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Reading Challenge 13: A Book With a Female Heroine

I suppose I find the title to the challenge a little redundant, but  the idea behind it is great.I remember sitting in my women’s lit class and having one of the male students admit that he’d made a list of his top ten favorite books only to have a professor point out he had no female authors on it.I checked my own reads for this year and have read 28 female authors out of 51 books (54%). I suppose some of us are less aware than others about how gender might be represented in our author choices, or our protagonist choices.

Even in the modern world, sometimes there still seem to be a greater number of heroes than heroines out there. Just look at the top box office movies and witness the list of top grossing films this year and you’ll notice Avengers, Jurassic World, American Sniper, or even Minions (since these seem to be an exclusively male species?). The New York Times bestseller list shows a similar trend (currently, at least) with four out of the five top books featuring male protagonists, while only one features solely female (thanks Girl on the Train).

I’m not here to start a debate about the percentage of representation of females. I personally would continue to advocate for strong female leads in books and television and film. I’ll share an infographic below on the statistics, but it’s a bit too big for the main part of the blog.

For this challenge I decided to read a book I’d won in a Goodreads giveaway called The Repercussions by Catherine Hall. I chose it mostly because I was traveling and it was a light paperback that was easy to bring along. But I also chose it because it is about two strong female protagonists and was written by a female author. And that’s just what I needed to feel I’d completed the challenge to the utmost degree possible.

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The story revolves around the accounts of two different women. Jo has just returned from doing photography of the War in Afghanistan. She is suffering from PTSD and struggling to return to normal life. As she does so, she decides to read her great-grandmother’s accounts of living in India as a nurse, while also telling her own story in a written confession to her ex-lover.

I have to be honest in saying I didn’t love this book. There were elements I very much enjoyed, but I felt like the story really dragged and never fully connected with the two somewhat disjointed plots. I really enjoyed Jo as a character, though I found Elizabeth, her grandmother, much less compelling.

I did, however, think there were some elements of this story that were really well done, particularly in meeting this challenge. To me this was a great example of strong female literature. Jo is very self-sufficient, and she also wrestles with the struggles of the women she meets in Afghanistan. I’d recently finished The Kite Runner before reading this book, and it was an interesting comparison. I think I found Jo a little less inspiring simply because she was an outsider trying to tell someone else’s story. But at the same time, the book made the point that women all over the world suffer violence and abuse. It’s a global problem.

I can’t rave about this novel, that’s for sure. The writing felt a little clunky in places, and I think for me Elizabeth’s story just didn’t fit in quite as well as it maybe could have. But nonetheless this was a very interesting exploration of women’s issues, war, love, and different boundaries that keep people apart. If the plot sounds like something you’d be interested in then I’d recommend trying it out and seeing what you think for yourself! In the meantime, just keep supporting female representation in the media and female writers too!

Do you feel like there’s a problem with gender equality in media? I have shown some film stats below but couldn’t find book ones so if you have a great link please share it! Do you tend to read more female or male authors? Do you prefer male or female protagonists? Why do you think this is?

I will quickly admit this is 3 years old so it might be dated, but here are a few facts on film representation from the New York Film Academy. Sorry it’s not books, but I still felt like it was interesting and wanted to share!

 

 

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Reading Challenge 6: A Book by an Author You’ve Never Read Before

Another very open ended challenge. In fact, as I commented on the challenge of reading a book by an author I loved, I tend to not repeat authors very regularly. More often I prefer to try something new, which was why I wasn’t really sure what to pick for this challenge. But I ended up just picking something that had long been on my reading list: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.

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The story follows a young boy named Amir living in Afghanistan. He and his servant boy, Hassan, enjoy reading stories, and seeing John Wayne movies, and participating in kite tournaments together, until one act of cowardice by Amir pulls them apart forever. The book follows Amir’s journey, to his new life in America, and then to his journey back to Afghanistan to redeem himself.

