Book Challenges 2018

Since I love to challenge myself, for this year I’m going to participate in more book challenges! There are loads of fun ones, so I’ve selected three that I want to try. I figure these will keep me motivated to keep my book count high in 2018! Here are my 2018 challenges:

Challenge #1

This is the one I participated in last year, and it’s a great way to read more classic books. The idea is to read at least 6 of the 12 categories; books must be published by 1968. Hosted by Karen at Books & Chocolate.

Here are my tentative selections for this year (you are allowed to change your choices from your original sign-up):

1.  A 19th century classic: I have several works by Dickens that are untouched, so probably one of those. I’m thinking The Old Curiosity Shop since that’s one in particular that tends to divide fans.

2.  A 20th century classic: I’ve been wanting to read Ralph Ellison’s masterpiece Invisible Man for quite some time.

3.  A classic by a woman author: How do you choose between so many great female authors? Here are some of my options: Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf, The Last Man by Mary Shelley, or Lady Susan by Jane Austen. Tough choice this one.

4.  A classic in translation: It’s been awhile since I read Kafka so going with The Trial for this category.

5. A children’s classic: This is a fun category, and you can’t go wrong with Roald Dahl so probably either James and the Giant Peach or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. 

6.  A classic crime story, fiction or non-fiction: I really loved Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd so selecting Murder on the Orient Express. I just saw the new movie version and loved it!

7. A classic travel or journey narrative, fiction or non-fiction: I’ve been wanting to revisit Jonathan Swift’s classic Gulliver’s Travels. I did a paper back in college on it and have been wanting to do a reread.

8. A classic with a single-word title: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. It’s on my TBR list for 2018.

9. A classic with a color in the title: My fellow blogger Joelendil’s Kingdom of Books recommended The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson. I’ve been on a roll with his stuff lately, and this one sounds light and fun.

10. A classic by an author that’s new to you: Undecided for this one!

11. A classic that scares you: Is there a classic you’ve been putting off forever? A really long book which intimidates you because of its sheer length? Now’s the time to read it, and hopefully you’ll be pleasantly surprised! It’s time I conquered my fear of Moby Dick. It will be read this year!

12. Re-read a favorite classic: Too many choices here, but I’m thinking of reading more Bradbury this year, so let’s go with his classic Something Wicked This Way Comes. 

Challenge #2

I posted about this challenge in an earlier blog. The object is to read books that have been on the shelves too long. Hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader.

  1. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
  2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  6. Carrie by Stephen King
  7. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  9. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  10. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  11. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
  12. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (didn’t get to it in 2017, determined to tackle it)

Alternate Selections:

  1. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  2. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides 


Challenge #3

This is another new challenge for me this year, hosted by Gilion at Rose City Reader. The idea is to “tour” Europe by reading a book set in a different country with a different author. The person with the highest number of qualifying reviews receives a gift card prize! There are different levels, so I’m signing up for the top level:

FIVE STAR (DELUXE ENTOURAGE): Read at least five books by different European authors or books set in different European countries.






In addition to the above challenges, I will continue to work on books that are on the 1001 Books list and participate once again in Austen in August. I’ve created a page to track my progress on all three challenges here.

What are your reading goals for 2018? Are you participating in any book-related challenges? Comment below!


Book Awards 2017

My second year as a book blogger is now complete, and I’ve managed to go over my target of fifty books again. Without further ado, it’s time to hand out my awards for the best (and worst) books I read this year.

Best Translated Book

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Winner: After Dark by Haruki Murakami

This little novel is everything you have come to expect from Murakami-dark, surreal, and very disturbing.

Honorable Mention: Candide by Voltaire


Best Short Story Collection

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Winner: What I Didn’t See and Other Stories by Karen Joy Fowler

I was familiar with Fowler having read her novel The Jane Austen Book Club some time ago. However, I wasn’t prepared with her extraordinary ability to write great short stories.  When I read a short story collection, there are typically one or two stories that truly stand out for me.  This is the first time where I would rank nearly all of the stories as favorites. The opening story, “The Pelican Bar,” ranks as one of my favorites.

Honorable Mention: The Elephant Vanishes by Haruki Murakami


Best Non-fiction Book

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Winner: Homer’s Odyssey by Gwen Cooper

I read lots of great non-fiction this past year, but the tale of the blind wonder cat moved me the most. Homer is an inspiration to everyone out there that anything is possible.

Honorable Mention: Devil in the Details by Jennifer Traig


Most Disturbing Read

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Winner: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

Isserley spends her days driving through the Scottish Highlands picking up male hitchhikers. What happens to them and why is so shocking that this one easily tops the list at most disturbing novel of the year.

Honorable Mention: After Dark by Haruki Murakami


Best Series

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Winner: The Magicians Series by Lev Grossman

My best friend introduced me to this series last year, and I finished the final book at the beginning of this year. I loved these books! Think of this story as a more adult version of Harry Potter and the whole chosen one plot.


