Reading Challenge Check in

Wow, so more than half of 2017 is over.

With that revelation, I realized I was behind on the 2017 Word Nerds Reading Challenge. The good news is that I might be able to get back on track.

June: Biography or autobiography
This might be a bit of a stretch, but I did listen to all of Jim Gaffigan’s “Food: A Love Story.” I finished it in July.

July: Early Detective fiction
This one I know I conquered: just finished “Murder on the Orient Express” last week, only a month behind schedule!

August: One you own or were given but haven’t read yet.
Yeah…. still need to do this. I did just buy myself a copy of our September book club selection… does that count?

September: A Banned Book
There are several graphic novels on this list, so I’m hoping that might be an easy way to knock this challenge out for 2017.

October: A book with a person in the title (ie, “The Girl on the Train.”)
I need to pick a good title here… recommendations? Anyone?

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Cookbooks and rules

Of late, a lot of my reading has been cookbooks and new recipes along with the rules to new board games.

The hubby is seriously looking at going vegan and GenCon was two weeks ago, so we’re eating new foods and playing new games.

Even though it’s still August, on the food front, we’re doing a lot of soups and stew type things. I’m not ready to tackle cooking tofu yet, but we’ve made a lot of good other dishes.

marrakesh

Vegetable Curry Marrakesh

white bean soup

White Bean and Spinach Soup

vegan waffle

Vegan Blueberry Waffle

On the game front, we’re doing ok too.

santorini

Santorini

Santorini is a 2-4 player game but really shines with two. Think of like like 3D tic-tac-toe but the board is 6×6 (I think). We’ve only played a couple times, but I definitely want to keep working on this one.

He also got the Marvel Legendary card game.

legendary

Marvel Legendary

This was the original sorting-out-all-the-cards bit. We’ve played twice and won twice, so that’s awesome.

Book Banter: Witches of Lychford

lychfordTitle: Witches of Lychford

Author: Paul Cornell

Length: 144 pages

Genre: fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: The Sovo Supermarket wants to move into the small town of Lychford. But more than just the usual fight between big business and small shops, the store might be backed by actual Evil and it’s up to three unlikely allies to protect the town’s century’s old role as a barrier between realms.

Banter Points: This short little wonderful novel is probably going to up with a high placing in my annual top 10 list. Cornell nailed this one, with fully drawn characters, a fun plot and magic that doesn’t need pages of explanation. The three women are a great mix of personalities — the weird, the skeptic, the believer.

I’ve enjoyed reading Cornell’s Shadow Police series, but this is even better. Because it’s so short, every word matters and Cornell’s writing prowess really shines through.

Bummer Points: Nothing.

Word Nerd Recommendation: This book has a sequel which I will read, sooner, hopefully, rather than later.

Book Banter: Broken Homes

brokenTitle: Broken Homes (Rivers of London #4)

Author: Ben Aaronovitch

Length: 324 pages

Genre: urban fantasy

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Police Constable Peter Grant has his hands full… a body burned from the inside out, a strange traffic accident, a rogue killer on the loose and his ongoing studies to become a wizard. Even as he tries to solve these crimes, more fall on him, including a set of weird rumors about a housing project that may or may not have magical ties that might be attracting Peter’s arch-nemesis, the unknown wizard he calls the Faceless Man.

Banter Points: I love the Rivers of London series. The cover blurbs it as a blend of CSI and Harry Potter and whoever wrote that nailed the best description possible. Peter does respectable “copper” work as any fictional British police officer should. But his wizarding (and his mentor Nightingale) provide a wonderful dose of the mystical to add to a modern reality.

Bummer Points: I think this series is going to take a re-read to really follow all the twists and turns. Not that I mind rereading, but I wish it was just a smidge less convoluted. Also, I didn’t know in book one that the series was so linked from book-to-book.

Word Nerd Recommendation: Still really enjoying this series. For anyone waiting for the next Dresden Files, bide your time with these and you won’t be disappointed.

Book Banter: Redshirts by John Scalzi

Title: RedshirtsRedshirst.jpg
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Sci-Fi
Length: 320 pages
Where Stacie’s Copy Came From: Oshkosh Public Library
Plot Basics:  Four new crew members join Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. They quickly find themselves in the unique position of completing jobs and tasks that don’t seem logical or rational to their scientific minds. Within days, the truth of their situation is revealed — they are Redshirts, compelled by the Narration, to perform seemingly impossible (or deadly) tasks.
Banter Points:  For the record, I’m not a Trekkie. I am, however, a gamer, and the meta gaming that happens in this novel had me laughing. I also love time travel stories along with their unique world rules; my delight in this book was primarily due to watching them unfold, complicate the story, and be resolved.

As a non-Trekkie, I’m sure I missed out on puns and insider jokes, however, nothing was so insider that I couldn’t keep up with the overall story.

The way that the main characters solved the first mystery and identified that they were red shirts inside of a television show was clever. I liked how it used conventions where someone already had parts of the information, and getting all of the people into a room (and on the same page), made it believable. At their core, each character has unique attributes, predefined to fit the wold, but also build to compliment each other so that ultimately they solve the puzzle together. Just like any good marauding party in your favorite dice-rolling game.

Bummer Points:  I bet a missed a bunch of good humor, not being a Trekkie. It didn’t cause gaps, but given the humor that existed, I missed out.

Stacie’s Recommendation: Fun, quick read that I’d recommended to anyone who understands the vital role that redshirts play.

