Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge Wrap-Ups

By this time of year, I'm usually doing pretty poorly on my challenge goals, so I don't always care to write wrap-up posts to enumerate just how poorly. (Why do I join these, again?!?) But this year, even though I once again felt I didn't do so well, I thought I would do the tallies anyway since I only joined 5 challenges. And I must say, I didn't do as badly as I thought I had! I didn't review most of these books, but the actual reading of them is what I personally care most about. Now, I can really start planning for 2016!

Goal: 6 categories
Completed: 2 categories

1. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens (a classic novella)
2. A whole slew of classic picture books (a classic children's book)

OK, I did the worst on this challenge, so let's get it out of the way first. I don't know if I will do this one again in 2016. Either way, I want to revisit my Classics Club list and recommit to it. I don't want the classics to get completely lost in the shuffle -- I own too many I really want to read!


Goal: Rabble-Rouser Level, 6-9 books
Completed: 10 books!

1. Saga, Vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
2. Saga, Vol. 2, by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
3. Saga, Vol. 3, by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
4. Saga, Vol. 4, by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
5. And Tango Makes Three, by Justin Richardson
6. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin, Jr.
7. Hop on Pop, by Dr. Seuss
8. The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss
10. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume

Surprised to see some of those picture books on my list? Yea, they may not be frequently challenged, but I've found them on a few banned/challenged childrens' books list. Crazy, right? Look out for a post in the new year about banned/challenged childrens' books.


Goal: 2nd Shelf Level, 7-12 books
Completed: 15 books!

1. What I Know for Sure, by Oprah Winfrey
2. The Strange Library, by Haruki Murakami
3. We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
5. One Love, by Cedella Marley & Bob Marley
6. Flight Explorer, Vol 1, edited by Kazu Kibiushi (editor & contributor)
7. Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, by Kazu Kibiushi (editor & contributor)
8. Explorer: The Hidden Doors, by Kazu Kibiushi (editor & contributor)
9. Explorer: The Lost Islands, by Kazu Kibiushi (editor & contributor)
10. Every Little Thing, by Cedella Marley & Bob Marley
11. Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
12. Mastering the Art of French Eating, by Ann Mah
13. Where Are My Books? by Debbie Ridpath Ohi
14. Copper, by Kazu Kibiushi
15. Ghosts in the House, by Kazuno Kohara

Considering how many more books I ended up reading overall this year, I know I have a lot more work to do when it comes to diversifying my reading.


Goal: 8 books
Completed: 3 books

1. Outlander
2. Dragonfly in Amber
3. Voyager

Hmmmm. Yea. So, I took a head start on this challenge because I was already in the middle of a re-read before it began and Kay graciously said that was OK. But, I definitely didn't continue on as far as I would have liked! Doorstop chunksters and new babies apparently don't mix terribly well.


Goal: Purple Belt Level, 31-40 books
Completed: 20 books

1. Environments Envisioned: Building Fantastic Sets and Scouting Dramatic Locations, by Jody Revenson
2. Blackwood, by Gwenda Bond
3.The Creature Shop Compendium: Flora and Fauna from the Harry Potter Films, by Jody Revenson
4. A Guide to the Graphic Arts Department: Posters, Prints, and Publications from the Harry Potter Films, by Jody Revenson
5. Wizard Wear and Muggle Attire: Costuming the World of Harry Potter, by Jody Revenson
6. Ten Years Later: Life on Set with the Harry Potter Cast and Crew, by Jody Revenson
7. Movie Magic: Practical Props and Exciting Effects, by Jody Revenson
8. Fallen (Fallen, #1), by Lauren Kate
9. Torment (Fallen, #2), by Lauren Kate
10. Passion (Fallen, #3), by Lauren Kate
11. Rapture (Fallen, #4), by Lauren Kate
12. Fallen in Love (Fallen, #3.5), by Lauren Kate
13. Voyager (Outlander, #3), by Diana Gabaldon
14. Keep Quiet, by Lisa Scottoline
15. Paper Towns, by John Green
16. We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
17. Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller
18. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline
20. Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume

I took a break from blogging (and this challenge apparently) for a few months after my son was born in the spring. When I returned, I declared a reboot and said I would count any books already on my shelves at that point. But you know, that was kind of cheating! So I decided to stay true to the rules of this challenge and only count books I owned before January 1, 2015 to see (for real) how well or poorly I did. I'm not terribly disappointed with a count of 20, but I hope for this number to be much higher in 2016. If I finish the book I am in the middle of in the next two days, I can bump my count up to 21. #ShelfLove 2016 here I come -- I need this one again for sure!


