Sunday, February 01, 2015

Challenge Accepted! -January Books

Lindsay from Book Club introduced us all to the 2015 Reading Challenge, and I hungrily accepted. Part of my Adventure theme for this year is to read more books outside my typical genre. I like the old classics, with a few modern classics mixed in. I tend to read and re-read the same books over and over because I love the way the familiarity makes me feel and I love discovering something new each time I read. But with that, I tend to turn my nose up at other genres, as if they aren't nearly as meritorious.

This reading challenge is going to change all of this! I intend to check off every single category on this list - not simply by reading one book and checking off three categories, but one book per category.

I started the first of January. I have checked off four categories (with actually six books, since one category is to read a trilogy). In January, I read:

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham (A book set in the future)
This is one of my favorite books. I don't recall where I first picked it up or how I discovered it. Likely it was in WH Smith as I perused the Penguin Classics section, searching for something new to read but still classical. It instantly became one of my all time favorites, and I've read it about seven times. It's a quick read but so interesting and full of thoughtful ideas. It's the story of a boy living in a post-apocalyptic world where genetic mutations are rife and therefore feared by a fundamentalist society determined to return life back to the norm, what they consider to be the "true image". I managed to convince our book club to choose this book as our next book, and I hope hope hope everyone else appreciates it too (even if they don't love it the way I do). I am hosting the next book club meeting and can't wait to discuss it with everyone else.

41: A Portrait of My Father by George W. Bush (A book at the bottom of your to-read list, sorry, Dad!)
I'm unapologetically NOT Republican, but my dad bought me this book for Christmas. (I in return bought him Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama.) It's most certainly not a book I would have chosen to read myself. And I will admit - I have not entirely finished it yet. I am three-quarters of the way through it. I will also admit I'm finding it interesting from an historical perspective. George H. W. Bush was President in my lifetime and was Vice-President when I was born.It's interesting to read about those things that passed over my head as a small child.  His life has definitely been more interesting than I expected; for instance, I was unaware that he fought in WWII.  My only complaint is that the writing is a little dry at times, and I am constantly having to force my political bias to the side as I read about the FPOTUS's policies and decisions.  (And I *really* have to shove bias out of my mind when George W. inserts his own two cents here and there.)  But over all, it's a book I am glad to have (mostly) read.  I will have it finished soon.  I promise.

I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali and Delphine Minoui (A book you can finish in a day)
Scott gave me a gift card to Books A Million for Christmas, and it was pretty near impossible to narrow down my choices to just a few books. Confession: I still ended up spending $15 over the value of the gift card.  One of the check list items I was hoping to check off while book shopping was "a book you can finish in a day".  I browsed the biography section - I like biographies - and found this slim little title. It is the true story of a little girl in Yemen who was married off to a stranger three times her age when she was ten.  I've always had a soft spot for Yemen; my church in college had a specific heart for Yemen, and my study of Arabic all those years ago was for the purpose of one day going to Yemen myself.  So I tucked that book under my arm and it made the final cut.  The book is an easy read literarily, but the content is heartbreaking. The way she bravely tells her story in stark, black and white language, made me simultaneously cringe and cry.  Ultimately, the story is triumphant.  It was well-worth the read. And I did read it all in one sitting, about three hours, I think.

Divergent, Insurgent and Allegiant by Veronica Roth (A trilogy)
Everyone has talked about these Young Adult dystopian novels, so I figured it was time I read them and stopped turning up my nose at the thought of reading "young adult dystopian drivel". I will be totally honest; Divergent and Insurgent had me tightly in its grips. I read both of them over four days, a long weekend. I am not ashamed to say that the constant action and thrill had me turning page after page, excited to know what happens next. I loved the romance between the characters too. These are easy reads and not too complex but nonetheless exciting and entertaining.  There are plot holes everywhere, but the non-stop action allowed me to suspend reality and ignore the obvious problems with the story.  Then I started reading Allegiant. And I have had a hard time finishing it. I still have a few more chapters to go. I just am not any where near as interested in the third book as I was the first two. The narrative keeps changing back and forth between the two main characters, and I can't keep it straight. The story has slowed down, and the plot holes are widening and the suspension of belief harder to accept.  Hopefully the pay off at the end will be worth it. Overall, I'm glad I finally read this series.  If Allegiant has a good ending, I'll possibly pick up the follow-up book, not technically part of the trilogy, Four. The could tick off yet another category, "a book with a one-word title".

UPDATE: A day after writing this, I finished Allegiant. I just thought I should add my final thoughts to be fair.

I had more of the book left to read than I thought; I was only about half way through. After a while, the storyline picked back up and the action took back over. Even though I felt it was nowhere near as good as the first two, I must confess that I thought the ending was very brave and believable, thus making up for the long lag in the early part of the book to just past the middle. While most of the book felt to me unplanned and out of sync with its predecessors, I did end up enjoying the ending more than I expected to. The book at first felt very moralistic, as if the author was trying to make a point but wasn't sure how to make it, but eventually, once she allowed the action to take back over the book, it felt more character-led again, and the moralistic tone dissipated. The forced denouement that I feared ended up never happening, thank goodness. It almost felt like the Allegiants were revolting against more than just the antagonists of the book but also the author's attempt at moralizing their story! Way to go, Tris and Four, for finally nipping that in the bud.

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