2017 Year of Fun Reading: Wrap Up!

All good things must come to an end. Before I head off bravely into a brand-spanking new year, I have to pause for a moment to say farewell to my last year’s reading challenge, the Year of Fun Reading.

This was a reading challenge that I found on the blog of Modern Mrs. Darcy (if you don’t listen to her What Should I Read Next? podcast, you should!). Each month I read a book that fit into the category she suggested, and, as the title suggested, it was actually a lot of fun.

To put my own spin on it, I tried to read books that fit into either speculative fiction or history, to complement my focus here on the blog.

As I went though the year I discovered authors I had never read before, which was great. I read good books, and not-so-good books, and rediscovered an old favourite. As I close up the series, I wanted to follow my previous pattern and do a wrap up of what I learned through this year of reading.

Just as a refresher, here are the categories, in order, and the books I read for each one. I didn’t do them all in the order that the “official” list suggested, and I borrowed one or two from the alternate list of “Reading for Growth” instead of “Reading for Fun”…which got me into a little trouble. I realized as I compiled my list I actually read two Books I was Excited to Read but Haven’t Read Yet because I has forgotten that I did this category at the beginning of the series instead of at the end, so I did it again. I also only read eleven books, not twelve, due to less time for reading that I thought I would have in the summer, and Way of Kings was a long book! Oops. Oh well.

Links included to each post, just in case you want to refresh your memory, or are visiting my blog for the first time (hi!).

January – Book I Chose for the Cover – Hot Lead, Cold Iron, by Ari Marmell

February – Book You Are Excited to Read or Borrow But Haven’t Read Yet – Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen

March – Un-put-downable Book – Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch

April – Book Set in a Place You’ve Never Been But Would Like to Visit – Daughter of Smoke and Bone

May  – Book I’ve Already Read –  Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin, Jr.

June – Book About Books or Reading – Ink and Bone (Great Library #1), by Rachel Caine

July – Book of Any Genre Addressing Current Events – Company Town, by Madeline Ashby

August/September – Book That Has More Than 600 Pages – Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

October – Book Recommended by Someone With Great Taste – Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

November – Book in the Backlist of a New Favourite Author – The Forgotten Girl, by Rio Youers

December – Book You Were Excited to Buy or Borrow But Haven’t Read Yet – Kin of Cain, by Matthew Harffy

Without further ado, here’s my wrap-up of the 2017 Reading Challenge:

  1. The book I liked the least – Well, this was tricky. I didn’t hate any of the books, but unknownthere were a few that were definitely underwhelming. But, Queen of the Tearling has to be the one I enjoyed the least. The plot holes and thinly veiled hostility towards religion was just too much for me. Meh. A close runner-up would be Daughter of Ink and Bone. I actually gave that book two stars, and Queen I gave three, mainly because of the sexy angel element in Daughter. It’s plot is much tighter than Queen of the Tearling, though, so all in all Queen of the Tearling gets the dubious nod for the book I liked the least.

 

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2. Book I liked the best – in contrast, it was quite easy to pick the book I liked the best, even though there were strong contenders for this one. But far and away the book I enjoyed the most was The Book of the Dun Cow. I love so much about this book, from the writing, to the characters, to the plot, to the beauty of the story. I read it under the category of  The Book I’ve Already Read, and I’m so glad I did. I loved it way back when, and my appreciation for it has only deepened with time. Fantastic and highly recommended.

3. Book/s I wished I had written – It goes without saying that Book of the Dun Cow would

Unknown fall under this category also. I can only hope to ever write that well, and it’s the kind of book that hits me in all the right ways. But in surveying the other books on the list, I would have to say Way of Kings would be my second choice for the book I wish I had written.  I do love epic fantasy, and found the world-building and concepts explored here interesting. It’s a great feat to build a world and characters as ably as Sanderson does. But I would try to trim that beginning just a wee bit, if I were to do it. But, hey, he’s a multi-best-selling author and I’m just a wannabe, so what do I know anyway?

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4. Book/s I’m still thinking about  – again, Book of the Dun Cow. ‘Nuf said. But setting that one aside, I would have to say that the book that lingered with me the most was Dark Matter. Aside from being a terrific thriller and a fun read, it raised questions that lingered long after I finished it.

 

5. Book I was most disappointed in – the nod for this has to go to Company Unknown-2Town. I had high hopes for this one, and I really wanted to like it, but it just didn’t succeed in the ways that I wanted it to. Aspects of plot and characters were a bit too muddy, and the ending a little too out of left field. I want to support Canadian authors, and I was excited to read this one, which was picked as one of the Canada Reads books of 2017, but it just didn’t live up to my expectations of it. Bummer.

225x225bb6. Book that pleasantly surprised me – This was a pretty easy pick. I had been avoiding Ready Player One because I really dislike the “teen hero saves the world” plot, AKA Wesley Crusher. I haven’t read Ender’s Game, but I saw the movie and just couldn’t get into it because of that very reason. I figured that Ready Player One was just the same. But,my book guru recommended it, and as she and I have similar tastes in books, I gave it a try. And I liked it! Yes, perhaps the author got a bit carried away by the 1980s references and relied on them too much to carry the plot along, but, whatever. I found it a fun read. Really looking forward to what Spielberg is going to do with this on the big screen. If ever a book was made to be a movie, this one was!

