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Reading Challenge 20: A Book “EVERYONE” But You Has Read

Out of all the challenges, I believe this one was the one that baffled me the most in terms of finding a suitable candidate. How does one determine what has been read by “everyone”? Who is everyone? So in an effort to find answers, I put the question on Facebook. I might have misjudged how much more confusing that would make it.

The responses strongly varied, especially depending on the person. I’ve made a complete list below and all the reasons I didn’t choose each one, but you can at least see what other people thought “everyone” had read. The responses were so many that I ended up being almost overwhelmed by them. And to add on to that there’s this unfortunate problem I have where I’m horribly stubborn.

I refused to read Harry Potter for years. Mostly because of the fact that everyone was reading it. For some reason, all of my life I’ve had a problem where if something is insanely popular, I almost always want to shy away from it. My friends will tell you that I still haven’t watched Doctor Who even though I’d probably love it, mostly because I just have this block where the more I’m pressured and the more I sense other people are loving something, the more I seem to resist. Silly, I know, but it’s the truth. So in my list of excuses you’ll definitely see some book options where it was simply a matter of my stubbornness getting the better of me.

To resolve my issue of not knowing where to start, I went simple. I went to the bestseller lists…the most sold copies through all time. And from there, I picked the only book I had heard of before (I don’t know how I haven’t heard of some of them, but I haven’t) that I hadn’t read and didn’t mind reading. So here was my selection: The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown.

Best-selling books

Here’s the wikipedia page with the things I’ve read crossed off, and green text next to two I’d never heard of. I also refuse to read 50 shades. Feel free to talk to me about it, but it’s a personal choice. So that leaves The Da Vinci Code as my best option!

Now, like some of the suggestions from my friends, this one might have been a little outdated in terms of everyone reading it. It’s not currently as big of a phenomenon as it was at the time of its release, but I still can’t argue with the fact that it had a huge amount of sales, and to me, it seemed like the best option for a book everyone had read but me.

For any who don’t know, the basic premise is about a symbologist named Robert Langdon who gets caught up in the murder of a museum curator at the Louvre. His discoveries there send him on a sort of treasure hunt with cryptologist Sophie Neveu, looking for answers on a secret society and the information they’ve been protecting. These puzzles all seem to connect to a deadly secret the church has been covering up for years.

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I want to begin my own personal section of review with a preface. I will admit upfront that I am severely biased against this book. For that reason, I won’t spend as much time talking about it as I would like to, simply because of that. I do not believe my judgement is clear enough to give you a good picture of this book, so I’ll give a little snippet of my thoughts, but feel free to just stop reading at this point. I always hate reading negative reviews, so I’ll try to keep it short.

I’m a Christian. I don’t talk about my faith  much on this site, since I dedicate it more to my life of reading and writing, but this is a part of me that influences my views on certain things, especially books like this. That’s not to say I didn’t think The Da Vinci Code was interesting or anything of the sort, but it does mean I came in with a different understanding than some people who aren’t religious would. I could dedicate an entire post to the religious ideas in the text, but I won’t.

So I’ll keep it at this, while I don’t think this book is bad, I think it is overrated. I don’t believe the writing is particularly fantastic and thought that it felt a bit confused in terms of genre, sort of straddling an intellectual line while still trying to be something of a thriller. It was interesting though, and had I not seen the movie before I’m sure I would have found the puzzles more intriguing and been more absorbed in the plot as a whole. Brown definitely seemed to know a lot about art and symbols, which was interesting to learn a little more about. And while I might not agree with everything Brown has to say on faith, I can at least agree that there are elements of the church that I too find troubling, from its treatment of women throughout time and even today, to the forbearance of asking questions in the name of faith. I’m hoping to read Searching for Sunday by Rachel Held Evans in a few weeks, which is about questioning faith and the church, and you’ll see my review when I’m done. So in those respects, yes, Brown struck true to me, but there is a lot of other material that disagree with, but I would take too long to criticize so I won’t.

Everyone has a difference of opinions when it comes to books. I know I’ve had novels on here I’ve described my love for and yet had fellow readers disagree. So I would not be at all surprised if there are readers who follow me who loved this book. No worries, I will not judge your taste. That’s one of the amazing things about literature, the fact that each book touches people differently and that no two readers see it in exactly the same light.

What books do you think “everyone” has read? Any popular books you just couldn’t stand? Do you tend to stay with the crowd on your reading list or deviate into your own unique choices?

Here are the many options I was given by my facebook and the reason I didn’t choose each one.

