26 Book Challenge

I found this challenge via pinterest and I thought I would try it out. I am a little curious if I can read 26 books in a year. While 26 doesn't seem like a large number it is a little more than 2 books a month. 2 books a month is my usual reading speed. But I just finished my first book in this challenge (on 1/19) so we shall see.

I am not sure if the challenge was set up to go in order... but I am not going to do that. I like challenges but I want some freedom and not being restricted. Now that I am done with grad-school I have so many books I want to read or re-read and I think I can make most of them fit with in these categories.

1) A book by an author you've never read- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson-

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right?
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born, the third child of a wealthy English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in any number of ways. Ursula's world is in turmoil, facing the unspeakable evil of the two greatest wars in history. What power and force can one woman exert over the fate of civilization -- if only she has the chance?

2) A book that will make you smarter- A Season Splendor: The court of Mrs. Astor by Greg King -

Take a dazzling journey through the Gilded Age, the period from roughly the 1870s to 1914, when bluebloods from older, established families met the nouveau riche headlong—railway barons, steel magnates, and Wall Street speculators—and forged an uneasy and glittering new society in New York City. The best of the best were Caroline Astor's 400 families, and she shaped and ruled this high society with steel.
A Season of Splendor is a panoramic sweep across this sumptuous landscape, presenting the families, the wealth, the balls, the clothing, and the mansions in vivid detail—as well as the shocking end of the era with the sinking of the Titanic.

I feel like the Vanderbilts were more of characters in this book than Mrs. Astor but I loved it and underlined a lot passages in it because they were insightful into that era. 

3) A book you loved. Read it again- The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

This is my second time reading this book and it still captivated my heart. I think Jennifer Donnelly writes in such a way you can tell she loves language and makes sure she chooses the right words. Second it is is rich with historical detail but the story is so brilliant you can get lost in the world of the late 1880's, London. I love it the first time because the plot is so intriguing it is a book hard to put down. I loved it the second time because the characters are so powerful. Even after Fiona has lost everything she has known she still pushes herself to move on and becomes a great woman. I don't want to give away too many spoilers but it is one of the most sensational books I have read keeping me up late into the night because I couldn't put it down.

There is some language and sexual content- I want to warn people about.

4) A book based on a true story.- Testament of youth by Vera Brittain

Much of what we know and feel about the First World War we owe to Vera Brittain’s elegiac yet unsparing book, which set a standard for memoirists from Martha Gellhorn to Lillian Hellman. Abandoning her studies at Oxford in 1915 to enlist as a nurse in the armed services, Brittain served in London, in Malta, and on the Western Front. By war’s end she had lost virtually everyone she loved.
Testament of Youth is both a record of what she lived through and an elegy for a vanished generation. 

I underlined so many passages and I think it is great to use it for research.
This was my book after I read it... marking pages with good passages

5) A book set in summer- Keeping the Castle 
I read it in 3 days (its not that big of a book) and after reading such hefty books as my previous, I found the book light a fluffy. It is not only set in summer but I can say it is a good summer read, perfect for the day at the beach. Living in Boston, where we just passed the record for snowiest winter, thinking of summer can only bring hope to us.

The story is basic: Althea Crawley, is 17 and while she is a great beauty she has no wealth so she must marry a rich guy to support her family. Unfortunately she does not have a tame mouth (there is no cursing) but she is always speaking her mind and not holding to gentility driving prospects away. Until she meets Lord Boring and Mr. Fredricks. She sets her eyes on Lord Boring because she believes him to be wealthy but it is Mr. Fredricks she is frequently bantering with (both consider the other one rude). The book is described as "frothy and fizzy as a champagne cocktail-- think I Capture the Castle meets Pride and Prejudice" and that is completely accurate.

6) A book with a female heroine- First Impressions by Charlie Lovett

I will admit I usually read books with a female heroine so at first I thought it wouldn't be hard to fill this category. But then I thought I want to be careful and make sure I pick the right book for this category. I picked First Impressions for this book mostly because it is written by a male author and I am fascinated by authors who write from another sexes perspective. Not that it matters but I thought Lovett wrote so well from a female perspective I had to check to make sure Charlie was not a woman.

The book and the story line were so intriguing I couldn't put it down... I am missed my T-stop while reading this. I don't want to give anything away. But imagine if one day you found out Jane Austen plagiarized Pride and Prejudice?  What would you do to protect that secret... would you risk your life. I don't want to give any spoilers so here is Amazon's description:

In a dual narrative that alternates between Sophie’s quest to uncover the truth—while choosing between two suitors—and a young Jane Austen’s touching friendship with the aging cleric Richard Mansfield, Lovett weaves a romantic, suspenseful, and utterly compelling novel about love in all its forms and the joys of a life lived in books.

