Friday, January 31, 2014

January Reading Challenge Update

As you may recall from my last post, I have decided to take part in the 2014 Reading Challenge through Goodreads. I set a conservative goal of reading 26 books this year, and so far I'm doing great. This month I read four books, which puts me at 15% of my goal, and two books ahead of schedule. (I may not have done much writing this month, but at least I've been reading!)

Here are this month's reads:

Playing Nice, by Rebekah Crane

As far as everyone at school is concerned, Marty Hart is the nicest girl you could ever want to meet. She seems to have mastered the art of pleasing everyone, and appears to do it with ease. But when her Welcoming Committee duties lead her to an unlikely friendship with new girl (and combat-boot-wearing rebel) Lil, she begins to see that life doesn't necessarily have to fit into the neat little box that she always thought it did. And perhaps, if she can learn to break away from her mother's control and begin to live her own life, she can finally discover what it's like to be truly happy.

This is the first novel from Rebekah Crane, and I really enjoyed it. The characters are smart, and witty, and flawed, and (for the most part) come to life really well in the story. Like you find in most YA fiction, there are a few unfortunate moments that feel a bit cliche. But as a whole the book is so enjoyable that those moments can be easily forgiven.

Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

His quest to write the story about what happened on the day the first atomic bomb was dropped leads our witty narrator John on a life-changing adventure in which he meets some incredibly eccentric characters, converts to an illegal religion, becomes the dictator of a tiny Caribbean island nation, and eventually survives the total destruction of the planet. And it's every bit as crazy as it all sounds.

I've been a Kurt Vonnegut fan for years. And while this wasn't my favorite of his novels (that honor still goes to Slaughterhouse-Five) I still completely enjoyed it. His style can feel a bit abrupt and choppy until you get used to it, so it can almost feel a bit lacking in narrative flow at first. Once you tune in to the style, though, it all makes perfect sense. If you read this one, prepare to do some deep philosophical pondering.

Looking for Alaska, by John Green

Miles Halter heads off to boarding school with hopes of leaving his less-than-exciting life behind and discovering his "Great Perhaps." While there he meets the beautiful and captivating Alaska Young, who quickly steals his heart. What follows is an emotional roller coaster of a coming-of-age story, filled with self discovery, laughter, pain, love, and loss.

This was my first experience with John Green, but I was comfortable calling myself a fan after about the second page. The characters and their story completely sucked me in and didn't let go. (And, I have to admit, left me with a bit of an emotional hangover when it was all said and done.) I love Green's fast-paced and easily flowing writing style, and his character development is outstanding. I'm definitely looking forward to reading more of his work.

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams

This second installment of the Dirk Gently series finds the holistic detective once again embracing the impossible in order to solve life's mysteries and save the universe. And this time, many of those mysteries have to do with the Norse Gods, who are having a bit of a rough time adapting to life in the modern world.

I don't think I've ever read anyone who can turn a phrase quite like Douglas Adams. Every one of his books is filled with line after line of pure brilliance that keeps me happy from the first page to the last. (It turns out that I'm a sucker for ridiculously clever personification.) The Hitchhiker's Guide series will still always be my favorite, but the Dirk Gently set is also definitely worth the read.

How about you? Read any good books lately? I'd love to hear about them!

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