I think that’s the best description I can give, but I still feel it in no way begins to cover this amazing book. Even after a few days to reflect, I’m not sure I can even write a decent blog post, because I’m still far too overwhelmed by the mere thought of this story. It’s one of the books that has made me cry the hardest, but also one I was unable to put down. I stayed up well past midnight even with an early morning of work ahead, so eager to know what would happen. I felt really connected to the characters, and thoroughly invested in the story.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what goes into making a great novel. And to me, some of the biggest components are a good story, great themes, and a decent writing style. I think good books can have one or two of these. But to me, a really worthwhile and meaningful novel will have all three. I felt that The Kite Runner had a good writing style over all. First person narrators can be tricky, but it was well done. The story kept me motivated to keep reading. And of course, I thought the themes were very meaningful. About overcoming ones own flaws, about family dynamics, about justice and politics, wealth and poverty. The layers in this book seemed so rich to me, that I think it would require another more thorough reading to really peel them back.

Either way, I loved this book and it’s become a new favorite of mine. I would really encourage others to read it!

Do you often read books by the same author? What do you think makes a great novel?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Previous Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

14. A Book Set in Summer

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

18. A Book with a Blue Cover

19. A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

25. A Book that is More than Ten Years Old

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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Reading Challenge 18: A Book With a Blue Cover

I must admit I don’t usually choose my books based on the color of the cover. I considered just going to the library and picking a random title that fit this requirement, but I eventually just decided to pick something I already had on my reading list and that was Life of Pi by Yann Martel. And since Life of Pi has so much water in it, the cover of my copy happens to be blue.

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The story begins with Piscine Motorel Patel, known as Pi, a young Indian boy who is fascinated by religion and by zoology. He’s spent his life growing up surrounded by a zoo his father runs. But a time eventually comes when his family decides to make a journey to Canada to begin a new life. However, in the middle of his voyage, Pi becomes marooned in a lifeboat with several zoo animals, most frightening of all a ferocious Bengal tiger. The story follows his struggle for survival.

So one of the tough things to do is to honestly evaluate a book when you’ve seen the movie before reading the story. Because having already seen the movie, definitely spoiled some things in the book. For me, I think that’s the reason I usually prefer reading the book first.

Nonetheless, I still thought the story was very interesting. The book seemed to develop some much more existential themes about religion, story, and human vs. beast. I really enjoyed thinking more on those alongside enjoying the great story. This book also did make a good movie with all the visual appeal, and I also enjoyed the movie more in some respects because it was less graphic than the book.

So there were definitely benefits to both formats, but overall I appreciated both. They both tell an incredible story, and I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for that.

Have you ever picked a book for its cover? What would you choose to complete this challenge? Any thoughts on books to movies?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Previous Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

14. A Book Set in Summer

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

19. A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

25. A Book that is More than Ten Years Old

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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Reading Challenge 25: A Book That is More Than Ten Years Old

While I’ve loved doing this reading challenge, I have to admit I dislike some of these really broad challenges. How much older than ten years? Should I aim for exactly ten? Well, considering probably half of what I’ve read has met this qualification, I just picked a random book and went with that. Which is how I ended up going down my reading list and selecting The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.

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Christopher Boone is an incredibly gifted student. He’s doing his A-levels in maths before any of the other students, and can rattle off incredible facts at the blink of an eye. But the fact remains that Christopher is different. He’s autistic. Unable to eat foods that are yellow or brown, or to discern what emotions his classmates are feeling, or to know what to make of an idiomatic expression. or even to let his own father hug him. But in spite of all of these difficulties, Christopher decides that he wants to write an account of his life in a way that makes sense to him. He begins writing his story after he discovers his neighbor’s dog, Wellington, murdered with a garden fork one night. Unable to give up on finding out what happened, Christopher sets out to find out the truth about the curious incident, resulting in him discovering several secrets he never should have known, all while continuing to explore his own system of understanding a world that doesn’t seem to understand him.

I cannot even begin to describe how much I loved this book. I thought it was incredibly well written. The story was amazing. The characters, especially the protagonist, were inspiring and realistic. The mystery kept me focused on wanting to know what happened in the story, but the details of autistic life allowed me to become better educated on real life matters I’d never explored much before.