7) A book with pictures- Lion in Paris 
I read this book for two reason: 1) I saw it recommended on the site Book Riot... which I follow to get inspiration on what to read. It was considered one of the best books that might not fit your bookshelf. 2) It is about Paris... and as I get closer to my trip I am eager to read anything about it. 

Book Riot's description... This book is wide rather than tall, which makes it a wonderful medium for the broad landscapes of Paris. The artist incorporates drawings and collage to create a truly stunning book. Follow the path of a lonesome lion who decides to seek his own excitement by going to Paris. He sees the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, Montmartre, and the Métro, but can he find what he’s really looking for?

8) A book that is more than 10 years old-Wives and Daughters.
I have read this book before and love the way Molly Gibson is portrayed. She is generous and kind, very selfless, but no one can seem to recognize her out beauty that come from her inner beauty. I feel I have written so much already, but it is a great story and if you enjoy Jane Austen I think you will read like it as well. (Post: A new Heroine to love)  

9)A book published this year- The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah  

I am not a WWII person at all, actually a few of my friends make fun of me because I will read anything that is set pre-WWII. However, I read this book and loved it. Highly recommend for any WWII fan or none WWII fan. The story is about two sisters Vianne and Isabelle, who live in German occupied France. Vianne just tries to survive the war making tough choices between right, wrong, and life. Isabelle is more rebellious and joins the resistance against the Nazi's. It is a powerful story and kept me on my seat till the end. Book jacket put it best:  
With courage, grace and powerful insight, bestselling author Kristin Hannah captures the epic panorama of WWII and illuminates an intimate part of history seldom seen: the women's war. The Nightingale tells the stories of two sisters, separated by years and experience, by ideals, passion and circumstance, each embarking on her own dangerous path toward survival, love, and freedom in German-occupied, war-torn France--a heartbreakingly beautiful novel that celebrates the resilience of the human spirit and the durability of women. It is a novel for everyone, a novel for a lifetime.

10) A book from the library... The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

Sage Singer is a baker. She works through the night, preparing the day’s breads and pastries, trying to escape a reality of loneliness, bad memories, and the shadow of her mother’s death. When Josef Weber, an elderly man in Sage’s grief support group, begins stopping by the bakery, they strike up an unlikely friendship. Despite their differences, they see in each other the hidden scars that others can’t.

Everything changes on the day that Josef confesses a long-buried and shame­ful secret and asks Sage for an extraordinary favor. If she says yes, she faces not only moral repercussions, but potentially legal ones as well. With the integrity of the closest friend she’s ever had clouded, Sage begins to question the assumptions and expectations she’s made about her life and her family. In this searingly honest novel, Jodi Picoult gracefully explores the lengths to which we will go in order to keep the past from dictating the future.

11) A book you own but haven't read... The Chance by Karen Kingsbury
My friend gave me this for my last birthday (nearly a year ago) but I am just now getting around to reading it. Found it a cute story with good message of hope, forgiveness, and second chances.

Years ago, the day before Ellie moved from Georgia to California, she and her best friend Nolan sat beneath the Spanish moss of an ancient oak tree and wrote letters to each other, sealing them in a rusty old metal box. The plan was to return eleven years later and read them in 2013, the year Nolan’s time traveling books say all the mysteries of the world will be understood.

Now, as that date approaches, much has changed. Ellie, bereft of the faith she grew up with, is a single mom living in a tired apartment and trying to make ends meet. Nolan, now an NBA star, has dealt with terrible personal tragedies that fueled his faith and athletic drive in equal measure. Ever since his father and coach succumbed to a heart attack, Nolan has suffered from a transcendent loneliness. Drowning in an ocean of grief, he often thinks about Ellie and the innocence of their childhood days together.

12) A book you started but never finished... Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller.
I don't remember when I started this book but I got a few chapters in and stopped reading it... why I don't know because this time in reading it I was hooked. I purposefully had to stop myself from reading it because I wanted what he was saying to sink in. If you liked Blue Like Jazz I recommend this book. Here is what Amazon said:
In Searching for God Knows What, best-selling author Donald Miller invites you to reconnect with a faith worth believing. With humor, intelligence, and his trademark writing style, he shows that  relationship is God’s way of leading us to redemption. And our need for redemption drives us to relationship with God. “Being a Christian,” Miller writes, “is more like falling in love than understanding a series of ideas.”

