and I was not in a place for a heavy book. I checked out Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder” with the best intent… but I took it back unread.

January 2017 Reading Challenge Report Card

The challenge for January was to read a book to change the year. Here’s how we did with the challenge.

beatenotcover_copyBethany: I read Walter Wangerin Jr.’s “Beate Not the Poore Desk.” Wangerin, a National Book Award winner, finally has penned a book about writing. I’m currently not writing and I was hoping that his advice would get things going again.

Wangerin’s book was lovely. It starts with big picture advice about writing — how art is communication and his take on the ethical and moral obligations writers have to tell the truth — and then it turns to the more practical advice. Write, revise, share, etc.

It was a nice little tome. However, it’s unlikely it’s going to change my year. I’m still not writing. Does that mean this challenge is a success or a failure?

Stacie:  The Broken Way by Ann Voskampbroken-way

I selected this book based on a couple of friends who read it and loved the long, deeply reflective thoughts of what it is like to be broken, and how it changes a person. It d
oes have it’s basis in Christianity, Scripture and spiritual life, which is an area of my life that I’ve decided to develop with conscious effort this year.

I purchased this book as it was on sale in either November or December via Kindle. I wish I had gotten a hard copy. I’m enjoying the deep thought provoking nature of this book, but personally, reading on paper versus a device affects the experience. I read way too fast on a device, and have a 85% comprehension level. With paper, I’d likely be jotting notes, underlining and highlighting, making this book a joint effort after all of my personalization.

I’m about half way through, and am considering starting over with a papercopy so I can do just that.

I strongly recommend this book if you are looking for something that will provide insight into how events that could break someone turn into the events that transform them. It’s a very personal story Voskamp is telling, and one that I’m glad to be part of.

2017 Reading Challenge

challenge-timeFor the third year running, the Word Nerds have set our annual reading challenge. Our challenges were started as a way to read things outside our normal genre bent or just to find unique picks.

We’re back at it for 2017.

Here’s the list of this year’s monthly picks.

I’m personally excited for April and and July.

Let us know if you want to join in the reading fun.

November (and October) Reading Challenge Report Card

We could have titled this the “Tale of Two DNFs” as each Word Nerd struggled with one of these months’ challenge.

October: Read a spooky book

Bethany: This was my DNF. I just wasn’t in the mood for a spooky book. We were doing one for book club and I needed the space in my life to not attend that meeting and thereby, not read that book.

8167001.jpgStacie:  I read my first zombie book this month, Zombie Fallout by Mark Tufo.  I picked this one up at the urging of my significant other, figuring I needed to give his recommendation a chance AND it fit the reading challenge.  It was a really fun read (although the zombie descriptions are exactly why I usually don’t read this sort of book.)  The post-apocalyptic world of Mike and Tracy, and their band of survivors are a survivalist’s dream of preparation and understanding of how to cope with a crisis.  Mike is level headed and rational in this world filled with zombies.  He’s the sort of guy that I’d want on my side.  He is rather fond of dad-jokes and tangents that have little or nothing to do with the circumstances but it’s his charm that kept me going when the zombie grossness was too much.

November: Read a collection of short stories, either all by one author or an anthology from many.

Bethany: I picked the very excellent “In an Uncharted Country” by Clifford Garstang. Garstang won the 2015 Eugene & Marilyn Glick Indiana Authors Award Emerging Author. I’d read his other collection, “What the Zhang Boys Knew” and thoroughly enjoyed it. Uncharted Country wove together several sets of characters in the same small town, moving them forward over years. In each, the new country was primarily new emotional territory for the characters to traverse. The stories were solid, pictures of life, with an impact that lingers beyond the reading.

Stacie: DNF.  Did not start really.  I just couldn’t find a collection that I wanted to read.

September Reading Challenge Report Card

September’s challenge was to read a book with a blue cover. This is a joke in the world of librarianship and/or bookselling. A customer or patron comes in asking for a help in finding a book — only they can’t remember the author, or the title, just that the cover was blue.

insdie-ringBethany’s Pick: The Inside Ring by Michael Lawson

I heard Mike Lawson back in 2009 at Bouchercon. He writes a series centered on DC fixer Joe DeMarco, bagman for the Speaker of the House. He’s written a bunch of them, but I just hadn’t gotten the series started. It’s gun-sighted White House blue cover seemed like a good pick. DeMarco is asked to investigate a failed assassination attempt on the President. One of the Secret Service members looked hinky in the video and DeMarco and the Speaker are worried that the President’s inside ring of protection has been compromised and that other government departments are deliberately botching the investigation.The constructions feels a little first-book-ish (a lot of telling instead of showing) but it’s a solid plot with some fun twists.
station_eleven_cover.jpg
Stacie’s Pick: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

This was a solid recommendation from Bethany that started with a death that was explained through a series of flash forwards and flash backs. Set in a post-apocalyptic North America, the significance of the characters’ lives becomes apparent as the story approaches the ending, and the author skillfully brings the various characters together. It’s rare, in my opinion, for an author to use this technique well, especially while maintaining distinct voices for the characters. It has been added to the short list of titles where it is successful. I’ve already pushed this one to a friend who enjoyed it as well.

