Halfway Through the 2017 Monthly Motif Challenge

This past December I joined a few book challenges.  This helps me form reading lists, adding books I definitely plan to read in 2017.   This year I joined in on a new challenge.  The 2017 Monthly Motif Challenge.  Here is my 6 month update and so far, I am on track!

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If you haven’t checked out Girlxoxo you may want to drop by.  I had fallen in love with this site and the life hacks, the book reviews and organizational tips.

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Anyway………..this Monthly Motif Challenge  has me reading outside of my typical favored genres.  Here is a shameless copy and paste job of the themes (books read are added along with the links for the review). It’s not too late to sign up if you are interested!

JANUARY – Diversify Your Reading
Kick the reading year off right and shake things up. Read a book with a character (or written by an author) of a race, religion, or sexual orientation other than your own.
Stir: My Broken Brain and the Meals that Brought Me Home by Jessica Fechtor

FEBRUARY – Undercover Thriller
Read a book involving spies, detectives, private investigators, or a character in disguise. Watching the Dark by Peter Robinson

MARCH – Time Traveler
Read a book set in a different dimension, a book in which time travel is involved or a dystopian or science fiction book where reality looks very different than what we’re used to. 11/23/63 by Stephen King

APRIL – Award Winners
Read a book that has won a literary award or a book written by an author who has been recognized in the bookish community.  And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

MAY – Book to Movie or Audio
Read a book that has a movie based off of it. For an extra challenge, see the movie or listen to the audio book as well.  The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

JUNE – Destination Unknown
Read a book in which the character(s) take a trip, travel somewhere, go on a quest, or find themselves on a journey toward something.

I started Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker.  The journey is about wine, learning how difficult it is to become an accomplished sommelier and there is most certainly a bit of travel too.

 

Here are the categories for the next 6 months.

JULY – Believe the Unbelievable
This month it’s all about fantasy. Epic fantasy, urban fantasy, fairy tales, magic, etc.

AUGUST – Seasons, Elements, & Weather
Read a book in which the season, the elements, or the weather plays a role in the story.

SEPTEMBER – Creepy, Chilling, & Frightful
Cozy mystery ghost stories, paranormal hauntings, murder mysteries, weird and scary creatures- it’s up to you!

OCTOBER– Games, Challenges, & Contests
Read a book that involves a game of some sort. Video games, war games, psychological mess-with-your-mind games, characters who participate in a contest, or a story in which the character takes on a challenge.

NOVEMBER – Last Chance
Read a book you’ve been meaning to get to all year but haven’t yet or read the last book in a series you started.

DECEMBER – Picking Favorites
Read a book by one of your favorite authors or read a book that Girlxoxo has recommended this year.

So there it is, folks.  I am almost to the halfway mark.  It’s been enjoyable.

 Join in, it looks like fun!2017-reading-challenge-sign-ups-1

Living the Dream by Lauren Berry

living the dreamWhat a delicious romp through London.

Living the Dream by Lauren Berry is an entertaining book and I look forward to more by this new author.   What attracted me about this book was the description and the setting in London.

“Living the Dream is a cheeky, charming debut about twenty-something best friends in London navigating their careers and love lives past post-collegiate turmoil and into adulthood with lots of pints along the way.”

Sounded like a fun romp through London.  Certainly I am much older than our main characters – Clementine Twist and Emma Derringer – but I read for entertainment and traveling vicariously via books so this was perfect.  I can still relate to their frustrations in the workplace, looking for a job, enjoying a pub/bar get together with girlfriends and their youthful outlook on life in general.  Clementine is just back from New York after getting her degree in film.  She wants to be a scriptwriter and is apparently a good writer.  She just needs that big break and a paycheck so she can move out of her mum and stepfather’s home.

Emma has a job and while she has no enthusiasm for the work, she is awaiting her break as a writer for magazines.  The frustrations she goes through with her boss Adrian and interviews with pompous editors at magazines is spot on.  You can feel her frustrations.

