Reading Goals

In all the everyday demands of life, my reading has taken a backseat. It’s so hard for me to balance everything that I want to accomplish. This week I logged into Goodreads to update my reading and found this:

13 books behind schedule! I’m not sure that I can, nor do I want to try to, catch up with my reading goal. However, I would like to reduce some of my time wasters *ahem, Panda Pop and mindless Facebook browsing* in order to add in some meaningful reading. This week I am tackling these three books.

These Is My Words – A random selection from my enormous to-read list. I’m about 30 pages in and overwhelmed at the sheer number of tragedies this girl endured. I can’t tell if this will be a motivational read or a depressing one. I would like to finish within a week or two.

The Count of Monte Cristo – I have a reading buddy with whom I am going to try to complete the novel. I’m trying to nudge my best friend into joining me as well! This will be a slow but steady read. We set a pace of three chapters a week and we’ll see if it’s the right pace and adjust as necessary.

Guns, Germs, and Steel – This one has been on my shelf for at least a year. I started reading it, completed the first third, and stalled due to life. It’s actually a really interesting book so I’ve committed myself to reading 3-5 pages a day. That way I can continue to make progress and eventually finish it.

There are so many books out there and not enough time. Must read more!

2017 reading challenges

One of my absolute favorite things about New Years is the opportunity to brainstorm a reading list for the upcoming year. I’ve always had a lot of fun with this. The past few years, I’ve picked a couple series of books to read, as well as standalone titles from my to-read list. This year I’m doing the same, except I decided to read a few specific titles along with my best friend.

Here’s my list for 2017.

Standalone titles
Anna Karenina by Tolstoy
Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
Count of Monte Cristo by Dumas
Mao’s Last Dancer by Li Cunxin
All of Jane Austen’s books
A book by Agatha Christie, title undecided

Series
Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Lord of the Rings by Tolkien

Reading challenge
7 Keys TJEd reading list

The TJEd list isn’t a reading challenge, per se. It’s actually a self-education outline, reading a lot of the great classics in a specific order. I have no plans to finish this list in 2017, as it is quite long and involved. But I would like to get started and make a dent in the list.

I also set a Goodreads goal of reading 100 books. I far exceeded that last year. My total is unknown, as I’m still entering a few books from December. Some of those were readalouds I did with my daughter, but I read a lot for myself. If you want to be friends on Goodreads, please add me! I love meeting new readers.

Here’s to a wonderful year of reading!

A Tapestry of Secrets – a book review

Tapestry of Secrets

Now in her eighties, Perla Phillips has carried a secret since she was eighteen years old. When she sees her granddaughter, Ella, struggling for perfection, she decides to share her secret to show that God can use even the biggest mistakes for good. But before she can reveal what happened during that summer sixty years ago, she has a debilitating stroke.

Carrying a secret of her own, Ella arrives back in Wise, West Virgina, to help her aunt Sadie care for Perla. Both know the woman wanted to tell them something, but she’s now locked in silence. Together they begin looking into the past, but they may learn more than they expected.
Will they have the courage to share their hearts? Or will the truth remain buried forever?

I love reviewing books by Bethany House! I eagerly read over each and every monthly email, trying to figure out if they are offering a book that I would enjoy reading. I chose A Tapestry of Secrets because of the cover. I adore quilting and novels about quilting.

Sarah Loudin Thomas is a new-to-me author. When I requested this book, I think I knew that this was in the middle of a series but thought it would be ok to read out of order. In that regard, I was correct. I have no idea which characters the two earlier novels are about. This book can be read on its own, without having to read the other novels. Unfortunately, that’s about the only good thing I can say about it.

The main character drove me insane. I wanted to reach into the pages and slap her until she developed some common sense and decency. Ella was recovering from a bad relationship and yet she continued to drool over multiple men at the same time. I understand looking around and contemplating your options. But if you are seriously considering dating one man, please do not talk about how the other one is a hottie and maybe you should date him! One at a time. Evaluate a man based on his own qualities, not compared to someone else in your circle of acquaintances. From her internal dialog – “then again, maybe she shouldn’t be too quick to lean in any one direction.” Really? When you cannot stand the main character, it doesn’t matter how well written the story is; it’s painful to read.

I wish that the author had spent more time talking about Ella’s art. That was what I was most interested in. She designed quilting art. Wall hangings, quilts, but with a nontraditional flare. Some of the descriptions of Ella’s work were very vivid and I was intrigued to learn more about the process of how Ella gained her inspiration, chose her materials, and created her art pieces. But other than a couple of short passages, the book never delves into the quilting aspect. I was disappointed.

Still, thank you to Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion! All thoughts are my own.

