2018 Reading Challenges

Hi all! I hope you all had a happy holiday season!

I’m getting all prepped for the upcoming year and have decided on my new reading challenges! This year I’ll be combining two challenges in the hopes of whittling down some of my TBR shelves.

Challenge #1: Sweeping the Shelves

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For the first challenge, I’ve decided to tweak Lia’s Down the Rabbit Hole challenge a bit and clean up my real world bookshelves instead of my Goodreads lists. So starting after New Years, I will instituting “Sweeping the Shelves”. This will be a weekly post that talks about a handful of books that I own but haven’t read. I will list them, with descriptions, and then decide if I want to keep them or donate them.

Challenge #2: 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge

I’ve been doing the PopSugar Challenge since 2015 and this year will be no exception. I am planning on tweaking it a bit too, though. I’m going to try to read only books I already own or can get for free from the library or internet. This should help me clean up my shelves as well, as I plan to donate most of the books I read that were owned by me to either the library or the mission, depending on their condition. I’m also going to let myself branch out from the list a bit. This year I managed to read 76 books, but only about 40 of those matched up with the PopSugar list. I’m going to attempt to stick a little better to the list this year, but I won’t be heartbroken if I don’t finish it.

So those are my two reading challenges for this year. I think they should work fairly well together, with Sweeping the Shelves helping me to decide what to read for the PopSugar Challenge. And hopefully it’ll help me clear out the books I’m probably never going to read to make shelf space for some fun new books in 2019!


How about you guys? Did you do any reading challenges this year? Are you planning any for 2018?

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Book Review – Furiously Happy

Book: Furiously Happy – Author: Jenny Lawson

Genre: Non-Fiction, Humor, Mental Illness, Memoir

Description from Goodreads:

In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

According to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

My Review:

There is NO way I’m going to do this book justice, but I wanted to review it in case that might entice you to read it, even if it doesn’t seem like your normal choice for a book.

Jenny Lawson is one of the funniest writers I’ve ever come across. I stumbled across her previous book, ‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’, in the library a couple years ago and was intrigued enough by the tiny mouse Hamlet on the cover to pick it up. I LOVED it. Since then, I’ve been anxiously awaiting the arrival of her second book and the wait was not in vain.

tinymousehamlet
Tiny Mouse Hamlet

This book is HILARIOUS. I literally laughed through the entire thing, which is amazing when you consider the context of some of the chapters. The text jumps from quirky taxidermy, to anxiety-induced terror, to hugging koalas dressed as a koala, to serious depression, to insignificant arguments about being attacked by swans. The pace never really stalls on one topic for too long, which allows the author to explain the serious stuff with poignancy, but also keeps the reader from falling too far down the rabbit hole and gives the overall impression of a light-hearted, but meaningful read.

I will say, if you are looking for a serious book about mental illness, this is not the book for you. There ARE chapters about it, but as I said above, the author jumps about and never focuses on one thing for too long. I personally loved that, as the discussions made me feel connected to the author (especially considering my own anxiety issues), but didn’t force me to delve so deep that I felt miserable.

Making the reader feel miserable is completely the opposite of what this book is trying to do. Trying to make readers who don’t have these issues completely understand all the intricate details of the illnesses isn’t what the book is trying to do. What the author IS trying to do is give the readers who don’t have issues a small glimpse of what those mental issues can do to someone, while still providing them a fun read, and to let the readers who do have issues know that they aren’t alone and that they should focus on the Happy Times, because they WILL come around again.

And that’s the main message of this book: Be Furiously Happy. Pack as much happy as you can into those moments of clarity. Not only does it make living more fun, but once the storm hits again, you can remember the Happy Times and know that they will return, if you can just keep yourself afloat long enough.

I don’t want to go into too much detail on the Happy Times the author talks about in her life, because that takes all the fun out of reading it. AND YOU SHOULD READ IT. RIGHT NOW. The only thing I’ll leave you with is the picture on the inside of the cover with the confirmation that it DOES happen in the book…Raccoon Cat Rodeo anyone? 😉

furiouslyhappy_catrodeo

Similar Book(s):

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened – Jenny Lawson

Hyperbole & a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, and Other Things That Happened – Allie Brosh

Mini-Reviews – “The Gateway Drug to Literacy”

Hi all! Now, if you’ve ever heard the above Art Spiegelman quote, then you have an inkling of what we’re talking about today….that’s right! Comics!

