50 book challenge

I’m not sure if there are official “rules” for this, so I’m going to make up my own.

In 2013 I will read 50 books that I have not read before, and write down what they were and (if possible) what led me to read them.

Sequels do count, even if they are sequels to books that I have already read.

Children’s books do count (or teenage books anyway) as long as they are word-books not picture-books.

Unpublished or self-published books do count, as long as they are of comparable length to a “real book”.

It’s currently the beginning of March (when I’m first posting) so in theory I should be 8-ish books in, but I’m not, I’m partway through book 5. I actually wasted all of January on my Wheel of Time re-read. I say wasted. It wasn’t a waste at all. I re-read the books from the beginning, all 13 of them, starting in December, and then read the latest and final book…

1:  A Memory of Light – by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, in February, the final Wheel of Time book, a couple of weeks after it was released.

2: When God Was a Rabbit – has been on my kindle for a little while, it was a big thing last year. I found it easy enough to read, I wasn’t bored or anything, but I don’t feel any connection to it or feel very much like I would recommend it to anyone.

3: Luminosity – a re-imagining of Twilight with Bella having a very different personality (having any personality at all is very different!). Technically fan fiction, I copied the entire text from the website and put it onto my kindle. It was as long as many “real” books, and better-written than 50 Shades of Grey (which also started out as fan fiction). I love a re-imagining, a book from a different perspective, the same setup with just one or two things changed and then everything goes off in a completely different direction. I highly recommend Ender’s Game (just because it is great) and then Ender’s Shadow, if you like the same sort of thing. The author has written a number of other books so I expect them to pop up sometime later on.

4: Radiance – the sequel to the above, from the perspective of not-Renesmee-because-really-that’s-a-ridiculous-name, which due to Bella’s different choices and their consequences bears very little resemblance to Twilight at all.

5: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – Cloud Atlas David Mitchell, not Mitchell-and-Webb David Mitchell. Lent to me by a friend so this was in paper form not electronic and I read a few other books while this one was on the go. Started slow, then got interesting for a bit, then I wondered what the point was going to be.

6: The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared – bought because it was 20p for the kindle version – rather enjoyed. The hundred year old man in question had (allegedly) a rather Forrest Gump sort of life, accidentally ending up in interesting places and meeting interesting people.

7: Come to Dinner – a book written as a series of dinner parties between a group of friends – much fun to be had in figuring out what you missed in the meantime. Best conversation: “It’s in the ramekin cupboard”, “We have a ramekin cupboard?”, “Well, not just ramekins”

8: Bad History – Things that we all know that are not true — I’m not convinced that I agree with the “things that we all know” (some I either had never heard of or had heard of but didn’t believe). One very annoying thing was the length of the bibliography – I thought I was 2/3 of the way through the book when it suddenly ended!

9. The Riddle of the Sands – Recommended by @FelixtheFemale. Two blokes in early 1900s pootling about on a boat round the edge of Germany. I’ll have to admit that I found this hard going and didn’t really care what the characters found (sorry).

10. Girl Made of Storms – A sort-of prequel to The Tempest. I’ve never read The Tempest. Or seen it. But I quite liked this magical island story. My first experience with the “Kindle owners’ lending library” (borrow one book each month, no extra cost if you are an Amazon Prime member)

11. Utter Folly – A comedy farce in a largeish country house, but modern. Funny and easy to read. The main character is a bit of a twit, but that isn’t a problem. The writer is on Twitter and says “There are no strangers, only friends you haven’t alienated yet.”

12. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In. I tried to avoid reading too much of the “controversy” so as not to pre-judge. I enjoyed this and I thought there were lessons that could apply to people in all sort of situations, not just those in powerful well-paid jobs or those who are ambitious enough and have stamina enough to work 14-hour days. When it came to an end (before I expected, due to the large number of footnotes) I was disappointed and wanted more. There’s no higher praise than that, right?

13. Bad Cook – the book version of a blog that I love, that is partly about cooking but mostly about life. Esther’s comparison of life with a toddler being like life with a bad boyfriend is wonderful.

14. Five Days – recommended by someone on Twitter (not sure who) as having a “emotional gasp moment”. I think I spotted the moment that she meant but I’m not sure that I cared as deeply as she did. A reasonably compelling read, I got through it quickly with no boredom at all, but I didn’t entirely sympathise with the main character. I know that in some cases that is the point, but it felt as if we were supposed to believe that the narrator was right in everything that she did.

15. World War Z – also recommended on Twitter, and again I failed to write down who recommended it (sorry!). I loved this. Told as a series of interviews that chart roughly-chronological experiences. I like a good bit of post-apocalyptic, and this was a good example of a story set pre- and during- the apocalypse. Z stands for zombies.