13) A book with a great first lined... Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser 

The first line of the book is: "The winter of 1542 was marked by tempestuous weather throughout the British Isles: in the north, on the borders of Scotland and England, there were heavy snow-falls in December and frost so savage that January the ships were frozen into the harbor at Newcastle." And so begins the story of Mary Queen of Scots. Mary was an infant queen. A teenage widow. Beautiful, flamboyant Mary Queen of Socts had a formidable intellect but her political sense - formed at the absolute court of France- plunged her country into a maelstrom of intrigue, marriage and murder that triggered one of the most turbulent periods of history - and her untimely end (from the back cover). I was intrigued to read this book because I have been watching the CW show Reign and wanted to know the true story of Mary Queen of Scots.
Mary from Reign
I am now  half way through my challenge and I need some suggestions a book that has a color in the tile, a book every one has read, and a book about a lion, witch or a wardrobe.

14) A book by an author you love... After the war is Over by Jennifer Robson.
Last summer I read Jennifer Robson's first novel Somewhere in France and loved it. So when I saw this book in store I know I wanted to read it. It was a quick read but I didn't like it as much as I liked Robson's other work. However, happy to read a WWI novel. Here is what Amazon said:

After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.
Just as Charlotte begins to settle into her new circumstances, two messages arrive that will change her life. One, from a radical young newspaper editor, offers her a chance to speak out for those who cannot. The other pulls her back to her past, and to a man she has tried, and failed, to forget.
As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.

15) A book that was made into a movie... Paper Towns by John Greene

It is not out yet but it will be soon. I have seen a few trailers for the movie and I was intrigued by, I didn't really understand the plot and how it would all fit together. Based off the trailers I have seen I still wonder what the movie will be like. I almost didn't read it but on a flight I took recently I saw a mom reading the book and I asked her about it and she really liked it. I don't know why I took a random stranger's suggestion but I did and reserved my copy in the library. Here is the movie trailer:
Here is what School Library Journal had to say:
Quentin Jacobsen, 17, has been in love with his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman, for his entire life. A leader at their Central Florida high school, she has carefully cultivated her badass image. Quentin is one of the smart kids. His parents are therapists and he is, above all things, "goddamned well adjusted." He takes a rare risk when Margo appears at his window in the middle of the night. They drive around righting wrongs via her brilliant, elaborate pranks. Then she runs away (again). He slowly uncovers the depth of her unhappiness and the vast differences between the real and imagined Margo. Florida's heat and homogeneity as depicted here are vivid and awful. Green's prose is astounding—from hilarious, hyperintellectual trash talk and shtick, to complex philosophizing, to devastating observation and truths. He nails it—exactly how a thing feels, looks, affects—page after page. The mystery of Margo—her disappearance and her personhood—is fascinating, cleverly constructed, and profoundly moving. Green builds tension through both the twists of the active plot and the gravitas of the subject. He skirts the stock coming-of-age character arc—Quentin's eventual bravery is not the revelation. Instead, the teen thinks deeper and harder—about the beautiful and terrifying ways we can and cannot know those we love. Less-sophisticated readers may get lost in Quentin's copious transcendental ruminations. (Found on Amazon)

16) A book with a blue cover- Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman

After four harrowing years on the Western Front, Tom Sherbourne returns to Australia and takes a job as the lighthouse keeper on Janus Rock, nearly half a day’s journey from the coast. To this isolated island, where the supply boat comes once a season, Tom brings a young, bold, and loving wife, Isabel. Years later, after two miscarriages and one stillbirth, the grieving Isabel hears a baby’s cries on the wind. A boat has washed up onshore carrying a dead man and a living baby.
Tom, who keeps meticulous records and whose moral principles have withstood a horrific war, wants to report the man and infant immediately. But Isabel insists the baby is a “gift from God,” and against Tom’s judgment, they claim her as their own and name her Lucy. When she is two, Tom and Isabel return to the mainland and are reminded that there are other people in the world. Their choice has devastated one of them.

17) A book your friend loves- The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley 
I am so glad I have a friend that recommended I read this book because I just loved it and would recommend it to any one who likes to read.

History has all but forgotten...In the spring of 1708, an invading Jacobite fleet of French and Scottish soldiers nearly succeeded in landing the exiled James Stewart in Scotland to reclaim his crown.
Now, Carrie McClelland hopes to turn that story into her next bestselling novel. Settling herself in the shadow of Slains Castle, she creates a heroine named for one of her own ancestors and starts to write.
But when she discovers her novel is more fact than fiction, Carrie wonders if she might be dealing with ancestral memory, making her the only living person who knows the truth-the ultimate betrayal-that happened all those years ago, and that knowledge comes very close to destroying her...