Best Illustrated Book


Winner: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

I can’t praise this story enough, as I can literally find no fault with it. Everything about A Monster Calls is superb. Ness uses one of my favorite writing styles, able to convey great emotion with simple sentences. Ultimately, this is a great book about learning to deal with grief. Jim Kay’s illustrations bring this dark tale to life.

Honorable Mentions: The House That Groaned by Karrie Fransman and The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger


Best Book Cover


Winner: The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness

I thought the design was beautifully done and the perfect cover for this blend of myth and reality.


Best Online Event


I loved participating in Austen in August for the first time! I read five books for that month, either written by Austen or inspired by her. It was so exciting to win my first Folio book, a beautifully illustrated edition of Persuasion. 


Best Newcomer

For the best writer whose work I’ve read for the first time this year

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Winner: Patrick Ness

I read two books by Ness this year, A Monster Calls and The Crane Wife. Since both books received glowing reviews, I have to give him the award this year. His writing style is fun but emotional. Ness manages that same blend of both fantasy and reality that I have come to expect from writers like Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint.

Honorable Mention: Michel Faber

Lifetime Achievement Award

For the best writer whose work I have read before this year, and who continues to be excellent.

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Winner: Haruki Murakami

This one was the hardest category for me, but if I’m going to be brutally honest I would have to give the award to Murakami simply for the fact that I return to his work time and again.

Honorable Mention: Charles de Lint


Worst Book

For the book that almost sent me on a homicidal rampage.

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Winner: Armada by Ernest Cline

I know I might get a lot of hate for this one, but Cline is not a writer that does it for me. You would think all of the 80’s pop culture references would be awesome, but the story itself was utter bollocks.

 Best Book of 2017

For the most amazing book I’ve read all year.


Winner: Under the Skin by Michel Faber

This book is so gripping and so well written that I read almost all of it in one sitting, and it is hundreds of pages long. I just can’t fault it. Trust me, it is so much better if you go in with no knowledge of this book. I went from intrigued to shock and finally deep thought into the larger themes this book explores.

“Most distracting of all, though, was not the threat of danger but the allure of beauty.”

Congrats to all the winners! Here’s to more great reads in 2018!

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Have you read any of my winning books? I’d love to know your thoughts!


Back to the Classics Challenge 2017 Wrap-Up

I am pleased to report my first Back to the Classics Challenge was a complete success! With less than one week to go, I managed to finish reviews in all twelve categories and earn three entries into the prize drawing. Here are my completed reviews with links to each one:

1.  A 19th century classic: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I really enjoyed this rollicking adventure during one of my “beach” reads. As a matter of fact, I loved it so much that I will be reviewing Andrew Motion’s sequel Silver quite soon!

2.  A 20th century classic: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie. This novel along with the film version of Murder on the Orient Express made me a huge fan of the cunning Belgium detective Hercule Poirot. I will definitely be reading more from Agatha Christie in the future.

3.  A classic by a woman author: Emma by Jane Austen. The completion of this one means I have now read each of Austen’s six major novels at least once. Out of all her heroines, I did find Emma Woodhouse the most compelling.

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4.  A classic in translation: The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. After reading the Italian original, you will never look at the character the same way again!

5.  A classic originally published before 1800: Candide by Voltaire. Published in 1759 as a satire on certain religious and philosophical theories, I can’t remember the last time a classic made me laugh but also contemplate my role in human existence. I also found that the work is still relevant in today’s tragicomic world.

6.  A romance classic: I read two works by Louisa May Alcott for this category, A Long Fatal Love Chase and The Inheritance. These two works by the author of Little Women could not be vastly different, with one being a dark tale of a twisted love and the other belonging to the category of sentimental romance. Both are definitely worth reading to better understand the range of Alcott’s writing.

7.  A Gothic or horror classic: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I really enjoy Stevenson’s writing and look forward to reading more of his works in the future.

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Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894) wrote some wonderful tales of adventure and wonder. He was taken from this world way too soon.

8.  A classic with a number in the title: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. One of my all-time favorite authors and one of the greatest science fiction novels of all time. Nobody can spin a yarn like Bradbury.

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title: The Red Pony by John Steinbeck. One of the best things about this challenge is discovering lesser known works from classic authors. This little quartet of stories about a young boy and his parents set on a ranch is beautifully written in a way only Steinbeck could manage.

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. This is one of my favorite Austen novels, set in the beautiful English city of Bath. I hear there are some wonderful bookstores there that I hope to see someday.

11. An award-winning classic: Dune by Frank Herbert. I rediscovered my love of science fiction this year, and you can’t go wrong with this epic space opera set on the mysterious desert planet Arrakis. My plan is to read more of this series soon.

12. A Russian classic: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn. My final classic read of the year may not be the happiest book ever, but it is superbly written. This one should be required history reading in high school.