More specifically, I will be introducing you to six of my favorite Webcomics. All the titles are links to the first comic, in case you’d like to check them out. 🙂

Unshelved (Gene Ambaum & Bill Barnes)

12-12-2017 1-45-51 PMUnshelved is about a librarian named Dewey (yes, the pun IS intentional 😉 ). It’s a fun look at the ins and outs of daily library life. I will admit that since I’ve worked in a library, this might be more funny for me than the average person, but if you are reading this blog, odds are you’ve spent a fair share of time in a library yourself, so I think most of you will enjoy it too. 😉

Gunnerkrigg Court (Tom Siddell)

Strange-Adventures-GunnerkriggCourt

Gunnerkrigg Court is part mystery, part creepy fantasy, and part boarding school tale. I’m not super far into it yet, but so far we’ve had demon-y shadow things, robots, creepy teachers, and a Minotaur. Color me intrigued.

Weregeek (Alina Pete & Layne Myhre)

weregeekWeregeek is about a guy named Mark, who discovers that he is a geek after he “geeks out” and ends up in a comic book store, which leads to him joining a role-playing group. It makes more sense in the strip, lol.

Being somewhat of a voyeur when it comes to RPGs (I am TERRIBLE at playing myself, but love to watch), I really enjoy this comic. It’s fun seeing what the group gets up to in their games. There IS some romance and what not as well, but I enjoy it most for the geeky stuff. 😉

Order of the Stick (Rich Burlew)

12-12-2017 1-19-42 PM

Order if the Stick is basically a D&D party drawn as mostly stick figures. They go on epic adventures, fight lots of monsters and other baddies, save the day (sometimes), and get themselves into trouble. It’s great fun.

Rice Boy (Evan Dahm)

12-12-2017 2-00-51 PMRice Boy is…hard to describe. I’m not all the way through it yet, so I can only really say that it’s about a little guy named Rice Boy who goes on an adventure in order to fulfill a prophecy. He’s recruited by The One Electric, who is a man with a TV for a head. And is chased by a robot named Golgo. It’s odd, but interesting.

And my favorite:

Questionable Content (Jeph Jacques)

Ah, Questionable Content, how I love thee. And how I need to get caught up! Goodness. I went to the site to get the link for you all and didn’t recognize ANY of the characters in today’s comic! ::shakes finger at face:: “Bad Jessica!”

qc-feat

Ahem…anyway…QC is about a group of friends who live in Rhode Island. The author calls it “an internet comic strip about romance and robots”, which is true, though there is a lot more going on than just romance and robots. It’s mainly about the ups and downs of life and how you can always count on your friends…but its WAY funnier than I’m making it sound. I mean…

Espressosaurus

Seriously, I recommend this webcomic to everyone. It doesn’t have a whole lot of action, but the writing is great and the artist has really evolved since the beginning.

Also, because Hannelore…

Questionable-Content-Wallpaper-web-comics-24463162-281-500

Note: This list is pretty much all the comics I read that have a story line (even if it isn’t initially obvious), but I also read quite a few strip versions that I didn’t include because the post was getting REALLY long. Here are a handful that you might like to check out: Sarah’s Scribbles, The Awkward Yeti, The Oatmeal, Hyperbole & a Half, Cyanide & Happiness, and xkcd.


What are some of YOUR favorite webcomics?

T5W – You’re A Mean One…

Hello all! Today’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is: Bookish Things You’re a Grinch About

Hmm..bookish pet peeves, eh? I’ve got quite a few of those. ::rubs hands menacingly::

Movie Covers

Look, I understand the concept: once a book is made into a movie, a lot of people will think of it as “the book of that movie I like”, so why not market to those people to try to sell more copies, right? It’s just SO IRRITATING. Especially when you are only halfway through the series and the publisher switches to ONLY movie covers, so your series is half of one and half of the other.

Defacing Books

Having recently rediscovered my love of the library, I run into this ALL THE TIME. Dog-eared pages, notes scrawled in the margins, underlines, covers that have been folded back so far that I don’t understand how the spine still works! It’s really annoying. If it’s your own personal copy, fine, do what you want to it. But if it’s a library book or, heaven forbid, a book I lent to you…remember the golden rule of ‘borrowing’: leave it better than you found it.

Jumping POVs

I get it, you want to show the story from everyone’s point of view, right? Change things up, keep the reader on their toes. Help the reader understand all the characters better. Fine, but at least keep it to only two or three characters. Don’t jump between fifteen people. Don’t make EVERY chapter a new person. And, for goodness’ sake, LABEL THE FRICKIN’ POVS!!!!!

Distracted Women

So, I know this happens (occasionally) with male characters too, but the amount of female characters I’ve seen get distracted from whatever they are supposed to be accomplishing because some hot guy showed up is INSANE. Trying to figure out who murdered your best friend? “I wonder if that hot detective is single?” Trying to save the universe? “This might be the last time I see you, person I just met, so we should totally hook up. The universe can wait.” It’s completely ridiculous. Maybe focus on the task at hand and worry about your love life later.