The Queen of Katwe

The Queen of Katwe, One Girl’s Triumphant Path to Becoming a Chess Champion

Katwe

I have very mixed feelings about this book. Overall, I’m glad that I read it. It was an insightful look at Uganda’s culture, the living condition of the poorest of the poor, and how the chess program started in Uganda. However, the book took a long time to really get started. There were life sketches of people whose names meant nothing to me and I wasn’t sure why they were included in the book. There was a detailed history of the establishment of the chess program, which was interesting, but I wasn’t yet hooked because Fiona’s story had not yet started.

Even after Fiona’s story started, I still didn’t feel connected to her. It was almost like the author didn’t really know her and was only doing an outsiders summary of her life. It’s entirely possible that Ugandan culture, specifically that of the slums, does not allow outsiders to get to know someone. But I long for details, thoughts, and feelings of the people who are being written about. Not just a fact sheet. The details of life in the slums were absolutely heart breaking, but that didn’t give much insight into Fiona herself.

I will be interested to see the movie when it is released. I’m sure the movie will be a tearjerker, as it shows the horrible living conditions that Fiona is accustomed to. I enjoy real life movies, inspirational films about people who come from a rough past and overcome huge odds to make something successful of themselves. Hopefully Fiona is able to rise above her circumstances as well. It seems too early to really tell.

Much thanks to The ravū Collective Team for a free copy of the book in exchange for my opinion. All thoughts are my own.

King’s Folly – a book review

The gods are angry.

Volcanic eruptions, sinkholes, ground shakers–everything points to their unhappiness. At least that is what the king of Armania believes. His son, Prince Wilek, thinks his father’s superstitions are nonsense, though he remains the ever dutiful heir apparent to the throne.

When a messenger arrives and claims that the town of Farway has been swallowed by the earth, the king sends Wilek to investigate. But what Wilek discovers is more cataclysmic than one lost city. Even as the ground shifts beneath his feet, Wilek sets out on a desperate journey to save his people and his world. But can he do it before the entire land crumbles?

Kings Folly

I am really not sure how to review this book. Overall, I was extremely frustrated. But as I outlined my complaints to my husband, he told me that everything I am describing is normal for the fantasy genre. As I rarely read fantasy, I’m not used to these particular characteristics.

1 – The plot is massive. There are many events going on at the same time and it was difficult to keep everything straight in my mind.

2 – There are way too many character POVs. The characters kept changing. There were even a couple chapters written from the perspective of very minor characters, simply to present a minor detail that could not be shown from another character’s perspective.

3 – The book had no ending. The story just cut off! It is clear that this is intended to be a series. I read plenty of series and each book is usually a complete story in itself. The next book usually continues with the same characters or tells another story about a minor character from the previous book, that minor character now being a main character in the current book. King’s Folly, however, cannot be read on its own. If you want to know how the story ends, you have no choice but to buy or borrow the next book.

My final complaint is one that is independent of the fantasy genre. This book was published by Bethany House, a Christian publishing company. However, the book is not Christian in the slightest. Other reviewers have written that it is an allegory, but I don’t see it. It’s not like either Narnia (allegory) or LotR (religious themes). Maybe the second book will contain “conversion scenes” that turn this into a Christian story. But King’s Folly (in my view) was not a Christian book. I was disappointed.

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.

Traces of Guilt – a book review

Traces of Guilt

Yet another great Dee Henderson book! I was excited to read Traces of Guilt because it is about a woman who tries to solve cold cases, those that beg for closure after years of being unresolved. The story was told well, several plot lines woven together to create a very interesting time line. Like all of Henderson’s novels, the writing is fantastic.

Even after all this time, I still have the same complaint about Henderson’s books. All of her characters are too perfect. Sure, they have “flaws.” But the flaws are more like quirks rather than true struggles. All of the struggles are external, man versus environment or man versus man. I really wish I could see more man versus himself (or herself!). I can’t really relate to any of the characters because they don’t struggle with anything real. The occasional character doubts himself, but that’s it. Most are confident, talented, multi-faceted, and everyone loves them!

Even with this complaint, I will continue to read Henderson’s novels as they are published. Why? Great stories!

Thank you to Bethany House for a free copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

Reading challenges – first quarter

I received an email from Goodreads with a summary of the first quarter of 2016. As of March 31, I had already reached 65% of my reading challenge, which is to read 60 books in 2016. I think my goal was a bit too low! When I set the goal, I had no idea that my daughter likes to read constantly. We’ve been doing a good job keeping her in Chinese books and my hope is that someday she’ll be motivated enough to start reading in English. Then the whole library will be open to her.

