Last January, feeling as though my childhood obsession with reading was departing for better-read pastures, I decided to re-up my commitment to the written, printed word and signed on to my blogger friend Julie’s 2017 reading challenge. Julie’s a major reader, and the challenge themes she chose ran the full range of the genre spectrum, from classics such as Hemingway and Steinbeck, to those open to a bit more interpretation, such as a scarlet-hued tome, a book set in Europe or – my personal favourite – a book with words in it. I figured with that much choice (24 prompts in total) I was bound to find lots of somethings to reignite that reading spark.
Spoiler alert, but that never happened! I topped out at just 10 measly books (hmm, except for The Stand; I would never call The Stand “measly.”) I’ve already made my peace with this epic literary suckage, and vow to do better next time, or this time, when I attempt this reading challenge thing once more, with feeling. Julie has put together another reading challenge for 2018, this time with the collaborative help of our other blogger friend, Jay. Dubbed the Bookish Jay and the Reading Mermaid Challenge, the 30 prompts (you’re killing me here, guys!) cover everything from travelogues and historical fiction, to a second pass at that Hemingway or Steinbeck you neglected to read last year (I know I did!) We shall see how this goes.
One thing I do plan on carrying over from last year’s challenge to this one is some accompanying nail art. Have to keep it at least moderately blog-relevant, you know? 😉 Plus I just like to put my own nail artistic spin on what I’ve just read. Call it a review in lacquer. Below you’ll find the manicures I painted to go along with each book, as well as a brief rundown of what I really thought about each pick. Spoiler alert the second: This is not going to end well for The Walking Dead.
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides – Re-read a beloved novel. Creepy, overwrought and maudlin in the extreme, this melancholy novel about the suicides of five sisters is my favourite book. The final paragraph never fails to move me to giant, sobby tears.
The Walking Dead by a bunch of guys who are way more impressed with their thoughts than they should be – Art and literature. Ah yes, Sandra, but tell us how you really feel! Okay then – I f**king loathed this piece of shit graphic novel. Ugly inside and out, the story lurches along in spasmodic fits and starts, hurtling over even the most basic of character development in favour of about 12 agonizingly detailed pages of a beloved female character’s confinement, torture and prolonged sexual assault.
I try to keep things PG around here, but I’m not going to mince words about this one – FUCK YOU, KIRKMAN ET AL. If this book were mine and not my husband’s, I would have shredded it into filler for my cat’s litter box months ago. It does not deserve my excellent nail art.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling – Magic. Unpopular opinion ahoy, but I found this installment of the Harry Potter series to be an aggravating slog. Very little actually happened to advance the story, until the final 100 or so pages when absolutely everything you thought you knew about the franchise was turned right on its head. I think part of my problem with the novels is that I prefer the Harry of the movies to the Harry of the books. Book Harry is a petulant, endlessly naval-gazing little whiner. I’m not sympathetic to Book Harry. Daniel Radcliffe really imbues the character with a lot more warmth and kindness than displayed as-written. Just my (unpopular) opinion. 😉
The Guardians by Andrew Pyper – A book gifted or loaned to you. Eh? And like The Walking Dead, just a little too impressed with itself. This languid, go-nowhere story about murder, intrigue and haunted houses in small town Ontario should have been a slam dunk for this lifelong Ontarian. Instead, its weirdly telegraphed story and ultra abrupt ending made for a jarring and ultimately forgettable read.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson – A book in your to-be-read pile. One of my oldest friends loves Jenny Lawson, and she turned me on to this hilarious blogger when she gave me this book. So. much. taxidermy.
Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill – A library find. An evocative but ultimately forgettable rock and roll ghost story from Joe Hill, son of Stephen King. In fact, I’m returning it to my building’s mostly-paperback library this evening!
Duma Key by Stephen King – Cool book cover art that lures you in like bait. An appropriate descriptor, given that this ultra creepy phantom abilities tale takes place at the beach. I loved this novel, even if the ending went predictably pear-shaped.
Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Ice Cream and Dessert Book by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, with Nancy J. Stephens – A book to learn something from. I’ve actually had this little ice cream cookbook since I was about eight years old. It contains my slightly-tinkered-with, should-be-patented chocolate chip cookie recipe, which I’ve made about five dozen times, but I’ve never really stopped to enjoy the Ben & Jerry’s origin story the book opens with. It’s a sweet (heh) little tale. The illustrations in this book are also the cutest things ever.
The New Hunger by Isaac Marion – A story that takes you to another place and time, real or imagined. The New Hunger, a prequel novella set in the Warm Bodies universe, seemed like the perfect choice to fulfill this fun, open-ended prompt. In reality, the nuclear and industrial calamities suffered by the few remaining humans on earth hit just a bit too close to home. And that’s before the zombies showed up. Just re-reading this terrifying nightmare fable threw me into a major funk, beautifully written though it may be.
The Stand by Stephen King – A book from a favourite author that you haven’t gotten around to reading yet. A major funk that was helped not one iota by choosing this as a follow-up novel. Picking up at the logical point where The New Hunger left off, The Stand, King’s early magnum opus, is a gloriously depressing read about the downfall of man. I really, really enjoyed reading The Stand, loved coming at it from a sort of forensic fan perspective, but it left me in a weird head space that I was glad to be well and done with.
In conclusion, I think I could stand to make better, possibly more uplifting choices in reading material going forward. Maybe then I’ll actually finish one of these challenges, instead of dreading the next upcoming prompt. Lessons learned and all that good stuff. 🙂