2018 Book Stats and Challenge

stack books

Hello January! It’s a fun time of year to reflect back on last year’s reads AND on the self-imposed book challenge I made up for myself.  How did I do?  Well, in 2018 I set my Goodreads reading goal to 35 books.  By the end of December, I’d completed 47 books!  Yay me!  That was the most I’ve ever read in one year. Then it began to dawn on me that I found myself waaaay too focused on the numbers of books read.  Reaching and surpassing my “goal” overtook the sheer pleasure of reading. Crazy. I also noticed that I was bypassing large books that I knew would be great reads, simply because reading them would take “too long”.  So this year I’ve ditched a numbers goal.  This opens me up to reading some big, fat, chunkers of books that have been on my shelves forever.  Check out the tab at the top of the page under “Books 2019” to read about my first HUGE book of the year!

Early last year, I made myself a reading challenge – similar to many of the challenges you can find in cyberspace, except that I compiled this list myself.  Here is the list of prompts and how I did on each one:

  1. Read a True Crime Book —  I chose “An Innocent Man” by John Grisham    I generally like true crime, and enjoyed this one, but didn’t love it.
  2. Read a book set in a place I normally don’t read about  —  This time I read “The Saffron Gate” by Linda Holeman – which was set in Marrakesh.  Years ago I read a great book by this author (The Linnet Bird) and loved it, so was prepared to love this one as well – except that I didn’t. It started out quite good, but fizzled badly towards the end.
  3. Read a bestseller from the year I was born  —  I got my hands on “Marjorie Morningstar” by Herman Wouk.  This was a huge book, but totally enjoyable. I shouldn’t have been surprised – I’ve read other big books by Herman Wouk and thoroughly enjoyed them. As an aside, Mr Wouk is still alive and kicking at age 103!
  4. Read a book by an author who is of a different ethnicity than me  —  I read “The Secret Lives of Baba Segis Wives” by Lola Shoneyin.  Started out ok with an interesting premise, but unfortunately fell flat for me.  I should have read “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker! No worries, I still have it and hope to get to it this year.
  5. Read a childhood classic that I’d never read  —  XXXX  Failed on this challenge. I thought I might read A Wrinkle in Time, but it never happened. Kids books just don’t appeal to me.  I don’t even like YA much.
  6. Read a bestseller from the year I graduated from high school  —  I chose “The Camerons” by Robert Crichton.  Dang, this was a mistake.  I’d already read some of the bestsellers from that year, so I wanted to try something more obscure.  This was just a dumb book and the writing drove me crazy. I didn’t finish it.
  7. Read a book that’s been on my shelf waaaay too long  —  Finally, a great read – “Turn Left at the Daffodils” by Elizabeth Elgin.  Ms Elgin is an English author who wrote many books that I’ve enjoyed over the years. This was no exception. Set in my favorite historical time period/era (WWII England), I truly enjoyed this one. I think I purchased this book the last time we went to England in 2009!  It was definitely past time to read this one!  Unfortunately, Ms Elgin died in 2005.
  8. Read a book with Food as a theme (cookbooks don’t count!)  —  XXXX Failed on this one as well.  I did have a book on my shelves that would have suited for this challenge, but I just didn’t pick it up.  I guess the food theme just didn’t grab me!
  9. Read a book with a Month or Day of the Week in the Title  —  For this one, I listened to the audiobook “The Dry Grass of August” by Anna Jean Mayhew. I liked it but didn’t love it and gave it 3 stars.
  10. Read a book from a genre I don’t normally read  —  I should have read a Thriller or Mystery for this category, but instead I read a romance book.  It was “Distant Shores” by Kristin Hannah.  Now Kristin Hannah had just written my favorite book of 2018 (The Great Alone) so I figured that this would be a least a decent read. Wrong. It was your typical romantic storyline: Couple are happy, couple have a falling out, couple figure out a way to get back together – or not – but probably do. Blah blah blah.  Don’t waste your precious time reading this one!
  11. Read a book with more than 500 pages  —  “Jubilee Trail” by Gwen Bristow.  Oh my goodness, this was a wonderful book, 576 pages of fabulous historical fiction set in the 1800’s, mostly in California.  This book was first published in 1950! SO good!
  12. Read a book by a first-time author  —  I chose “The Two Family House” by Lynda Cohen Loigman.  This one starts out in 1947 Brooklyn and ends in about 1969 – all about a big secret between two families. Really liked this book and can’t wait to read this author’s newest book which is coming out soon!
  13. Read a Classic novel that you’ve never read  —  I read “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier for this challenge.  Some would call this more of a modern classic – and maybe it is, but it’s a classic and I thoroughly enjoyed it!!
  14. Re-read a book you once loved — do you still love it?  —  I wasn’t sure which of the many loved books I would like to re-read, but ended up reading “Tapestry” by Belva Plain again.  Ms Plain has passed on, but I believe I read every single one of her WONDERFUL novels – and highly recommend them all.  Yes, I still loved “Tapestry” and wouldn’t mind re-reading them all.  I’d also love to re-read ALL of Maeve Binchy’s and Rosamunde Pilchers novels.  Such great books!

