Wednesday, January 31, 2018

January Reading Challenge

I'm one month into my reading challenge. There were days when I looked at my very ambitious pile of books and felt like I was setting myself up for failure, but today, January 31, I am happy to report that I finished five full books, all new reads, and was able to check off five prompts! Not only that, but I totally enjoyed every single book I read.

Book links will be affiliate links from Amazon. This means if you click through and are inspired to purchase, I get a few cents from Amazon for leading you there.

So it's a top movie on many people's list, and I would think that most people have seen it. But I remember, in one of my viewings, wondering if that book that Grandpa read to young Fred Savage was actually a real book. It turns out, it is!

The version I read was by William Goldman, and is "an abridged version of S. Morgenstern's classic tale of true love and high adventure." What I loved about this book was that you truly felt the author was reading it to you, and when he abridged parts, he told you why. I wondered if it would feel different than the movie...but honestly, it was just as good. Some parts had more detail, some less, but the story was fascinating. The classic quotes, the twists, the moments where you can't believe that something actually happened, it was fantastic. I highly recommend it.

True crime is a genre I do really enjoy, though I don't always actively seek it. This book was incredibly interesting to me. It was the story of Lacey Spears (referred to as a "mommy blogger", but it seemed more like someone very involved in social media than a "blogger". But I may be splitting hairs.) Lacey was a single mom accused of murdering her son, via salt in his in feeding tube, because she was suspected to have Munchausen Syndrome by proxy. From the time her son was a few weeks old, she deliberately making him sick to garner sympathy and attention from her followers on social media.

It's terrible to read about what happened to this poor boy, but it also made for a fascinating read, and because of this it was a very fast read for me. Obviously the focus is on the mother, but it also had me very suspicious of all the doctors who were either easily deceived or knowingly turning a blind eye to their suspicions. I do recommend it - if you can stomach reading what this twisted individual does, and you know that her child will not survive, thanks to his own mother.

I went non fiction on this one. If you haven't read Freakonomics or Super Freakonomics, I highly recommend them, even if you normally stick to novels. They are quick, easy reads, but they will also challenge you and cause you to really examine why you think the way you do. Think Like a Freak is less about the stories, case studies and research, and more about how to start looking at the world differently.

At any rate, I stumbled into these books a few years ago, and I couldn't put them down. Think Like a Freak was on my reading pile, but for one reason or another, I hadn't gotten to it yet. I was happy it fit one of the categories, because I knew it would be a fast read. It didn't disappoint any of my expectations. It was interesting, it got me to think, and I flew through it.

The author of this one lives only a few towns over, and he's also a third grade teacher at a school I used to work at. I actually had his class for music my very first year teaching. But for some reason, even with all the praise his novels got, I never seemed to get around to reading one, and I felt incredibly guilty about that. My colleague wrote successful novels, and I couldn't even manage to pick one up? Not my best moment.

However, I'm glad this challenge pushed me to grab one from the library. I will admit - I looked at the shelf and made a totally random choice, since all my research said they were all great! I loved this one. It was exactly the kind of book I usually read - a female protagonist connecting her youth to her current life. Caroline is at a PTO meeting when she just can't keep her mouth shut anymore and tells a mom bully exactly what she's thinking. When her daughter suffers the fallout of how one mean girl can make life horrid, Caroline takes her daughter on a completely impromptu road trip to her hometown, for the sole purpose of confronting her old high school bully - the one who she just can't let go.

I was never truly "bullied", but as someone who dealt with her share of mean girls and mean moms, I could completely relate to the idea of going back to someone whose behavior you let slide, and letting them know exactly how out of line they were. OK, sixth grade best friend, why did you suddenly dump me, leaving me floundering at lunch?  Seriously, did you realize how badly that hurt eleven year old me? Unlike Caroline, I don't feel the need to actually track anyone down, but I still found myself proud of her.

  • A Book You Meant to Read in 2017 and Didn't Get To - Class Mom
 Oh, so many books could have fit this prompt. My "to read" pile is embarrassingly high. I chose this one because I felt really guilty about not getting to it last year. Why? It was a book that a publisher sent me an advance copy of months ago. Which, naturally, they did because they wanted me to read it and write a review and talk it up. Which, clearly, I did not. Ergo, guilt.

And man, I am bummed I didn't get to it sooner, because this book was hilarious. I laughed out loud every time I read one of Jen's emails. If she has to be the kindergarten class mom (and it really is against her will, because she's the "experienced mom", she's going to use her acerbic, snarky sense of humor. In plenty of ways, this book was full of cliches. You have the Real Housewife mom, the allergy mom, the lesbian moms, the follower mom, the hot dad, the perky teacher who both expects everything and clarifies nothing, and all the other stereotypes. There are plot twists as the school year goes on, but ultimately, I found I was enjoying the main character so much that the plot was secondary (if that makes any sense at all).

1. Interestingly, I did not read a single one of these as an e-book, nor did I listen to any as audiobooks. Surprising, because I do like the convenience of both. I either already owned the books, or I got them from the library.

2. I didn't push myself too far this first month. I didn't try to tackle Nordic Noir or the vague "book set at sea" or "book with an ugly cover" prompts. I wanted to start strong, with books I knew I could chose and get through without much trouble. This means that I might be setting myself up for some challenging months...but that's future Meredith's issue.

3. I was already pretty tempted to cheat and re-read some old favorites that were PERFECT fits for the prompts. And I just might...but I do want to actually see if I can meet the challenge of finding new books! 

So here I am, five books in, and it's only the first month! Do I think I'll always be as efficient, or that I'll love every single thing I try? Probably not. But I'm off to a strong start!
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