Which leads me to…

Romance in EVERYTHING

About a year ago, I tasked one of my reading groups with a challenge: “Please suggest to me a book that: 1) has a female main character, 2) is Adult/Young Adult reading level, and 3) HAS ZERO ROMANCE IN IT. No hook-ups, no longing glances, no sexual tension, NOTHING.” Do you know how many responses I got that followed all the criteria? ONE. Out of over a HUNDRED people. Why on earth does every single story have to have romance in it? Why do I have to hit up the children’s section at my library to find a book without it? Is romance really that permeating in every day life, that I can name on one hand the number of adult books I’ve found without it?


So how about you? What are some of YOUR bookish pet peeves?

What’cha Readin’?

My librarians are AWESOME! I popped in a couple of weeks ago and while I was there I requested a book. They must have ordered it IMMEDIATELY because it was available for me to pick up on Friday!

This fabulous event caused me to want to check in with all of you, share my current TBR pile, and see what you guys are reading.

My Library Book:

Furiously Happy (Jenny Lawson)

Description from Goodreads: In LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, Jenny Lawson baffled readers with stories about growing up the daughter of a taxidermist. In her new book, FURIOUSLY HAPPY, Jenny explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

furiouslyhappyAccording to Jenny: “Some people might think that being ‘furiously happy’ is just an excuse to be stupid and irresponsible and invite a herd of kangaroos over to your house without telling your husband first because you suspect he would say no since he’s never particularly liked kangaroos. And that would be ridiculous because no one would invite a herd of kangaroos into their house. Two is the limit. I speak from personal experience. My husband says that none is the new limit. I say he should have been clearer about that before I rented all those kangaroos.”

“Most of my favorite people are dangerously fucked-up but you’d never guess because we’ve learned to bare it so honestly that it becomes the new normal. Like John Hughes wrote in The Breakfast Club, ‘We’re all pretty bizarre. Some of us are just better at hiding it.’ Except go back and cross out the word ‘hiding.'”

Jenny’s first book, LET’S PRETEND THIS NEVER HAPPENED, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. FURIOUSLY HAPPY is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways-and who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

Why I Picked It: Jenny Lawson is one of those hard-to-find authors who can talk about really terrible things without depressing the crap out of you (think Allie Brosh, but in novel form). I stumbled across her first book, “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”, at the very beginning of my 2015 reading challenge and it was brilliant. I’ve been following her blog since and she is completely hilarious. I’m only about 40 pages into this book so far and I am definitely happy that I requested it (and that my librarians are so awesome).

My Christmas Reads:

The Guardians: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King; E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core!; Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies (William Joyce)

Description from Goodreads: This boxed set of the first three Guardians books is the perfect companion to the Rise of the Guardians movie!

guardiansOf course you know the Guardians. You’ve known them since before you can remember and you’ll know them till your memories are like twilight: Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and the others. But where did they come from? How did they become beloved and worthy of holidays? And what nefarious evildoer prompts them to band together and protect the children of the world?

Answers are revealed and imaginations unfurl in this this treasure trove of a boxed set. Both a standalone collectible and the ideal complement to the mesmerizing Dreamworks Animation movie Rise of the Guardians, this set includes the first three titles in the Guardians chapter book series: Nicholas St. North and the Battle of the Nightmare King, E. Aster Bunnymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth’s Core!, and Toothiana, Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies.

Why I Picked It: Ok, fess up time. I LOVE the Rise of the Guardians movie. Like, seriously love it. Like, “I could put it on in the morning and replay it all day” love it. I know, I know, it’s a kids movie. But WHAT A KIDS MOVIE! It’s extremely well done and a totally unique re-imagining of characters I’ve always loved. And, yeah, reading the books AFTER the watching the movie can be dangerous territory…but I’m gonna give it a go anyway. 😉


So what are you guys currently reading? Have any holiday books lined up?

A Tribute to Cat Winters

Well, this is a bit of a diversion for me, but I just finished ‘Odd & True’ and felt the need to sing my praises for the author: Cat Winters.

I have never found a Cat Winters book that wasn’t binge-worthy. Granted, I’ve only read 3 of her novels so far, but that’s still really impressive. So I thought I would give you my thoughts on the books I’ve read and introduce everyone to this fabulous author!

In The Shadow of Blackbirds

13112915Description from Goodreads: In 1918, the world seems on the verge of apocalypse. Americans roam the streets in gauze masks to ward off the deadly Spanish influenza, and the government ships young men to the front lines of a brutal war, creating an atmosphere of fear and confusion. Sixteen-year-old Mary Shelley Black watches as desperate mourners flock to séances and spirit photographers for comfort, but she herself has never believed in ghosts. During her bleakest moment, however, she’s forced to rethink her entire way of looking at life and death, for her first love—a boy who died in battle—returns in spirit form. But what does he want from her?

