Challenge Update (AKA I Am A Big Failure)

This is my first full year of book blogging and I started with lofty ideals of winning at all the challenges. I have just checked my original posts about these challenges and realised that I am a terrible, terrible person.

Goodreads Challenge
This, at least, is one that I have well and truly nailed. I gave myself a target of reading 151 books and have currently reached 190. This one was, perhaps, slightly disingenuous; I read 151 books last year so I set myself the same target in 2016, despite being fully aware that I’d beat it. And, no, I am not increasing my target, because I really enjoy logging into Goodreads and being told that I have exceeded my target. It makes me feel like I’ve achieved something.


2016 Classics Challenge
Sigh. I probably have managed to read a classic each month, but my initial intentions of reading The Mill on the Floss and Middlemarch have somewhat fallen by the wayside. I originally voiced my intention to read Hard Times, which I did, and it was horrible. I diverted from my own plans slightly by re-reading Northanger Abbey and Sense and Sensibility, as well as some modern classics, like Jean Rhys’ Wide Sargasso Sea and Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, all of which I class as modern classics. I also read Matilda for the millionth time, as well as Winnie the Pooh with my daughter, and children’s classics count. However, I need to read George Eliot or feel like a failure forever.

Flights of Fantasyflightsoffantasy-2016
This is where I’ve truly excelled (yay for me). I planned to read V.E. Schwab’s 2016 releases (A Gathering of Shadows and This Savage Song) and have done, and I’ve demolished Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series. I also read Magonia, An Ember in the Ashes and The Sin-Eater’s Daughter, all of which were on my sign-up post. I’ve started to seek out more diverse fantasy novels too, and have recently read Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor and Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova.

This is my grand failure; because of my disgraceful inability to stop buying books, pretty much everything that’s been knocking around my bookshelf forever is still there, including David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks and Sandra Newman’s The County of Ice Cream Star. I wanted to read The Raven Cycle and, woohoo, I have, so I think I get a gold star for that. I originally intended to read some of the books I had piled in my Kindle, which I did, like Undermajordomo Minor, All My Puny Sorrows and The Girl in the Red Coat. Unfortunately, I also planned to read last year’s Booker shortlist; Satin Island was horribly boring and I didn’t manage to get past page 50 of A Brief History of Seven Killings, although I did read The Year of the Runaways. Sadly, I can only count this challenge to be a success if I rename it Constantly Add to My TBR, in which case I am a big winner.

This experience has probably taught me that I shouldn’t bother signing up for challenges, but I doubt this will stop me next year.

Did you sign up for challenges this year? How are you doing? Are you failing on a grand scale like me?

ARC August Update: If Only I Had Self-Control…

At the start of August, I set myself the target of reading 5 of my ARCS; halfway through the month, I’ve read 3 and become a little waylaid, as I will explain…

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
This was completely wonderful and I am now obsessed with it. You might know Safran Foer from his previous novels (Everything is Illuminated and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close), but Here I Am is a big step up in terms of length and scope. It focuses on a Jewish family in the USA, set against the backdrop of a huge crisis in Israel, and it is brilliant. My review will be over on Fourth and Sycamore in September.

Notes on Being Teenage by Rosalind Jana
A guide to surviving adolescence, this combined useful advice with personal anecdote, as well as interviews with ‘real life’ teens and celebrities, in order to provide help in navigating the teenage years. Although I am far too old to worry about most of what is covered here myself, a lot of it resonated with me based on what I see as a teacher of teens, as well as filling me with fear that one day my daughter will be a teenager. I had a few books like this when I was a teenager and I know I found them helpful and informative, so I think teens would feel the same way about this.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
This is a YA fantasy set in Brooklyn (to be begin with), featuring a multitude of witches  and demons. I enjoyed the aspects of it which represented a different culture, although the fantasy itself was a bit generic; my full review will be on Fourth and Sycamore in September.

Flushed with a sense of achievement at having read 3 of my ARCs, I got a bit click-happy on NetGalley and ended up with a load more. This is probably false economy or something. Anyway, in addition to the 3 books above, I’ve read:

Something In Between by Melissa de la Cruz
A YA contemporary about immigration, this provides something quite different in terms of combining politics with romance. My review will be up in November.

As I Descended by Robin Talley
YA retelling of Macbeth, with lesbians, in a boarding school. What’s not to like? My full review will be up in September, but suffice to say I really enjoyed this.

I’ll Be Home For Christmas by various UK YA authors
I was so happy to receive an eARC of this; I’m always on the lookout for good short stories to use at school and there were plenty here. It’s also a really good introduction to UK YA authors for a reader new to the scene, featuring Juno Dawson, Lisa Williamson, Holly Bourne and Benjamin Zephaniah, among others. I really enjoyed the whole anthology and I’ll be posting a review (and buying a copy of the book) soon.

So this leaves me with Simon Mayo’s Blame, which I’ve already started, and Tim Lawrence’s Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor to read in order to fulfil my original goal. Not wanting to sound arrogant, I am fairly confident they’ll be read by the end of the month. If reading was in the Olympics, I’d be sitting with Claire Balding right now, wearing a gold medal and talking about how sexist John Inverdale is (apologies to non-Brits who have no idea what all this means). I’ve picked up a couple of other ARCs, like The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and The Wangs Vs The World by Jade Chang, but I think these can wait till next month.

Are you taking part in ARC August? How are you doing and have you read anything amazing?

ARC August Sign-Up Post

I am very pleased to have discovered the existence of ARC August, hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat (which, by the way, is a brilliant name for a blog). I have been a bit slack with my NetGalley reading recently, mainly because I massively prefer reading actual books to reading on my Kindle, and also because of the financially catastrophic book-buying habit which I struggle to shake off. I mean, mainly because I don’t want to.

Anyway, I’m on school holidays so it seems like an excellent time to plough through my ARCs. I think there was a period of about 7 seconds when I had a 100% feedback ratio on NetGalley and I want to relive those magical moments.

So here’s what I’m going to try to read in August:

Notes on Being Teenage by Rosalind Jana
I’ve seen a lot of talk about this on Twitter; I requested it primarily because I thought it could be a good non-fiction book to use with my younger classes in the next academic year. Because, yes, I am always thinking of my students.

Blame by Simon Mayo
Simon Mayo is also a DJ and presents a film programme on the radio which I love, so I was intrigued to read his writing. I’ve read the first few pages and then had to attend to some crucial matter like making a cup of tea or playing My Little Pony or something.

Here I Am by Jonathan Safran Foer
I will definitely read this in August because I have a review scheduled for Fourth and Sycamore. I am a big fan of his previous two novels so requesting this was a n0-brainer.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova
Another September review for Fourth and Sycamore, so another book I will definitely read in August. It’s a fantasy YA novel and I’ve been seeking out more diverse YA titles, so I’m looking forward to reading this.

Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor 1980-83 by Tim Lawrence 
A slightly random choice, but I’m fascinated with anything to do with New York and this focuses on the period just after the explosion of punk music, which is another big area of interest for me. I’ve had this on my Kindle for a while but I’m looking forward to finally getting to it.

So that’s 5 ARCs; sounds pretty manageable, doesn’t it? I’ll try to write a quick post at the end of each week to force myself into actually making progress, and then write full reviews to be published near the release date for each book. I like having firm plans like this; it makes me feel like a proper grownup.

If you’re participating in ARC August, are you reading any of these books? And, more importantly, good luck!