I will admit I knew very little about the Jacobites uprising (under James II of England VII of Scotland) but I found the writing and the plot line so well that I was swept away by it all. I also love reading dual plot line stories and found this book did a good job balancing the two, as there were many moments I was on the edge of my seat for both heroines.And because Carrie is an author I loved how Susanna Kearsley writes about the writing process...it gave me some ideas. Over all I couldn't put it down.

18) A book of poetry - The Works of Rupert Brooke 

This is one of the shortest books I read in this challenge but it probably took me the longest to get through for various reasons. I mostly read it when I was between books also I didn't always understand the poems. I learned about Rupert Brooke through reading Testament of Youth earlier this year and I thought it would be good to read a poet from the WWI era for good information into my story. While some of the poems were beautiful most of them went over my head.

19) A book based solely on the cover- The Steady Running of The Hour by Justin Go

In 1924, the English mountaineer Ashley Walsingham dies attempting to summit Mount Everest, leaving his fortune to his former lover, Imogen Soames-Andersson—whom he has not seen in seven years. Ashley’s solicitors search in vain for Imogen, but the estate remains unclaimed.
Nearly eighty years later, new information leads the same law firm to Tristan Campbell, a young American who could be the estate’s rightful heir. If Tristan can prove he is Imogen’s descendant, the inheritance will be his. But with only weeks before Ashley’s trust expires, Tristan must hurry to find the evidence he needs.

From London archives to Somme battlefields to the Eastfjords of Iceland, Tristan races to piece together the story behind the unclaimed riches: a reckless love affair pursued only days before Ashley’s deployment to the Western Front; a desperate trench battle fought by soldiers whose hope is survival rather than victory; an expedition to the uncharted heights of the world’s tallest mountain. Following a trail of evidence that stretches to the far edge of Europe, Tristan becomes consumed by Ashley and Imogen’s story. But as he draws close to the truth, Tristan realizes he may be seeking something more than an unclaimed fortune.  

It is amazing what a cover can do... the book on the left is a pic of the book I bough and read and I was deeply intrigued by the art of it. However, the picture on the left is the cover of the book as it is sold on Amazon and to be honest does not intrigue me at all. Over all I liked the book there was a lot of great description of World War I but while I was interested by Tristan's journey at the end I didn't care for all the climbing expeditions in the last part of the book. Also while I wish I left the story wishing I knew more about Imogen.

20) A book you learned about because of this challenge- The Storied Life of A.J Fikry by Gabriel Zevin  
I found out about this book through a blogger I love Modern Mrs. Darcy who is doing similar challenge. In the beginning it reminded me of Silas Marner (which I read in high school and hated) because A.J. is a hardhearted man who looses his treasure (a rare edition of an Edgar Allen Poe) and then the next day finds a little girl in his book shop. But I liked this book and so happy I read it. I loved the blurb about it (sorry A.J, I know your hatred of blurbs),  “A wonderful, moving, endearing story of redemption and transformation that will sing in your heart for a very, very long time.” -- Garth Stein, author of The Art of Racing in the Rain. 

21) A book with a color in the title- The Blue Castle by L.M Montgomery 
All her life, Valancy Stirling lived on a quiet little street in an ugly little house and never dared to contradict her domineering mother and her unforgiving aunt. Then she gets a letter—and decides that very day things need to change. For the first time in her life, she does exactly what she wants to and says exactly what she feels.
At first her family thinks she's gone around the bend. But soon Valancy discovers more surprises and adventure than she ever thought possible. She also finds her one true love and the real-life version of the Blue Castle that she was sure only existed in her dreams...

22) A book at the bottom of my to be read list The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
I pre-ordered this book when it first came out as I loved Kate Morton's other books but for some reason this book didn't capture me once I bought it... Sorry because now reading it I loved it and was frequently holding my breath to find out what happened.

Set alternately between the present and the past, much of this mystery novel takes place in London during the Blitz, when the Luftwaffe bombed the UK for fifty-seven consecutive nights, killing over 40,000 civilians. Laurel Nicholson, a successful actress in her sixties, reflects back to her teen years in the 1960's and a crime she witnessed her mother, Dorothy (now ninety and dying), commit outside their Greenacres farmhouse.

The Blitz years' sections belong to Dorothy, which Laurel pieces together from scraps of memorabilia that her mother possesses. It opens up to the reader as Dorothy's story, primarily. As Laurel and her siblings gather for Dorothy's last days, the reader follows the trail of clues revealed through memories, inquiry, and Laurel's amateur sleuthing. As the pages turn, we get more involved and intrigued by the intertwined lives of Dorothy, a woman from Dorothy's past named Vivien (and Vivien's husband, Henry Jenkins), and Dorothy's former beau, Jimmy.