  • Twilight- I’m sorry but I passed this one as a teen and my desire to read it is even lower now than it was then.
  • Divergent- already read
  • Ender’s Game-already read the first one at least and didn’t feel like the others were as common
  • Percy Jackson- already read the first series and didn’t like the second as much.
  • The Fault in our Stars-the movie made me bawl my eyes out so I said no. I’ve since avoided John Green books like the plague. Maybe someday I’ll actually try one, but for now I’m being stubborn.
  • Atlas Shrugged-maybe someday, but definitely not for this challenge since it’s way too long and it holds some negative associations for me that I need to get over first before I can even think about enjoying it.
  • The Bible-I have at least read parts of that and again it’s a little long
  • All the Light We Cannot See-I read this for another challenge
  • Jurassic Park-perhaps in its day but I wasn’t sure it fit now
  • Shogun– again, probably in its time, but I was thinking more last ten years or a classic
  • Clan of the Cave Bears– same as last two
  • The Mortal Instruments– somehow missed this teen series. I probably should read it at some point, but I was looking for more of a single book to read.
  • The Maze Runner– already read
  • Peter Pan– already read
  • The Jungle Book- good contender, I did consider. On my reading list for the future!
  • Swiss Family Robinson- I suppose this is a classic, but I do feel like there are maybe some that are more read than this one.
  • Dracula- On my to read list, but I think i might use it for another challenge
  • Frankenstein– already read, and one of my favorites!
  • Maximum Ride- probably another good one, again wasn’t sure if it was an “everyone” book, but good possibility for sure.
  • The Inheritance Cycle– already read all four.
  • The Kite Runner– on my list and was a top contender.
Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source.

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

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

15. A Book of Poems

17. A Book that Will Make You Smarter

21. A Book with a Great First Line

22. A Book with Pictures

24. A Book You Loved…Read it Again!

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Book Challenge 9: A Book With a Color in the Title

So, for my next book I decided to skip a little bit again since this is another relatively new book that will have to go back to the library sooner. My choice for this unusual challenge was a book recommended to me by a twitter follower: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard.

The story is about Mare Barrow, a girl raised in poverty due to her blood color: Red. In her world those who have silver blood are prized. They live with privilege and often have impressive powers they wield over the reds. However, Mare finds herself to be more special than she had realized before when she accidentally displays powers of her own in front of the royal family. Determined to protect themselves from further danger, the royals make a plan to hide her amongst them, engaging her to one of the princes. Mare must figure out where she belongs, deciding if she will fight beside her fellow Reds or if she will allow the Silver privilege to become her new destiny.

I really enjoyed this novel over all. I wouldn’t call it great in terms of writing style or wholly original, but it was a fun and easy read. I thought the plot was largely enjoyable, quite suspenseful in a few places, though a bit predictable in others. Really it seems like kind of a blend of some of the other distopian fiction that is so popular right now, though I enjoyed the mixture of having sort of a feudal system amongst all the more modern aspects. It definitely reads more fantasy than some of the other books I’ve read of this sort of genre. I have also particularly appreciated that so far romance hasn’t been the main focus. It has a place in the story, but it’s not the main plot, which is how I think it should be.

Anyhow, if you enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent or books that involve kings and queens and battles for power I think this might be a good book for you. If anyone else has read it let me know what you think!

What’s your favorite book with a color in the title? Do you have one? Have you read any books that would meet this challenge?

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

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

Other posts on the book challenge:

1. A Book I Own But Haven’t Read

2. A Book that was Made into a Movie

5. A Book Published This Year

   

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Book Challenge: 2. A Book That Was Made Into A Movie

So for my selection for book 2 (technically the third book I’ve read for the challenge) I chose to read The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery which has been made into a French film titled Le Hérisson (The Hedgehog). I’d seen the movie for French class before and had found it enjoyable, so I decided to give the novel a go as well. (especially since I usually do try to read a book before watching a movie).

The plot revolves around two protagonists. The first is Renée who is a concierge in a fancy building in Paris. She tries to act the typical part of someone who works in a concierge’s position, being grumpy and unrefined, fat and ugly. However, her secret is that she is actually quite cultured and enjoys reading all manner of books, listens to fine music, and tries to learn as much as she can about Japanese culture. In the meantime there is also Paloma, a confused preteen who feels that life is purposeless and has decided to kill herself and set her apartment on fire. However, these two characters who both usually hide their true selves from others find a friend in the mysterious Mr. Ozu, a Japanese man who moves into one of the empty apartments.

I’m sad to say I actually think I enjoy the film version a lot more than the written one. The book has lovely sections of writing, and I still found the characters interesting, but for me the plot simply dragged far too much in novel form. Barbery had sections where she spent a lot of time on philosophy. And to be honest I’ve never been much of a fan of philosophy in the first place. But if such a subject is going to be applied in a novel, it needs to be in a section that interests me and moves the plot forward, not a lengthy couple of paragraphs just expounding on basic thoughts about life.

I found I actually liked Paloma in the book a bit more than in the movie. She was more interesting to me and less annoying. But I thought it was interesting that the movie focuses more on her suicide plans, while the book seemed to only throw in a rare mention of it, which to me really removed much of the tension of that whole part of the story. Renée on the other hand I think I liked more in the movie, partly because she was the one in the book more likely to drone on about particular books or philosophical ideas for pages and pages.

Anyhow, I think the story idea of this book is interesting, and I do love some of the ideas of people just looking for belonging and feeling like they don’t fit in, or critiquing the shallowness of people like Paloma’s snobby family. But I think there was a lot in here that just needed to be cut or adapted to be more essential to the plot. I recently read The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein and it reminded me a bit of this in terms of having quite a bit of philosophy and protagonists very interested in questioning life. But Stein managed to apply this in a way that made feel interested int he story. He added humor and didn’t use quite the extensive vocabulary that Barbery makes use of, making it a bit easier to read. I guess my point is I think there are ways to do what Barbery did without losing the audience (or at least me).