 

 

August Reading Challenge

school buildingIf you’ve forgotten (like I had!), the August Reading Challenge is a book set in a school.

I was going to pick something else, but my hold of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” came in, so August Challenge book it is. Hogwarts isn’t featuring in the story as prominently as it does in the early, original HP novels, but it’s still there.

What books set in schools do you really like?

July Reading Challenge: Hot Book

hot thermToday is a day that I feel like melting even while walking through my house. Clearly, the July Reading is inspired by the outside soaring temperatures.

Hot is up to you as the reader to define. Something that sizzles between the covers? A book that’s raced to the top of your favorite reviewer’s must read list? A title that’s topping the charts? Maybe the title has “hot” in its title.

It’s not the heat but the gosh darn humidity. Maybe the challenge should have been a wet book…

June Reading Challenge Report Card

June’s challenge was to read a book you’d bought for yourself or been given and just hadn’t read yet for some reason. The nerds have multiple books in that category, for sure. Here’s how we did:

maydayBethany: I picked “May Day,” the first of Jess Lourey’s Murder by Month series. I picked this one up at Bouchercon in 2009. Honestly, I picked this one for the June challenge because it was short. I’ve managed to get myself overloaded with books right now, but I didn’t want to skip this challenge. I lucked out. May Day was fun. It’s a nice light-hearted mystery that kept me turning pages. I know Lourey’s written a bunch of other things now and has a stand-along thriller coming out soon. I’m excited to read her latest to see how she’s progressed as a writer.

riversStacie: I chose “The Lady of the Rivers” by Philippa Gregory. I picked up this title a few years back at a library sale, and it went on the stack immediately.

This is the type of book that I used to read frequently but this go around made me realize that my reading tastes had changed. I had a hard time remembering all of the players between reading sessions. There were many reading sessions too as I kept setting the book down after an hour or so of reading. I didn’t have the interest I used to feel for the historic setting or the intricate plotting of court life during England’s various wars.

I’m going to release it at a little library in the next few days. Hopefully the next reader will appreciate it more than I did.

June Reading Challenge

Five months of the Word Nerd Reading Challenge have flown by. The Nerds have been discovering some great options and invite you along for the ride in June. This is probably my favorite challenge for the year because it really helps on my TBR stack: A book you’ve been given or bought for yourself that you haven’t read yet. We are repeating this one from 2015 because we have so many that fit this category!

Pick your title and check back near the end of June to report back.

May Reading Challenge Report Card

May’s challenge was to read your significant other (or BFF’s) favorite book ever.

Here’s how we did.

imagesStacie:  For the May Reading Challenge, I read, It by Stephen King. This is an author / genre I’ve avoided for most all of my reading life and my significant other (Hi, Mike!) is a huge fan. As our reading tastes tend to run along the same favorites, we were equally outraged at the other’s view on this author. As he regularly reads suggestions I make, I decided to read It with an open mind and no preconceptions other than what the cover blub said.

Wow. Normally, I avoid horror stories because I cannot separate the book from my imagination and the horror of the story lives there too long. That wasn’t the case here for a few reasons:

  1. While horrifying at times, this isn’t a slash and burn horror story. I’d put it in this in the psychological thriller genre. The mind games played by It were the sort that I usually enjoy reading about when they are contained to sociopaths in novels.
  2. As I read, I could separate and analysis the novel’s events and dysfunctional relationships rather than experiencing them and reacting to them. This is a huge milestone for me as a person and is quite reflective of my personal journey and experiences in 2015 (which was quite life altering for me in many ways.
  3. My expectations about Stephen King’s writing really didn’t fit the actual story. I was doing that very thing I dislike in others and making assumptions and broad sweeping statements with little or no facts to back it up. Yep, I uncovered a bias.

This has been a true reading Challenge for me as I walked away with several new thoughts about this author and my whole concept of this genre. If I was grading the challenge results, this month would be an A+.

the-martian-book-cover-530x806Bethany: First off, I cheated. If I asked the hubby about his favorite, he’d probably say Dan Brown. I tried one Dan Brown book once, made it a whole 2 pages (maybe) and put it down. Also, for the past year, I’ve been his audiobook dealer, so I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of the ones he’s really enjoyed and the ones I’ve sort of forced him through. Enter, “The Martian.” He’s been badgering me to read it because it’s good and there’s a movie version. Ah-ha! I think, I have a new choice — “The Martian” it was.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I actually think it’s going to be a better movie (gasp!) There are some weird things that happen in the book, head-hopping and weird shifts in POV, just when I think a pattern has been established. Also, I think the level of peril will feel higher on the screen than the page. It’s been said that cheaters never win, but I think I did pretty well with this challenge.