16. The Diaries of a Fleet Street Fox – this is actually more a “diary of my divorce” than it is anything relating to the newspaper business. I enjoyed this and felt rather sad that it was “based on real life” – partly because there are some things in it that are sad, and partly because it means she can only write a year’s worth of life every year (and a year’s worth of life may not be enough to fill a book, depending on how exciting your life is).

17. War Brides was April’s pick from the Kindle lending library – a tale of five young women in pre- and during- war Britain.

18. Earthly Joys is a Philippa Gregory book (she of The Other Boleyn Girl) which tells some of the story of the James Stuart through the eyes of a gardener. If I were a voiceover man I would say “but not just any gardener”  but I’m not so I won’t. I enjoy both “alternative point of view” books and “scurrilous gossip about historical figures that you can pretend amounts to knowing history” books, and this is both.

19. Continuing the historical theme with Minette by the lovely Madame Guillotine, who write just as well as Philippa Gregory but with rather less sex, as she aims her historical fiction more at the “young teenage girl” stories – in this case the youngest sister of Charles II. (although I believe that Henry VIII’s mother was 12 when she had him so the two are not wholly mutually incompatble)

20. Daughter of the Empire – I was recommended with a warning not to read this author’s earlier books as many of them are rubbish. I was not keen on this one either TBH. I couldn’t find any sympathy with the main character. She went suddenly from being about-to-enter-convent to must-protect-family-honour, even though there was nobody but her left in her family, so she could really do as she pleased. I was also unimpressed with her complete disregard for the thoughts or feelings of any other human being (or non-human). Whatever they teach in that “convent” (sort of thing) it wasn’t much about compassion.

21. Virgin Earth is the slightly bizarre follow-up to #18, in which the son of the previous protagonist spend some time feeling conflicted about who to follow during the build up to the English Civil War, and so goes off to Virginia and spends some time hanging out with a group of Native Americans, then feels conflicted again about the clear conflict between them conducting their lives and the English people doing what they please. He spends a lot of time feeling conflicted.

22. The Great Gatsby – I was once told that Cat on a Hot Tin Roof was “good writing” because it made me feel stressed, like the characters felt stressed. I believe that the emotion that most of the characters in this book felt was boredom. Does it therefore follow that if I felt bored, it was because of good writing? Or is it because I was just bored?

23. The Blade Itself – recommended as “if you like Game of Thrones try this” so I did. It took me a while to war to this book, and it took a slightly longer while for the different strands of the story to seem to come into contact with each other. Not just in a “Daenerys is still on a different continent” kind of way, but the people in different strands didn’t give any indication that they were aware of the existence of any of the other places or people. It was worth persisting though, and I’m interested in what will happen next.

24. Poison, a Snow White tale. I follow the author on Twitter (and as with most of my Twitter people I don’t really know why). I’d recently seen Snow White and the Huntsman, and much like the film it looks for more motivation for the “wicked queen” other than simple wickedness. I enjoyed this book but it is SHORT, and ends on a semi-cliffhanger, and I feel a bit cheated. I’m used to fantasy books being 3 times this length, so to split it up into 3 and charge individually for each seems a little unfair. Maybe I’m just greedy. Wanting “more book please” when you reach the end is at the very least a compliment to the author! The book is good though, and

25. Gone Girl, yes I know I’m a little late to the party, I think this was the “big thing” last year. I liked the way this story was told, interlacing the diary entries with the “what’s happening right now”. I also enjoyed the unreliable narrator aspects. It does puzzle me how a book becomes the “hot thing” though, as I expect there are many more books just as good out there.

26. You Had Me at Hello. Another author who I follow on Twitter. Again no clue why. I can’t think of a way to describe this other than “good chick lit”. I know that’s terrible, but I don’t know a better way to describe a story about relationships with no crime or mystery element to it. Please note the “good” part, which means no ridiculous makeover scenes and no running off into the sunset. My favourite line included someone being “mature enough to have more booze in the house than just what she was drinking tonight”, which I think is a fabulous way to measure grown-upness.

27. Light. The final (#6) book in the Gone series. I’ve reviewed the series separately. I spent a while on holiday re-reading the entire series (they are quite short, but for some reason this is fine in YA books, sorry #24!)

The next few are probably not in the right oreder as I forgot to update this for a while… I took a bit of time out to re-read The Name of The Wind, which I love (waiting for book 3 at the moment)

28. The Bastard of Istanbul – recommended because I was going to Turkey, modern rather than historical as the title might suggest.