My Review: This was my first Cat Winters novel and, boy, did it catch me by surprise! The description sounded interesting, but I didn’t realize I’d become enthralled enough to read it in one sitting! The author combines true history (the horror of WWI and the Spanish Influenza outbreak) and a supernatural romance…and manages to come out with a wonderful and completely believable tale.

The Cure for Dreaming

curefordreamingDescription from Goodreads: Olivia Mead is a headstrong, independent girl—a suffragist—in an age that prefers its girls to be docile. It’s 1900 in Oregon, and Olivia’s father, concerned that she’s headed for trouble, convinces a stage mesmerist to try to hypnotize the rebellion out of her. But the hypnotist, an intriguing young man named Henri Reverie, gives her a terrible gift instead: she’s able to see people’s true natures, manifesting as visions of darkness and goodness, while also unable to speak her true thoughts out loud. These supernatural challenges only make Olivia more determined to speak her mind, and so she’s drawn into a dangerous relationship with the hypnotist and his mysterious motives, all while secretly fighting for the rights of women. 

My Review: Coming off the Blackbirds book, I had a feeling this one would be better than it sounded, and I was right! It was another single-sitting, page-turner! Once again, the author manages to join together real history and the supernatural into a story that feels completely true to life. She really seems to understand (and explain well) what living in the early 1900s must have been like for a strong-minded young woman.

Odd & True

oddandtrueDescription from Goodreads: Trudchen grew up hearing Odette’s stories of their monster-slaying mother and a magician’s curse. But now that Tru’s older, she’s starting to wonder if her older sister’s tales were just comforting lies, especially because there’s nothing fantastic about her own life—permanently disabled and in constant pain from childhood polio.

In 1909, after a two-year absence, Od reappears with a suitcase supposedly full of weapons and a promise to rescue Tru from the monsters on their way to attack her. But it’s Od who seems haunted by something. And when the sisters’ search for their mother leads them to a face-off with the Leeds Devil, a nightmarish beast that’s wreaking havoc in the Mid-Atlantic states, Tru discovers the peculiar possibility that she and her sister—despite their dark pasts and ordinary appearances—might, indeed, have magic after all.

My Review: Sigh, another great one. I love how the author always manages to spin a tale that seems creepy and supernatural, but often has real issues and struggles at the heart of it. This one is more of a coming-of-age tale; that time in everyone’s life when the magic dies and reality sets in…but only if you let it.

Her other books (which my library doesn’t have, darnit) include:

The Uninvited

theuninvitedDescription from Goodreads: Twenty-five year old Ivy Rowan rises from her bed after being struck by the flu, only to discover the world has been torn apart in just a few short days. But Ivy’s life-long gift—or curse—remains. For she sees the uninvited ones—ghosts of loved ones who appear to her, unasked, unwelcomed, for they always herald impending death. On that October evening in 1918 she sees the spirit of her grandmother, rocking in her mother’s chair. An hour later, she learns her younger brother and father have killed a young German out of retaliation for the death of Ivy’s older brother Billy in the Great War.

Horrified, she leaves home, to discover the flu has caused utter panic and the rules governing society have broken down. Ivy is drawn into this new world of jazz, passion, and freedom, where people live for the day, because they could be stricken by nightfall. But as her ‘uninvited guests’ begin to appear to her more often, she knows her life will be torn apart once more, but Ivy has no inkling of the other-worldly revelations about to unfold.

The Steep & Thorny Way

thesteepandthornywayDescription from Amazon: A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now the killer is out of jail and back in town, and he’s claiming that Hanalee’s father’s death wasn’t an accident at all. Instead, he says that Hank was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who just so happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

In order to get the answers she needs, Hanalee will have to ask a “haint” wandering the roads at night—her father himself.

Yesternight

yesternightDescription from Goodreads: In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys (An Anthology with Several Other Authors)

slashergirlsDescription from Goodreads: A host of the smartest young adult authors come together in this collection of scary stories and psychological thrillers curated by Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea’s April Genevieve Tucholke.

Each story draws from a classic tale or two—sometimes of the horror genre, sometimes not—to inspire something new and fresh and terrifying. There are no superficial scares here; these are stories that will make you think even as they keep you on the edge of your seat. From bloody horror to supernatural creatures to unsettling, all-too-possible realism, this collection has something for any reader looking for a thrill.


Have you given Cat Winters a try? Read any of the books I haven’t gotten to yet? What did you think?