2017 Q2 Reading Stats

I crunched my Q2 stats a while back, but somehow July was not conducive to blogging in the slightest.

Better late than never on the numbers:

21 books
5329 pages
54.6 hours of audio

YTD, I’m at 40 books, which is three less than 2016. Adding in July, I’m nearly to my 52 books for the year/Goodreads goal. Guess I set that too low…

For this year though, I am doing really well in audio. I’ve listened to nearly 100 hours total, when at this point in 2016 I was at just over 62.

Don’t tell work, but sometimes I listen to audiobooks there.

Book Banter: Finding My Badass Self

findingTitle: Finding my Badass Self (ARC)

Author: Sherry Stanfa-Stanley

Length: 225 pages

Genre: humor/memoir

Plot Basics: Writer Sherry Stanfa-Stanley takes her readers through a year-long humorous journey of 52 new experiences — from a Brazillian wax to going ghost-hunting — as she decides that her 52nd year will be one of testing herself and saying “yes” to new opportunities.

Banter Points: Memoirs typically aren’t my thing, but Sherry’s book is laugh-out-loud funny and manages to also be insightful, a feat that I think is probably easier said than done. I met Sherry several years ago at the Midwest Writers Fellowship and since we weren’t in the same small workshop group, I didn’t really see her writing at that time. But when she announced her 52/52 Project on Facebook, I happily followed along.

I’d read many of her adventures in the book as she blogged about them on Facebook, but in the book, they were refined and even better. I made the mistake of reading about her bug-eating adventure as I was microwaving my lunch, felt my hands get sweaty too as she described the high-ropes course and decided from her adventures in a float tank, that that is an experience I can safely say is not from me because I learned from her.

If you need some inspiration to get out of the ruts in your life and try something, this is your guidebook.

Bummer Points: My TBR pile has been so stacked up lately, that I had to read Sherry’s book in big gulps, more like a novel. I think the wisdom would seep out more if a reader could read one of two of her adventures, put it down, and come back the next time they needed a laugh.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If your reading soul needs some chicken soup without the schmaltz, this is the book for you. Sherry really is funny and her willingness to be honestly self-deprecating is refreshing… because she finds the places she learns. Sure, she might get lost on a Segway in Italy, but she also triumphs and successfully figures out how to navigate herself back to safety. It’s the fact that she wins (mostly) that makes the book so rewarding to read.

 

Book Banter: Broken Harbor

Broken-HarborTitle: Broken Harbor (Dublin Murder Squad #4)

Author: Tana French

Genre: mystery

Length: 450 pages

Where Bethany’s Copy Came From: IndyPL

Plot Basics: Detective Mick “Scorcher” Kennedy has a brilliant solve-rate, always playing by the book (save for the fracas in “Faithful Place.”) He and his new young partner, Richie Curran, get the call about a brutal, apparent murder-suicide of two children and their parents in the town of Broken Harbor, a place that’s burned into Scorcher’s memory for past reasons. The case should have been open-and-shut, but as Scorcher and Richie look into it the case gets strange — a deleted computer records, weird holes in the walls of the victims’ house and Scorcher and Richie soon find the case isn’t what they thought.

Banter Points: Tana French delivers again. Each one of these books keeps delivering a great story, even though the formula is set now. I was telling a friend about these — how you know that the lead detective will do something career-ending through the investigation — but how compelling it is anyway.

Bummer Points: As much as I love these books, they are kind of emotionally exhausting. After I finished this one, I turned to my husband and said, “let’s watch something nice now” because I needed a palate-cleanser. Watching people make humungo mistakes (especially when that is one of my great fears in life) is hard. Cathartic because it was them and not me, but hard.

Word Nerd Recommendation: This series is great, but you might need some space in between each. Past books are reference, but you don’t have to read them in order to know what’s happening.

Book Banter — Afterlife

afterlifeTitle: Afterlife

Author: Marcus Sakey

Genre: suspense/sci-fi

Length: 320 pages

Where Bethany’s copy came from: ARC from NetGalley; releases on July 18.

Plot Basics: FBI agent Will Brody has found the woman of his dream, his boss, Claire McCoy. But they are caught up in a manhunt for a sniper who’s terrorizing Chicago. But when Will gets caught in a bomb blast, he wakes up, in an alternate Chicago, utterly alone. Or so he thinks, until he finds others in the echo. The manhunt spans life and death and not even that will stop Will from reuniting with Claire.

Banter Points: I thoroughly enjoyed this book. While I tagged it as suspense/sci-fi, it’s really a love story (sort of like Passengers, in that regard). Yes, it’s set in a cop-plot with crazy, big worlds and elder gods, but ultimately, the story is about how far Will and Claire will go to be with each other.

Sakey mentioned in his afterward that he kicked this idea around for years. I’m glad he did. This plot in the hands of a younger writer — even a younger Sakey — would probably have come off as corny as heck. Sakey’s always had suspense chops, but in the last few years as evidenced in his Brilliance trilogy, he’s developed a finer emotional edge that makes a story like this work.

Bummer Points: Certain readers will not be able to handle the theology of this book. For me, it was still an enjoyable read even if it didn’t align at all with what I believe happens after death. For potential readers with strong views about Heaven/Hell, this isn’t the book for them.

Word Nerd Recommendation: If you haven’t read any of Sakey’s work, this is a fine place to start. Afterlife is going to be a movie, but like with most adaptations, it’s probably best to do the book first.