29. Wolf Brother – YA that was too Y and not enough A for my liking (a shame because I do like a bit of communing with wolves and a bit of caveman history – try Assassin’s Apprentice for the former and The Clan of the Cave Bear for the latter)

30 & 31. Wolf Hall – no actual wolves in this – Hilary Mantel (who came to my attention after being misquoted for saying something mildly scathing about Kate Middleton – followed by Bring Up The Bodies. I found it difficult at times to follow conversations and figure out exactly who was talking, but I did enjoy these books. I like hearing stories from different points of view, and of course the story here is one that has been covered in many different ways and with many different perspectives.

32. Whispers Under Ground – a modern London crime book with a little (okay a lot) of mythology going on.

33. Sealed with a Kiss – if you’ve broken up with your boyfriend, what do you do? Take a job on a Scottish island doing not much, get a puppy, make friends with the natives, have a romcom?

34. Before They Are Hanged – sequel to The Blade Itself – better now that I know the characters, plus I think we were only in about 3 places at a time and I did understand how they interacted.

35. The Sisterhood – June’s Kindle Library book, from the author of The War Brides, a nice two-threaded story of a woman in about 2000 and her ancestors dealing with the Spanish Inquisition. A terrible use of “rape as drama” though – the story would have been exactly the same if she and her fiance had simply broken up, there was no reason at all for him to be a rapist.

36. Farenheit 451 – I’m beginning to think that I’ve read all the good “classic” books. I found this a bit dull and didn’t really enjoy the style of writing or speaking. The way people spoke reminded me of Brave New World, which I suppose is in a similar style. It’s a shame because I normally like people finding out that their world is not what it seems

37 & 38. Wool and Shift – speaking of worlds not being as they seem – this was heavily advertised as “the next Hunger Games”. If you get rid of the teenagers and the games and the love triangle, maybe. And have more of the “finding out that your world is not what it seems”. I definitely recommend these.

39 & 40 & 41. The White Queen and The Red Queen and The Lady of the Rivers – I am watching the TV show based on these, and I’ve already said that I enjoy books that take the same events from different angles.

I haven’t updated for ages so the next few might not be in quite the correct order – sorry! I also had no idea that I was so close to the end so I’m going to massively overshoot 50!

42. The Kingmaker’s Daughter – As above but from the perspective of Anne Neville, daughter of the Earl of Warwick, wife (eventually) of Richard III.

43. A Modern Witch –  Another kindle lending library book – a bit like a romcom with witchcraft except the main character falls in love with an entire family rather than with a man.

44 & 45 & 46 & 47. Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras – A YA quartet, mildly postapocalyptic, but the apocalypse was a while ago and life is just lovely and perfect now (or it is if you fit in). The apocalypse apparently involved genetically modified lilies – which is just weird. You might find the future-teen slang a bit annoying, I found it pretty realistic (which isn’t to say it wasn’t annoying, teen-speak IS annoying unless you are a part of the group)

48. Babies in Waiting – The author posted on the bloggers network about “can chick lit be feminist?” so of course I had to have a try. Definitely passes the Bechdel test.

49. The Way of Kings – Written by Brandon Sanderson (he who finished the Wheel of Time) – a fantasy book where I wish the sequel was written already – I am a fool for not starting with one of his finished series! Highly recommended (along with The Blade Itself and also The Name of the Wind). A well fleshed-out fantasy society, I hope that some of their customs (especially the safe-hand) will be explained more in future.

50. Life After Life – An interesting premise, not too far away in style from The Time Traveller’s Wife – a woman is born, lives, dies, and is born again in the same circumstances at the same time. She has a little deja-vu, just enough that she makes different choices and her life turns out differently.

Unsurprisingly I did not stop reading at this point – even if I had realised that I was at 50 I would not have stopped reading!

51. Dust – The third book of Wool/Shift. Again highly recommended. Not a lot I can say that wouldn’t be a spoiler.

52 & 53. Divergent & Insurgent – YA books not too dissimilar to Uglies etc above. I read both of these in about a day and a half – so either they are good, or they are short, or I was having a particularly bookish weekend. Book 3 is out in the autumn.

54. As They Slept - Another kindle lending library choice. I liked the whimsy of the idea (write something every day on your commute for a year) but was annoyed that I didn’t get a year’s worth and found the quality variable. Some pieces as good as a good opinion piece in the newspaper. Others less good (IMO) than my musing blog posts. I might use my lending library “credits” on the next parts, but only if I don’t spot anything better.

55. Dissolution – First of the Shardlake series, murder mysteries set in Tudor times. Plenty of references to our friend Thomas Cromwell (who we saw a lot of in Hilary Mantel’s books). I was hoping to love these. I didn’t love it. But I did like it.

56. David Mitchell: Back Story – Currently halfway through this and David Mitchell just seems very nice. Note: not THAT David Mitchell.

2 thoughts on “50 book challenge

  1. Pingback: Book review – Gone Series by Michael Grant | screenfulofwords

  2. Pingback: “Don’t be evil” | screenfulofwords

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