The most engaging aspect of this book is the smooth narrative and the intimate voices of the past and present. Morton creates characters that stand out, especially those from the WW II period. Dorothy is a complex woman trying to carve a future from the fear and impermanence that wartime creates. You can fairly hear the explosions in the background. Vivien is an enigmatic woman who never ceases to pique the reader's interest, and her husband, Henry, the celebrated author, adds to the curiosity. Jimmy, the photographer and Dorothy's love interest, is the moral center.


23) A book everyone has read but you... Charlotte's Web by E.B.White

I didn't read much as a child so I chose a children's classic to read for this category. There were a few more details from the book that weren't in the movie but that is usually the case. Also I wonder how much research E.B. White did on spiders before she wrote this book as she appeared to know some interesting facts. One thing that did strike me as odd is that in the cartoon (1973) Fern seemed older, like 11 or 12 and not 8 like she was in the book. It seems odd for an 8 year old to be thinking about boys like Henry Fussy. But it does handle issues like death and facts of barn yard life very well and sweetly

Charlotte's Web Trailer
24) A book you were suppose to read in High School but didn't... Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury 
I was actually never assigned Fahrenheit 451 but I think other English classes were required. However, it was my sister's recommendation of this book put it on my list. I am actually glad I didn't  read it in High School as I might of hated it as I frequently hated the books I was forced to read. 
   Guy Montag is a fireman. In his world, where television rules and literature is on the brink of extinction, firemen start fires rather than put them out. His job is to destroy the most illegal of commodities, the printed book, along with the houses in which they are hidden.
 Montag never questions the destruction and ruin his actions produce, returning each day to his bland life and wife, Mildred, who spends all day with her television “family.” But then he meets an eccentric young neighbor, Clarisse, who introduces him to a past where people didn’t live in fear and to a present where one sees the world through the ideas in books instead of the mindless chatter of television.

25) A book with a lion, a witch, or a wardrobe... The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston*

Lady Lilith Montgomery is the daughter of the sixth Duke of Radnor. She is one of the most beautiful young women in London and engaged to the city's most eligible bachelor. She is also a witch.
When her father dies, her hapless brother Freddie takes on his title. But it is Lilith, instructed in the art of necromancy, who inherits their father's role as Head Witch of the Lazarus Coven. And it is Lilith who must face the threat of the Sentinels, a powerful group of sorcerers intent on reclaiming the Elixir from the coven's guardianship for their own dark purposes. Lilith knows the Lazarus creed: secrecy and silence. To abandon either would put both the coven and all she holds dear in grave danger. She has spent her life honoring it, right down to her engagement to her childhood friend and fellow witch, Viscount Louis Harcourt.

Until the day she meets Bram, a talented artist who is neither a witch nor a member of her class. With him, she must not be secret and silent. Despite her loyalty to the coven and duty to her family, Lilith cannot keep her life as a witch hidden from the man she loves.
To tell him will risk everything.

*- I know not all my readers like anything to do with witches and with craft. I do not find this to be a stumbling block of mine so I felt comfortable with it. However, I there were moments when I thought the witch craft and their worship practices were a little unsettling. Overall I found it an interesting way to tell a story about pre-WWI and a bit of the WWI years. I would recommend it for anyone looking for a slightly darker version of Harry Potter and history... there is probably a better comparison out there but Harry Potter is all I have read in magical fantasy. 

26) A book set in a place you always want to visit... The Lake House by Kate Morton

Living on her family’s idyllic lakeside estate in Cornwall, England, Alice Edevane is a bright, inquisitive, innocent, and precociously talented sixteen-year-old who loves to write stories. But the mysteries she pens are no match for the one her family is about to endure…

One midsummer’s eve, after a beautiful party drawing hundreds of guests to the estate has ended, the Edevanes discover that their youngest child, eleven-month-old Theo, has vanished without a trace. What follows is a tragedy that tears the family apart in ways they never imagined.

Decades later, Alice is living in London, having enjoyed a long successful career as an author. Theo’s case has never been solved, though Alice still harbors a suspicion as to the culprit. Miles away, Sadie Sparrow, a young detective in the London police force, is staying at her grandfather’s house in Cornwall. While out walking one day, she stumbles upon the old estate—now crumbling and covered with vines, clearly abandoned long ago. Her curiosity is sparked, setting off a series of events that will bring her and Alice together and reveal shocking truths about a past long gone...yet more present than ever.

Most descriptions of books found on Amazon... Unless I write my own evaluation.

1 comment:

Lisa said...

My first book of 2015 was also by an author I'd never read. A murder mystery...haven't read one of those in several years.