I think that’s one of the true beauties of reading, is the ability to put yourself in other people’s shoes. I haven’t really met anyone who’s autistic, though I’ve definitely seen characters portrayed as such in films, or heard of people dealing with these issues, but reading a book through Christopher’s mind allowed me to really start making some connections about a subject I had previously rarely encountered. Needless to say, I’m very glad I picked up this book even if it’s not one of the newest books out there.

Do you prefer reading new or old books? Do you balance it or is it usually one or the other?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

 

Previous Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

14. A Book Set in Summer

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

19. A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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Reading Challenge 19: A Book You Were Supposed to Read in School but Didn’t

As an English major, I’m going to go ahead and be honest about how many reading assignments I skipped… none.

All right, so that seems a little fishy most likely, so I’ll go ahead and clarify that I did skip some poetry readings, journal articles, or literary criticism articles (I don’t remember which ones), and I definitely was guilty of doing some serious skimming at times. But I have always loved reading, and I usually didn’t have too much of a problem finishing up what was required of me, even if I didn’t read it as well as I should have.

So instead of selecting a book I was assigned and never read, I went with selecting a commonly read classic that is often assigned in school. I had several choices for this, there are lots of lists of canon high school reads (see for example this Goodreads one of which I’ve read 45). But I finally settled on one my father suggested, Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

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This book tells the story of two men looking for work in California while they dream of a better future on a farm of their own. Lennie is strong but utterly simple, he relies on George to direct their path, which George tries his best to do while dealing with the problems that Lennie has created in the past. Together they find work on a ranch, but even with their hopes of a better life ahead, there are still many obstacles in their way.

I started this book having only experienced Steinbeck in The Grapes of Wrath, which I read in high school. I remembered not really caring for the book overall, but that was likely just my youth speaking, and I’d have to read it again to remember better. So, I went into reading Of Mice and Men thinking I’d probably hate it, only grateful it was short.

I’ve never been so wrong in my life.

This book has quickly become one of my favorites of all time. It’s short, true, but it’s incredibly poignant, and the story is simply incredible and touching. I nearly teared up sitting in the dentist waiting room with this one, which was more than a bit embarrassing. I fell in love with simple, naive Lenny and sympathized with George’s concerns for their future. And of course, I loved that it was an easy and uncomplicated read after finishing off Tender is the Night. This is definitely a book I’d encourage everyone to try. I think it has a beautiful story that should be shared with the world.

How often did you skip reading material required in school? What “classics” have you not managed to read? How would you choose to fulfill this challenge?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Previous Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

14. A Book Set in Summer

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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Reading Challenge 14: A Book Set in the Summer

You’ve heard of Christmas in July, right? So here’s my version with a summer book in the winter! I suppose if I’d started the challenge in January, and followed it chronologically this book would have lined up nicely with summer time, but due to how I decided to skip around this has ended up being one of my December reads.

The problem with this challenge, is that if you look at a list of books set in summer…they tend to largely be…well…lesser quality works. No judgement to those of you who like paperback romance novels, but they’re really not my cup of tea. So setting into this challenge, was definitely a challenge for me to find something that’s less of a beach novel and more of a literary one.

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A snip of the Goodreads set in summer list

I found Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald listed somewhere on the internet on a list of books set in summer. My other two choices were A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth (but I took one look at the size of that volume and was thoroughly done with the idea) and Atonement by Ian McEwan which still remains on my reading list. However, I was curious to try out another Fitzgerald novel, so I decided to give this one a go.

Tender is the Night follows the story of the Divers, a psychologist and his mental patient who have married and are living a sort of extravagant life in Europe. A young American starlet named Rosemary becomes involved with the couple one summer, traveling with them and quickly becomes immersed in their troubled marriage.