7. Best writing – our of all the books I read this year for this challenge, there were three that stood out to me as having writing that is better than the rest:

  •   Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin Jr. tops the list.  Wangerin’s poetic, yet5139RwDhQDL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ simple style of writing here is a master class for writers. The voice of the book is distinct, with its folk-tale feel, and the reader falls under the story’s spell from the first page. But with the first introduction of Chauntecleer the Rooster and Mundo Cani Dog, you realize there is something more to this story than a simple children’s tale, depths which slowly unfurl along the way of the story’s slow telling. This book won the National Book Award for the U.S., and it is a deserving winner.
  • The Forgotten Girl, by Rio Youers. I fell in love with Youer’s writing when I read Weforgotten girlstlake Soul, one of the best books I’ve read in the last couple years and probably the one I have recommended to other people more than any other book recently. The Forgotten Girl didn’t have quite the same impact, but Youer’s skill in writing was still on display in this suspense thriller. I loved the way he wove a sweet love story into the midst of this story. I also love the portrayal of the main character and his father. Youers ability to write about love and relationships in more than just a superficial way is one I much admire, especially as he does it here in the midst of a super-charged plot. Very well done and a great read. Unknown
  • Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson. As I mentioned above, it’s not easy to create a whole new world and make it believable, but Sanderson does that here. Although I love big, long books, it’s been awhile since I’ve read any, just because I haven’t had the time. But this book reminded me why they are so much fun. Even though the beginning was a bit tough to get into, once I did I thoroughly enjoyed it. Now I understand why Sanderson is so very much admired for his epic fantasies!

All in all, I really enjoyed this year’s Year of Fun Reading. Thank you to Ann Bogel, the Modern Mrs. Darcy herself, who inspired this challenge. If any of you are wanting to do something similar, she has her new challenge for 2018 up on her blog right now.

However, I’m going to do something different for 2018. Come back next week for the reveal of my new Reading Challenge for the New Year!

 

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A Year of Reading Lewis

There are writers who challenge you, confound you, entertain you, puzzle you, encourage you, or teach you, and then there is C.S. Lewis, who can manage to do all of those things in one piece of writing.

This musty Oxford don, whose academic speciality was Medieval and Renaissance Literature, was, according to Wikipedia, a “novelist, poet, academic, medievalist, literary critic, essayist, lay theologian, and Christian apologist.”

When I first took my steps into faith, by happy accident (no accident at all, of course), one of the first books I read was Mere Christianity. This book, with its robust defence of the Christian faith using philosophy and reason, gave short shift to any idea I might have had that the Christian faith is only for simpletons or naive people who simply accepted their view of the world as “faith” which could not be questioned.

I have since read most of Lewis’ works, both fiction and non-fiction, and I have to say he is very much one of my top three of my all-time favourite writers.

But it has been a while since I have read much of his works, so I thought I would dive back into his writings this year, and share with you some of the delights I find along the way.

I will not be reading all of Narnia, however, it would probably take me all year to read through all of the series. But I might dip into one of the books, because you can’t cover Lewis without venturing into Narnia at least once.

I’m going to start with his other speculative fiction books, his Space Trilogy, consisting of Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. Throughout the course of the year I will also read through some of his non-fiction as well as some of his little-known short stories.

I’m looking forward to reconnecting with Lewis; in so many ways he feels like an old friend. I hope you enjoy my visits with him, too, and if I can encourage any of you to read some of his books as well, I will be very delighted.

Meet me here on the last Friday of the month, and we’ll talk Lewis together.

It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you,  you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.

                                         – C.S. Lewis

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What about you? Have you read any C.S. Lewis? What is your favourite book? Which ones would you like to see me cover? Anyone want to read along with me? First up: Out of the Silent Planet.

Movie review: The Hobbit, Part Three: Battle of the Five Armies

Over the Christmas holidays the family and I took in Peter Jackson’s final take on The Lord of the Rings saga.

Just to give you some background, let me state that I have been a fan of Tolkein’s LOTR since I first picked up the books in high school. I have read those three books, as well as The Hobbit, many times. Like many other fantasy authors, Tolkein’s work had a huge influence on me both in terms of subject matter and inspiration to write a tale of my own. I suffered through previous attempts to being these movies to the big screen, so when I saw the first LOTR movie it was an absolute delight. It was astounding to see Middle Earth brought to life in a credible way by someone who obviously loved the books as well. So, hats off, Peter Jackson!

But this post is about The Hobbit, pt 3. I have to confess that when I went to the first Hobbit movie, I actually hadn’t clued in to the fact that it was going to be a trilogy (not sure how I missed that). When I got to the end I thought…what? How on earth is he going to stretch the story out for three movies?

And we saw how….padding, background stories for some of the LOTR characters, and more padding. I enjoyed the first two movies, but…well….I have to say I found Pt. 3 a bit tedious. Not a lot of story, and a whole of sturm and drang, as they say.

The parts I enjoyed the most were any scenes with Bilbo (Martin Freeman, how I love you!) and any scenes with Smaug (“Magnificent” special effects, just, wow). Unfortunately there weren’t many of either of those. The rest of it seemed like a series of attempts to make one exciting video game sequence after another.

But I can’t diss it too badly. I have great respect for what Jackson has done in bringing these beloved tales to life. I just wish he hadn’t lingered so long on The Hobbit, it felt like a bit of a money grab rather than an attempt to tell the story faithfully to the original.

Please, Mr. Jackson, get to work on those Temeraire stories! I can’t wait to see what you do with a whole movie (or mini-series!) about dragons…..

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My rating for this movie: 3 stars. What do you think? Did you like it? How many stars would you give it?