Lauren Berry is the founding editor of satirical feminist ‘zine KnockBack and has been writing for and about women since 2005. Her work has been featured in Easy LivingGuardianObserver and Independent. She was born, raised and works in North London. Living the Dream is her first novel.

I won an advanced reader’s copy of this book from LibraryThing.  All opinions are my own and I was not compensated.

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

British Book Challenge at Tales of Yesterday

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The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

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Evidently Ann Brashares is a very popular author. This is my first book and sorry to say I couldn’t get invested with the characters or their internal struggles. Since she receives such high marks perhaps I will try another of her books unless she only writes young adult fiction. Maybe that was my problem with this book, I didn’t know it was young adult fiction or I wouldn’t have requested it.

There were far too many characters to keep up. I should have had a clue about that when a family tree was highlighted in the front of the book. By the way, the family tree involves multiple marriages and children and step parents and step siblings….see, that’s confusing.

The seventeen-year old characters, Ray and Sasha, have one parent in common and while they have shared closet space at the beach house, they never meet early in life. They are never at the beach house at the same time because their parents hate each other. The mother is definitely not a sympathetic character.

Anyway, Ray and Sasha aren’t related, except as step siblings…I think….but the implied romance between them seems wrong. Maybe I am the only reader who felt uncomfortable with that romantic relationship that develops – it’s not incest but it feels like it when reading.

I did like this quote:

“Why did parents ever make their kids watch them get re-married? Ray imagined a coffee table book suited to a photographer like maybe Diane Arbus for publication around Halloween: Children Watching Their Parents Marry People Who Aren’t Their Parents.”

*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

secretThe Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett is about a lonely and spoiled little girl book whose life changes when she is sent to England to live with her uncle.

Mary Lennox is spoiled and contrary 10 year old living a life no child should have to endure. She lives in India but has no involvement or love from her parents. They have left her care to servants and she never knew discipline or love or friendship. Thus, she was a horrible and ill-tempered tyrant of a child. When her parents die from cholera she is sent to live in her uncle’s manor in Yorkshire.

Her uncle has issues of his own, always staying by himself as he is in permanent mourning for his beautiful deceased wife. He is also a hunchback and feared that his only child, a son named Colin, would develop a hunchback as well. He never interacts with Colin and the child is kept pretty much locked away. Since Colin is never out of doors or running about as young boys should, he is weak and sickly.

Mary discovers him one day – each child was completely unaware of the other in this large lonely mansion. This is the beginning of a friendship for them although they do have their rocky moments and shouting matches. Their developing friendship is beneficial to them both as Colin eventually goes outside and starts to live as a young boy should. Mary in turn softens her demeanor and learns about giving and friendship and love.

What I liked about this old classic was reading about the Yorkshire moors. I also liked how Mary would refer to herself as getting fatter as her appetite improved and she put some flesh on her bones. In India it was so hot that she languished, never played and ate little. The heat was so great she didn’t have an appetite. But the descriptor as “getting fatter” was a positive in language and literature in the era this book was published. Today being called fat is a shaming mechanism.  That’s a shame right there.

When Mary first arrived at her uncle’s manor she met a servant named Martha. Martha plays a good role in this story and is helpful in getting Mary to examine her life. Martha asks Mary is she likes the moor and Mary replies that she hates it. “That’s because tha’rt not used to it,” Martha said in her Yorkshire accent, “Tha’ thinks it’s too big an’ bare now. It’s fair and lovely in Spring and Summer when gorse and broom an’ heather’s in flower. It smells of honey and there’s lots of fresh air,….”
Mary comes to love the moors.

Food mentions are brief. Colin comments “I do wish the slices of ham were thicker, and one muffin each is not enough for any one.”
Colin and Mary have breakfasts of homemade bread and fresh butter, snow white eggs, raspberry jam and clotted cream.