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That’s about all that can be fit in a nutshell without becoming too complicated. The main thing I’d like to say in my own review of this book is that I think any naive reader like myself needs to be aware of how foolish it is to align this book with The Great Gatsby. While this book still maintains Fitzgerald’s poetic prose and fantastic characters, it is in every way its own story and deserves its own analysis without the bias of Gatsby in the background. However, I went in with this tainted view, and for that reason I think I cannot love this book as much as I would like to.

The book is more difficult to follow than Gatsby. It has a tricky sort of flashback structure that can be a little confusing. I will definitely admit I glanced over Sparknotes to make sure I hadn’t missed too many major details. I really wish I’d given more time to reading this book, because I think that would have helped me understand it more. I also feel like it lacks the cohesiveness of Gatsby’s plot. It is more drawn out, and I kept waiting for some surprising turn that never truly came.

However, to me the Divers are truly fascinating characters. Rosemary is a bit dull, but I think the main couple makes up for her by being so compelling in terms of their problems. Nicole in particular just had me riveted to the story with her horrible background and all of her terrible mental problems. I think the dynamic between her and Dick is quite interesting and really redeemed the novel for me in terms of feeling like it let me down after Gatsby.

There are many positives about this book, and the main one for me was that it was a summer novel that still had a story of love and betrayal while being something of a challenge to consume, which was exactly what I wanted to fit this challenge.

How do you feel about a typical “summer book”? Does your reading list change during the summer at all? Have you ever judged a book by its author’s past works instead of its own merits? Always love hearing from my readers!

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

Previous Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

15. A Book of Poems

16. A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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Reading Challenge 16: A Book You Learned About Because of this Challenge

One great thing about this reading challenge has been being exposed to all kinds of different books. Between looking up possibilities for challenges, asking for recommendations, or simply scanning the past reads on Instagram, I’ve seen so many books that my reading list is incredibly well-filled now. So, for something I’d learned about for this challenge, I went with one I’d seen on a list of things published this year, and also something that was a common sight on the Instagram updates.

For this challenge, I went with The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, a popular thriller that hit the bookshelves this year.

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The Girl on the Train follows the story of Rachel, a mentally unstable alcoholic who takes the train to and from London every day. She has grown attached to a couple she sees every day at one of her stops, watching them in their daily life, eating breakfast and sharing a simple morning ritual. But when Rachel sees something horrible one day, she’s unable to shake the feeling that something is wrong, which is how she becomes involved in a horrible mystery.

I really enjoyed this book. My mother had complained that she thought it started slow, but I was drawn in from the beginning. Unreliable narrators are one of my favorite literary techniques of all time, so from the moment I started to realize Rachel’s own narrative flaws, I was interested. The book is fast-paced and suspenseful, and was a delightful break after reading a classic and a nonfiction piece. I read it in a matter of hours.

My only critiques for the book are these. I think it is a little bit predictable towards the end. At the beginning it seemed to be going in a unique direction. But it quickly came to a point where I was able to accurately guess the ending plot, and I’m generally one of those really oblivious people who gasps at a secret most other people said was totally obvious.

The other problem, though I wouldn’t say I spent a lot of time studying this, was that I wasn’t sure if the multiple narrator perspective worked. I felt at times I didn’t notice the switch because the writing wasn’t altogether different. And while one of the other narrators felt necessary to plot, the third didn’t.

Overall I’d say this is an enjoyable book. It’s not something that will leave you thinking for hours after, but it’s a fun story. I would recommend it since it’s a pretty easy one to finish, and even if I’m not sure if it quite lives up to the hype, I really enjoyed my time absorbed in the story.

Any new books you’ve become aware of thanks to blogging or social media? Where do you usually look to find out what you should read next?

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Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

 

evious Posts:

1. A Book You Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

3. A Book You Pick Solely for the Cover

4. A Book Your Friend Loves

5. A Book Published this Year

7. A Book by an Author You Love

9. A Book with a Color in the Title

10. A Book Set Somewhere You’ve Always Wanted to Visit

11. A Book You Started but Never Finished

12. A Book with a Lion, a Witch, or a Wardrobe

15. A Book of Poems

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

20. A Book EVERYONE but You Has Read

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

26. A Book Based on a True Story

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