WRITER’S SHELF: The Popsugar Reading Challenge 2016 – Books 10 – 16

I know I haven’t posted about it in a while, but I’ve been chugging along with my Popsugar Reading Challenge for 2016  and I’m long overdue for an update. (If you want to check out the list I’ve been following go here for a printable list of categories, or follow my progress on Pinterest & Goodreads.).

So today I’ve got 6 more reviews for you:
Book #10
Popsugar Slot: “A book at least 100 years older than you”
Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
When I admit to things like having never actually read “Pride and Prejudice”, I feel like the MFA police are going to come around and take back my degree.  I am familiar with the overall story and the characters, but I thought it was high time I actually sad down and read the damn thing.  And if they didn’t take my degree away before, they certainly will now.  This was a very long 228 pages.  VERY long.  (And I enjoy reading Dickens).  This stuff is just not for me.  It feels like an unending episode of “Real Housewives of the 1800s” #richpeopleproblems.  When it comes to literature I like ghosts, monsters,pirates, invisible men.  This whole going to balls and people just talking about stuff doesn’t work for me.
 “…never had she so honestly felt that she could have loved him, as now, when all love must be in vain.”
Plot is important.  Very important.
I’d go with “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyl and Mister Hyde” by Robert Lewis Stevenson.  Everyone knows the story, because it’s had so many incarnations but the tale of one man facing his own dark side is always a compelling read.

Book #11
Popsugar Slot: “A book about a road trip”
Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour
by Morgan Matson
Morgan Matson was in my very small grad school class and this book was the one she workshopped during our 2 years at the New School.  “Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour” includes receipts and postcards and different media elements (playlist!) that really bring the road trip vibe to life.  It was wonderful to see what had changed from her earlier versions and what remained the same.  Amy, our protagonist, has issues to overcome and when her ride with Roger takes an unexpected detour, we get to go along for all the ups and downs.  The story is sweet and engaging.  A great summer read when you want to escape.
“Her name floated between us in the car for a moment, and I couldn’t help but notice that he’d pronounced her name differently, like her name, and only her name, contained all the good letters.”
A little bit of something unexpected can really bring a familiar story to a different level.
For another YA roadtrip book, try John Green’s “An Abundance of Katherines”.

Book #12
Popsugar Slot: “A book that takes place during Summer”
Moonlight on Butternut Lake: A Novel (The Butternut Lake Trilogy Book 3)
by Mary McNear
For a Summer book, I wanted something light and fun, like cotton candy at the fair, or floating on a lake in an inner tube.  I knew this slot had to be for a romance novel.  I hadn’t read the other books in this trilogy, but it didn’t seem to impede my understanding of the story. There was nothing earthshaking here, but I thought the two leads had nice chemistry and as a reader, I wanted to see where their story would go.  It could have used a bit more plot and forward momentum, but it was a nice summer distraction.
“A kiss that was, as promised, just one kiss…But, in reality, it was actually many different kisses.”
Be careful when focusing so much on one relationship.  There needs to be momentum in other parts of the story as well.
For the ultimate summer book, I’d suggest a classic “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by Shakespeare.  There’s magic and romance and fairies and gardens.  What else could you need?

Book #13

Popsugar Slot: “A book recommended by someone you just met”
Glow (Sky Chasers)
by Amy Kathleen Ryan
Awhile back, I attended a SCBWI event (Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators).  It was a little networking happy hour type deal, where there were books being raffled by SCBWI authors.  I ended up winning “Glow” by Amy Kathleen Ryan and figured I’d take that as a recommendation.  This is a YA book set in the future where two spaceships are set to colonize New Earth.  I typically don’t reach for sci-fi space reads, but this one was engaging from the start.  It’s fast paced and full of action, but it never gets convoluted or confusing.  The characters are compelling and multi-faceted.  If you enjoy futuristic YA this is a must read for you.
“We are not as large, or as bright, or as eternal as the stars, but we carry humankind’s message of love across the galaxy.”
It is possible to keep up an incredibly fast pace throughout an entire book, but you need to skillful and circumspect in how you describe your characters and build the world.
For another YA future dystopia try, “Feed” by M.T. Anderson

Book #14
Popsugar Slot: “A book that is published in 2016”
Even If the Sky Falls
by Mia Garcia
This is another story from one of my New School MFA writing peeps.  I had the pleasure of attending Mia’s book release party where I grabbed a copy of the YA novel, “Even If the Sky Falls”.  The events take place over one night in one of my favorite places on earth: New Orleans.  The locale is vibrant and you can’t help but fall in love with blue haired Miles, the love interest of our protagonist, Julie.  The structure of the story constrained some of the narrative, as important info had to be told in flashback.  It also made it a bit more difficult to connect with Julie when the story fills only a short amount of time.  Still, the book is a lovely little escape in a vividly drawn locale.  If you love YA romance with a touch of adventure, this will be right up your alley.
“Sanctuary is a person, not a place.”
Telling too much of the story in flashbacks can cripple the narrative.
Sadly, I’d planned to suggest my own book, “Ice Maiden’s Tale” but the release for that is pushed until 2017.  Instead, I’ll recommend a title that I still want to read this year: “You Know Me Well: A Novel” by David Levithan and Nina LaCour.

Book #15
Popsugar Slot: “A book of poetry”
The Poetry of Pablo Neruda
by Pablo Neruda
I actually love poetry and have read quite a few poetry books, so I wanted to explore an artist I had less experience with. Cue my undertaking of a 1000+ page book of Pablo Neruda’s poetry. What made this book particularly interesting was that he inclusion of  different translations of the same poem.  It gave me a new respect for the art of translation.  Every word has a weight and a connotation that needs to be in balance with the author’s original intention.  I won’t claim Neruda is my favorite poet, but he has some lovely passages and I learned a lot from reading this book.
“My soul is an empty carousel at sunset.”
Every word counts.  The right adjective is everything.
“The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson” – because no matter how small you decide to live your life, poetry can make your world bigger.

Book #16
Popsugar Slot: “A National Book Award Winner”
Goblin Secrets
by William Alexander
Now who could resist a book about Goblins?  This book has beautiful, lyrical prose and presents a unique fantasy world called Zombay, where acting is banned and masks seem to take on a life of their own.  While the story progresses at a good pace, I occasionally found myself unable to visualize how things happened. I also didn’t feel quite as close to the protagonist, Rowan, as I would have liked.  I wanted to be fully invested in his heartbreaking quest to find his missing brother, but I wasn’t entirely there.  Overall though, the gorgeous passages and the unique setting make this a book worth reading.
“Maybe this was how goblins changed.  Maybe, if enough people already believed that a child was goblinish, then the goblinishness became real and true.”
If you’re building a unique fantasy world, you have to be sure that the details give the readers enough visual to understand how things function.  You can’t overlook the small stuff, like how a creature moves.
For another heartfelt middle grade, National Book Award winner try “Holes” by Louis Sachar.

So I’ve got lots more book reviews saved up (including a cookbook).  Check back to see if I manage to get them all in before 2017.
In the meantime I’d love to hear what’s currently taking up prime real estate on your bookshelf or in your kindle?

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