That makes me want to make bread.  I had not made a Sage and Onion bread in a long time  – this one seemed right for this book.  Recipe may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

bread

Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

Based on a True Story (May’s Foodie Reads)

British Book Challenge at Tales of Yesterday

2017 Monthly Motif Challenge

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Stand United Manchester

For British Isles Friday I was going to talk about The Secret Garden, a classic book I finished while trying to recover from a stubborn virus. Right now my thoughts are about the people in Manchester England and book talk seems so inappropriate.

I’m keeping up with the news and filled with sadness when I look at the photos of the children who were killed and reading about the parents who lost their lives while awaiting their daughters to get out of a pop concert. The initial photos and pleas for information about missing loved ones was heart wrenching.

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It’s all so senseless. I will never in a million years understand the hate that would direct anyone to commit such a heinous act.

I feel such compassion for these people who have lost a loved one. Despite the grief and shock, perhaps because of it, Manchester has certainly come together as a community with love and support. My thoughts are with you.

Stand United Manchester

Sharing with Joy’s British Isles Friday

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When the Music’s Over by Peter Robinson

This is the 23rd book in the DCI Banks series. That’s it….no more books until Peter Robinson’s latest novel comes out in July. Naturally I am already on the list at the library for this publication – so excited!

This book has two investigations going on which has been par for the course in previous books.  Alan Banks has gotten a promotion and he is working on what is described as a historical rape case.  Danny Caxton is a celebrity accused of raping young women back in the 1960’s and 70’s when he was very famous.  The women, some now in their late 50’s and older, are coming forward and banks must investigate the now 85-year old Caxton.

Annie Cabbot and Gerry Masterson are also working on a rape case.  A  young woman raped and dumped in the Yorkshire countryside.  She was alive when she was thrown out of a van but someone else came along and murdered her later.

This is not a cozy mystery.

What I liked about this book

I love a good forensic mystery novel.
Alan Banks and Annie Cabbot are some of my favorite police characters.
Now they are introducing some new detectives and I like them as well.
Food and wine!  There is always mention of pub meals or something at Banks’ home. He is enjoying his journey learning about wine.

What I didn’t care for:

If we have two investigations going on at the same time, do they both have to be rape cases? I was thankful it wasn’t graphic.  I would have liked one case to be a plain old homicide.

Food and drink items mentions are Black Pudding and Smoked Bacon Scotch Egg,, a Prawn and Rose Marie sandwich, chilled California blush wine, Sam Smith’s ale, gin and orange, white wine spritzers, cheese and chutney sandwiches, veggie lasagna and Caesar salad.

It was the shrimp and wine that called to me with this book. A Greek Scampi with Chickpea, Feta, Tomato Salad and a lovely cool glass of Leese-Fitch Chardonnay.

Recipes may be found at Squirrel Head Manor.

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Linking up with:
Joy’s British Isles Friday

Based on a True Story (May’s Foodie Reads)

British Book Challenge at Tales of Yesterday

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Vibrant India by Chitra Agrawal

indiaVibrant India is clearly a labor of love. What I liked were family photos and the writing giving the background for the author’s passion for cooking. The old photos of her grandparents and parents were great.

The recipes are clearly written with uncomplicated cooking instructions and ingredients which aren’t hard to find. Don’t you hate it when recipes require specialty items that are either very expensive or extremely hard to locate?

Lentils – I love them!  They are a staple in our pantry so I was happy to see many recipes which feature lentils.  I have also enjoyed learning about the difference in Southern Indian cuisine and the Northern style.

Recently, well… within the last several years…. I have renewed my love of Indian food. We have been to several local restaurants and while I have enjoyed the meals immensely, this book will allow me to learn to cook this cuisine at home.

A beauty of a cookbook if you enjoy Indian food. The title is so appropriate as the word vibrant bursts out in photos and passion.

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*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review. All opinions, nice and no-so-nice are my own 🙂