Last week I finished The Lord of the Rings! The whole family read the series together. My daughter finished first and I finished a few days after her. My husband is still plugging along but he has that pesky thing known as a job, which distracts him from much more important pursuits like reading and playing Animal Crossing.

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I have tons of thoughts about TLoR but haven’t had any time to write them. Hopefully once we get the taxes sorted and school meetings arranged and caught up on correspondence and…

Life with a teen is hard. Life with an adopted teen is even harder. Life with an adopted teen with a trauma history is exhausting. So happy that we can read together every day.

Next up? No idea. I’m reading some fluffy Christian historical fiction right now. I want to read
The Count of Monte Cristo
but my husband wanted to read it with me and isn’t ready to start. I’ll probably finish a couple fluffy books and then dive back into my to-read list.

2016 Reading Challenge

I love reading challenges. Toward the end of 2015, I seriously contemplated searching for a couple of challenges but never found the time to wade through hundreds of websites. So I created my own!

Here’s what I’m reading this year:

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(The brown books are The Count of Monte Cristo).

Fortunately (unfortunately?) I’ve already finished a number of these books in the first two months of the year. So far I have finished:

The entire Anne series
The first five Narnia books
The Hobbit
The Fellowship of the Ring

Frankly, I am shocked that I have already read so many books in just two months. My daughter loves to read so we often read during meals. We visit the library several times per week and will just sit and read. So she and I are both plowing through books.

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Recently, we started reading the same books. Mine are in English and hers are in Chinese. She’s been reading Narnia and today started reading The Fellowship of the Ring. Baba is currently reading The Hobbit! When we’ve finished reading the books, we will watch the movies. I’m so grateful that our entire family has an interest in books.

Tonight I’m going to start reading the sixth Narnia book. If I continue reading books as quickly as I have been, I’ll have to add to my 2016 reading list. Jane Austen? Yes!

Christmas Time – a book review and giveaway!

I received an email offering to let me review a new Christmas book titled Christmas Time – It’s All About Jesus!. Since my daughter is newly home from Taiwan, I thought it would be fun to have a children’s book about Christmas to read to her.

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My favorite part about this book is the illustrations. The cover is beautiful and each page is colorful and cute. It’s definitely a warm feeling book. The little mouse on each page was a cute touch! The story is simple while still covering all of the basics. The angel’s visit to Mary. Mary visiting Elizabeth. Joseph’s dream. Travel to Bethlehem. Jesus’ birth. The shepherds hearing the angels’ song and visiting baby Jesus.

My daughter seemed slightly interested in the story. When the book arrived, she pointed at the cover and said “Jesus.” She’s not a Christian and recognized that this is a story about the birth of Christ. She listened as I read and followed along. The word choice was too complex for her, though, as she is still learning English. Miracle, wonder, engaged, greeting – all words too hard for her. She was more interested in the illustrations than the actual story.

I wish the publisher had chosen a simpler font for the text on each page. It’s kind of hard to read. The R’s and N’s look very similar and a couple times I had to pause to make sure I was reading the text properly.

I will try rereading this book to my daughter closer to Christmas, as I’m sure her English will improve between now and then. Maybe she’ll enjoy it more once she can understand more of the story.

Aneko Press was kind enough to provide me with an extra copy to give away! Just leave me a comment and I will draw a winner on Tuesday, November 17th.

Nightstand – Taiwan style!

I really wanted to participate in this month’s Nightstand post, even if my reading plans are a bit unorthodox. I am a die-hard library user, preferring to lose myself in the stacks and smell all the books. I love being surrounded by hardcovers and paperbacks and shelves and shelves of books.

Well… I’m headed to Taiwan tonight to pick up my daughter. I have a luggage weight limit and cannot afford to take a bunch of books. So, I have bit the bullet, pulled up my big girl panties, and succumbed to an e-reader. If I have to be honest and admit that there are positive aspects to an e-reader, I suppose I can do that. The biggest advantage is that I can take as many books as I want. So, I borrowed the max that my library will allow and took screenshots of what is loaded on my Nook.

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I also downloaded a few public domain books from Project Gutenberg. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Peter Pan, Pygmalion, A Woman of No Importance, Around the World in Eighty Days…

I am under no delusions that I will read all of these books, much less finish more than one or two. Traveling to Taiwan to pick up your child is not a vacation. However, there are two VERY LONG flights and I desperately need something to read. With all of these options, I can try a book and ditch if it isn’t engaging on a 12 hour long flight or sitting in a hotel room. Most of these books have been on my to-read list for a long time so I will revisit them at some other time if I don’t get to them on this trip. However, I love having options!

Happy reading!!