So, there you have it.  I thought it was fun, choosing books to fit the categories, but obviously I didn’t succeed in each one, and I’ve decided not to participate in any additional book challenges for this year for reasons already discussed.

Goals for 2019 —- in addition to reading some of my largest books, another goal I have is to BUY FEWER BOOKS and try to read what I’ve already got on my shelves. I was trying to convince hubby that I needed another bookshelf, but maybe what I really need is to just stop collecting (easier said than done!).  I love going to library sales and normally find remarkable books at terrific prices, but beyond the $$, I need to think of storage, and frankly, I’m running out of room!  We shall see how I do…. so far this year (which is yet very young) I’ve purchased just one book “Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor, originally published in 1944 and has over 900 pages. It was only $3, but does take up a lot of room on my shelf.  For those who might be wondering, no, I don’t generally keep books I’ve already read.  I pass them on to friends/family, donate them, or swap them on the online “book club” – Paperbackswap.com      So what are some of YOUR bookish goals for the new year?

 

The Great Alone – one fantastic book!

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Just finished reading this amazing book and decided I needed to do a review on my blog, ASAP!  I waited seven weeks to receive this one from the library, and whoa buddy, this was SO WORTH THE WAIT!  It’s not often I get so engaged with characters in a book, but this one grabbed me from page one, and would not let me go.  Starting in 1974, we follow the lives of Ernt, Cora, and Leni Allbright. Ernt is a Vietnam veteran and spent several years in a POW camp – and no surprise, the camp had big time ill effects.  Ernt can’t hold a job, so as a last ditch effort to find happiness and stability, the family move from Seattle up to Alaska {dubbed “the Great Alone” by poet Robert Service, many years ago} to a remote, sparsely populated village on the Kenai peninsula. As a Northwest native, I thought that all the descriptions of Alaska would be “ho-hum…. been there done that”, but oh my goodness – Kristin Hannah the author brought that state alive!  She made me think how cool it could be to live up there in the wilderness, without all the pressures of daily life in a city. The sights, sounds, smells, and traditions of our beautiful 49th state really come to life in this book – and I’m just guessing here, but I have a hunch there will be an influx of folks heading north in the near future – looking for one heck of an adventure. Anyway, we quickly discover that Ernt Allbright has a serious anger and jealousy problem and becomes very abusive towards his wife, Cora. Cora blames it on the long winters, the POW camp, and also herself. Leni, their daughter, is witness to the violence and is horrified to see her mom harmed…. and as Leni becomes a teenager, she’s horrified that Cora “loves” Ernt too much to leave him.  Now here is where some people say that the story is flawed.  They say that any woman who was being hurt by her husband repeatedly would never stick around and believe the promises that “it’ll never happen again”.  The sad truth is that MANY women do stay, even in today’s world – believing that it was their fault or that he is ‘so very sorry’.  So yes, there were parts of this book that made me mad – REALLY mad.  But what a read.  Oh my goodness, a wonderfully woven tale of love, anger, adventure, resilience, hope, and perseverance. Of raw nature and raw emotion.  I’m happy to say that Ms Hannah weaves this story in a VERY realistic way, without the use of profanity, which is something that I personally admire.  We get the drift of Ernt’s anger and foul moods without having to hear all the cursing that a guy like him would probably spout off.      This book is a definite 5 star read for me.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s raw, realistic, and remarkable. Read it.