Did you join any year-long challenges in 2015? Are you planning to join any for 2016?

Friday, December 18, 2015

A Classics Christmas

Since it is my son's first Christmas this year, I have been wanting more than ever to continue with some holiday traditions. Of course, he's not quite 8 months old yet and won't remember any of it, but still, there are certain things I like to do to get in the Christmas spirit. It's more challenging this year to actually do those things while also taking care of a baby, but I keep reminding myself that there is no such thing as "perfect" and that there is also no need for "perfect."

While I do believe that Christmas is really about the intangibles -- love and family and hope and joy -- it has been so much fun doing some of the other stuff too. And you're mostly here for the books, right? So while I don't read any specific Christmas story every year, I like to read something Christmas-related during December. This year, with the help of this list, I decided to dive into some classic Christmas stories. I mostly chose ones I had hidden in my home "library", but there are some other great suggestions on that list as well. A lot of these are in the public domain and available as free or inexpensive ebooks if you're looking for a last minute holiday read.

Charles Dickens

O. Henry
  • The Gift of the Magi

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Grimm's Fairy Tales
  • The Elves and the Shoemaker

Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales & Stories
  • The Steadfast Tin Soldier
  • The Little Match Girl (This one is super sad.)
  • The Fir Tree (Also kind of sad -- it really is true that fairy tales are pretty dark!)
  • The Snow Queen

Picture Books

Of course, we have also read a lot of newer Christmas picture books, but I thought I'd stick to the "classics" for this list. Do you have any favorite holiday reads? Please share in the comments. And don't forget to enter my Christmas giveaway! (Ends midnight on Sunday)

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Review + Giveaway: The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, by Charlie Lovett
Series? This is a sequel to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. This review will contain spoilers of A Christmas Carol.
Publisher: Viking
Date: Oct. 20, 2015
Other Details: Hardcover; 128 pages
How did I get this book? free from the publisher for review
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
GoodReads | Author | Publisher

As I mentioned recently, A Christmas Carol is a favorite book I read for high school. Though it was a classic (and homework!) I truly enjoyed it at the age of 16 and it has remained a favorite of the season for me. I've seen movie and cartoon adaptations, I've re-read it on audiobook, and this year I was determined to re-read it in print. I read this illustrated edition, but how beautiful is the Penguin Christmas Classics edition? (It is pictured below for the giveaway and I even featured it in a post last year!)

As you probably already know, A Christmas Carol is the tale of miserly Ebenezer Scrooge who hates Christmas and doesn't have a charitable or kind-hearted bone in his body. He is concerned with his business and his profits and resents having to give his employee Bob Cratchit even one day off to celebrate the holiday. He scoffs at the idea of giving anything to help the poor and destitute and has no desire to visit his own family on Christmas, though his nephew keeps inviting him in a gesture of goodwill and Christmas cheer. Of course, this would be a pretty sad Christmas tale if he didn't have a change of heart by the end!

So, where A Christmas Carol ends, The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge picks up. After Scrooge has been visited by the three spirits and seen what his future holds if he does not change his ways, he promises, "I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year." And keep it he does! Scrooge gives away all his earnings, makes time for family, and is kind to everyone he meets. All year long, he wishes friends and strangers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! But he wishes to do more good -- he wants to help the ghost of his friend and former partner Marley to free himself from his weighty chains. So they use the three spirits to inspire some more changes of heart in those around them.

This was a truly lovely book to read during the Christmas season. It has the style and feel of Dickens and is true to the spirit of the original. Some of the lines and phrasing are taken directly from A Christmas Carol and it was so interesting to see how those same words could be woven into a very different story. As Lovett details in his Afterword, some places and descriptions were also borrowed from other stories by Dickens. I imagine that someone who is more widely read in Dickens' work would appreciate those references more than I could!

My one disappointment was to see some of the same people who were held as good examples for Scrooge in A Christmas Carol were the ones being miserly in this sequel! It actually worked very well for the new story, but it was a little jarring to read at first. So I recommend going into this one with an open mind and an open heart. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was a wonderful tale I know I will read again in years to come.


Now for the giveaway!

Viking and Penguin Books are offering one reader a finished copy of both The Further Tales of Ebenezer Scrooge and the Christmas Classics edition of A Christmas Carol! Enter in the Rafflecopter  widget below from now until Monday, December 21, 2015 at 12 AM EST time. US mailing addresses only. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Banned Books Challenge 2016: Review Link-Up

For full information about this challenge and to sign-up, please see this post first.