I would like to give a big thank you to Karen over at Books and Chocolate for hosting this challenge and creating a fun way to discover or reread classics. I’m compiling my list for next year! There is definitely not a shortage of classic literature on my bookshelves. I hope everyone enjoys my reviews. See you next year!

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What classics did you read this year? Did you participate in any book challenges this year? Please comment below!


2018 TBR Pile Challenge

This year isn’t even over, and I’m already planning ahead for challenges for next year! After a two-year hiatus (while he worked on his doctoral dissertation), Adam over at is resurrecting his TBR Pile Challenge.

The rules are quite simple: Select 12 books that have been sitting on your shelves for at least one year. These books have to be listed by January 15, 2018 in order to officially take part in the challenge. Also, don’t worry in case you struggle with finishing one or two of the books on your list as you are allowed to select two alternate books. This challenge is going to be so much fun! Not only do you get to knock a dozen books off your TBR list, but Adam also offers prizes as well! Just remember to go to the website above and sign up!

In addition to forming my list on this post, I’m going to add a page to my site that will have all of my 2018 challenges listed there, such as Back to the Classics and Austen in August.


My 2018 TBR Pile Challenge List:

  1. If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler by Italo Calvino
  2. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
  3. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  4. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  5. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
  6. Carrie by Stephen King
  7. The Trial by Franz Kafka
  8. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  9. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
  10. The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan
  11. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens
  12. Moby Dick by Herman Melville (didn’t get to it in 2017, determined to tackle it)

Alternate Selections:

  1. The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
  2. The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides 

I tried to find a good mix of titles for this challenge. It’s feeling pretty balanced. I’m all kinds of excited to participate in this challenge! You should join too and spread the word. You might even win a prize! CLICK HERE to join. Also, congratulations Adam for finishing your doctorate! Here’s to many more challenges for 2018!

Reading Challenges Update

I thought this would be a good week to update my progress on my personal reading challenges, particularly as the year is rapidly coming to a close. My plans for this weekend is to create an actual page where I can update my progress on a regular basis. Until then, here is where I currently stand:

Austen In August (5/5)

1. An Austen novel I’ve never read: Emma 

2. An old favorite: Northanger Abbey

3. An unfinished work completed by another author: The Watsons and Emma Watson by Jane Austen and Joan Aiken

4. An interesting mashup/adaptation of a Jane Austen work: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

5. A nonfiction book about Jane Austen or her time period: Jane Austen and Her Times, 1775-1817 by G.E. Mitton

Yes, it took me a few days longer than the end of August to complete it (more reviews forthcoming). Considering I created this challenge, I figure I’m allowed some additional days. I had so much fun in participating for the first time! As an added bonus, please allow me to share a picture of the fabulous prize I won:

Photo Credit: Natalie Getter

This beautifully illustrated copy of Persuasion was generously donated by the Folio Society. I was so excited to receive this as I have never won a book before! It comes in a slipcase with a quote from the book on the front. I have my copy proudly displayed on my bookshelves.

Photo Credit: Natalie Getter

Back to the Classics Challenge 2017 (7/12)

I seem to be rocking the classics fairly well this year. If I complete the five remaining categories, I will earn three entries into the grand prize, a gift card to use towards more books! I’m really happy that I found this challenge, as it has given me an excuse to add more classics to my life (like I really needed a reason).

1.  A 19th Century Classic: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

2.  A 20th Century Classic:

3.  A classic by a woman author: Emma by Jane Austen

4.  A classic in translation: The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

5.  A classic published before 1800:

6.  An romance classic: A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

7.  A Gothic or horror classic:

8.  A classic with a number in the title: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

9.  A classic about an animal or which includes the name of an animal in the title:

10. A classic set in a place you’d like to visit: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

11. An award-winning classic: Dune by Frank Herbert

12. A Russian Classic:


R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril XII

I learned about this event from fellow book blogger Sarah at Sarah Reads Too Much. I’ve never participated in one R.I.P event before, but it sounds like a lot of fun. This is hosted by and, and that’s where you can go to sign up as well. The purpose of the R.I.P. challenge is to enjoy books that fall into categories such as mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, horror, and the supernatural.

It’s not necessarily a challenge, unless you want to make it one. It’s more about bringing readers together to enjoy some chilling tales. There are different levels, so I’m thinking about doing Peril the First which means reading four books that fall into one of the above categories. I also want to tackle “Peril of the Short Story” as well. The book for discussion in October is Slade House by David Mitchell. I’m planning on tackling that one plus three more along with a short story collection. I would like to read an Agatha Christie for the challenge plus I recently bought The Fireman by Joe Hill.


And finally…..

“My Best Friend Likes to Torture Me” Challenge (0/1)

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Last night, my best friend unofficially challenged me to take on the mammoth Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I had never heard of it, and this thing looks like a beast. He knows I don’t back down from a challenge, so it’s on!


Are you doing any reading challenges? Any recommendations for future challenges? Please comment below!