Use this page to link-up your reviews for the 2016 Banned Books Challenge so that we can read them! Feel free to link to wherever you post reviews -- your blog, GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, etc., etc. Reviews are optional.

Please make sure to use the direct URL to your individual post/review, NOT the book's information page, your blog's homepage, or a profile page. If you do not write reviews, you can leave a comment telling us which books you've read.

If you choose to write a wrap-up post (whether or not you also link up reviews), you can link that here as well. The review linky will remain open for reviews and wrap-ups until January 31, 2017.

Note: Please only link up reviews for books read/reviewed in 2016 -- if you have an older review of a banned book you've read previously and would like to share with the group, please tell us about it in the comments instead.

To make it easier to find your reviews, please include the name of the book in addition to your blog name. For Example:

The Great Gatsby @Buckling Bookshelves
Perks of Being a Wallflower @Your Blog Name Here

Banned Books Challenge 2016: Sign-Ups

I can hardly believe this will be my fourth year hosting the Banned Books Challenge! I was completely blown away by the number of participants in 2015 and am excited to continue the challenge for another year.

The idea is to read some books this year that people have tried to keep off the shelves. Here in the US, we are fortunate that the government does not legally ban books, but that has not stopped the challenges to school and library materials. (Bear in mind, I am not advocating for any sort of illegal activity here -- read at your own risk!)

This is a very low pressure challenge, so I'm starting the levels low -- but if you're feeling daring, try for one of the higher levels!

DATES: January 1, 2016 through December 31, 2016

RULES: Any book that has been banned or challenged counts. Books can be any format, any length, and can overlap with other challenges. Graphic novels, children's books, picture books are all fine -- any book that has been banned or challenged works for this challenge.

WHERE CAN I FIND BOOK SUGGESTIONS? There isn't one specific list to work from, but there are many different resources you can check out for ideas:
  • The ALA's lists of frequently challenged books. There are multiple lists split up by author, year, decade, and a separate list for classics, so there are a lot of options from all different genres.
  • GoodReads has several listopia lists on the subject -- this is particularly helpful for identifying books you already have on your shelves if you are a user of the site.
  • If you learn about a book getting challenged in the news, on a book blog, around the web, or wherever else you get your bookish news, it's fair game. One book that made headlines in 2014 was The Miseducation of Cameron Post -- it doesn't need to make any of the big lists to count. And if you learn about a new incident, I'd love to hear about it!

HOW TO SIGN-UP: Write a post identifying which level you are aiming to complete and linking to this sign-up post. If you don't have a blog, just leave a comment below stating what level you are trying for. Listing the books you'd like to read for the year is optional. If you do make a list, you are welcome to change it at any time.

  • Reviews are not required, but if you do choose to review your selections, you can link them up here, so we can read them! You can link to reviews on your blog, GoodReads, or any other similar site where you post reviews. Please link directly to your review, not to a homepage or profile page.
  • If you don't have a blog or don't wish to write reviews, you can share your thoughts and/or completed reading list in the comments of the Review Linky Page
  • Write a wrap-up post listing your completed books for the year. This can be done whether or not you post reviews throughout the year. If you choose to write a wrap-up post, you may link it up in the review linky as well.

LEVELSBelow are the levels you can choose from. Changing your mind is OK -- you can go up or down in level at any time. I said low-pressure, remember? I'm not the book police, I promise.

     Making Waves: 1-2 Challenged Books
     Trouble-Maker: 3-5 Challenged Books
     Rabble-Rouser: 6-9 Challenged Books
     Rebel: 10-14 Challenged Books
     Leader of a Revolution: 15+ Challenged Books

So link up below, grab a badge if you'd like, and get reading!

This Sign-Up Linky will remain open until Dec. 15, 2016.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Shelf Control #6

Shelf Control is a weekly meme hosted by Lisa of Bookshelf Fantasies where we each share a book from our shelves we'd like to read soon. I need a break from the new releases, so this is just perfect for me! Come on and join in :)

* * * * *

My pick for this week is:

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
Illustrated by Robert Ingpen

How I got it: Amazon.com

When I got it: August 2010 -- Eek! While it's convenient to be able to look up when I purchased a book online, it also reminds me just how long I've been meaning to read some of these titles.

Why I want to read it: I first read A Christmas Carol for a high school English class and absolutely loved it. As I sat reading it in my parents' living room by the Christmas tree before winter break, I think I actually forgot it was both a classic and homework -- no mean feat! I've since re-read it on audio, but have been meaning for the last five Christmases to use this beautiful illustrated edition for a re-read. This will be the year! And then (hopefully!) onto the rest of the Sterling Illustrated Classics I've been collecting.