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

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

Well on to my next read. Until next time!

Previous book challenge reads:

1. A Book I Own But Haven’t Read

5. A Book Published This Year

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Book Challenge 5. A Book Published This Year

So you might be wondering why I went from one to five on the book challenge, but I had my book picked for this challenge come in to the library a bit earlier than I had expected, and was worried it might have to be returned sooner since it’s a little bit newer book. So I decided I’d just start skipping a bit and do some of the books out of order. Besides, the challenge said you could do that!

Anyhow, so my pick for a book published this year was The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. It had decent ratings and looked interesting to me in terms of plot.

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The story is about two sisters who live in Carriveau France during World War II. Vianne the older and more responsible one ends up having to allow a German soldier to billet at her house while her husband is taken as a prisoner of war. She struggles to support herself and her daughter as she deals with having the enemy at such close proximity. Isabelle has always been a rebel, and she decides to join in the fight with the French Resistance. The book alternates between their two stories as they struggle to figure out how to survive and fight in Nazi occupied France.

The story was riveting. I was drawn in quite early on and quickly became captivated by the suspense surrounding both women’s lives. I loved that the book held not one but two strong female protagonists, both very different, but at the same time both brave in their own ways. My sympathy was more with Vianne as I found her more similar to myself in terms of her cautious personality, but Isabelle was such an impressive character that I couldn’t help but love her as well.

My one complaint was that the writing seemed a bit lacking in a few sections. The biggest problem I noticed were sections where the writer tried to make metaphors that I just didn’t think really worked. But besides that, I thought the story was excellently crafted. Too often the stories of World War II focus on the soldiers or the concentration camps, but it was interesting to consider the lives of those left behind in the fighting, of the women and children left behind who witnessed the rounding up of the Jews in France and dealt with foreign soldiers invading their daily lives.

Anyhow, I strongly recommend this book. It had me in tears at the end, but at the same time not traumatized like some war stories. It caused some sorrow thinking of all those lost in the horrible destruction of war and genocide, but it also gave me a level of hope in knowing that even when there is evil in the world there is good that will rise up against it. A bit cheesy, I know, but I think hope is always important.

Well, on to my next books! I know at this point I’ll need to read more than one a week if I want to finish on time!

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

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

Other book challenge posts:

1. A Book I Own But Haven’t Read

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Book Challenge: 1. A Book I Own But Haven’t Read

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

Here is a book challenge I did not make. Click it to find the original source. http://burns-familyblog.blogspot.com/2014/12/26-books-in-2015.html

So I’ve decided to motivate myself to read more and decided to do a book challenge I had posted a few months ago. I’ll be working my way through it, and I’d like to think I’ll be done by the end of the year, though that might be wishful thinking.

For my first book I decided to read King Arthur and his Knights by Maude Radford Warren. I collect two things: antique books, and books about Arthurian legend. Hence why this one was sitting on my shelf alongside an old copy of Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson and some version of Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Mallory.

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I picked this book because I was taking it on a trip and it’s fairly small unlike say Les Miserables or some of my other large hardback books I own and haven’t read. Honestly, I do need to do a better job of reading the books actually on my bookshelf rather than going to the library. But sometimes I honestly forget about them.

This version of the King Arthur stories turned out to be pretty simplistic. It sounds fairy tale-like when read, but it was interesting. I always enjoy seeing how different authors interpret the different myths, and the illustrations are very pleasing to the eye.

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My little book nook that I always seem to forget about for some reason.

First book done, I’m excited to move on to my next one! Be on the look out for my future posts on the challenge. And if anyone else decides to do this please let me know so I can follow your progress too!

What’s one book you own but haven’t read? Are you a person who refuses to buy a book unless you’ve already read it? What makes you decide to purchase a book?

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Book Recommendation: Eleanor & Park

High school is rough. It’s a time of confusion about who you are, and where you’re going, and what you want in your life. There’s bullying, and unrequited crushes, and arguments with your parents. These are all simply a part of what made Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell so unbelievably relatable.

This book is the story of two misfits who find solace from their troubled lives in music and comic books and time together. Eleanor is a heavyset teenager with wild red curls who wears men’s clothing, and things like curtain ties for hair decorations. She lives in a two bedroom rickety house with her mother, stepfather and four siblings, and things are not ideal in her home life. To make things worse she’s the new girl, making her even more of a target for bullying at school. Park in the meantime is a half-Korean who does Tae Kwon Do and is constantly trying to live up to his father’s expectations. He does his best to blend into his high school, though when he gets forced to sit next to Eleanor on the bus, all of that changes.

Set in Omaha Nebraska in 1986, the story weaves a tale of romance and high school drama intermixed with the two difficult lives of two teenagers just trying to survive another day.

This book was one of the most touching love stories I’ve read in a while. I found it relatable in many aspects of its portrayal of teenage life, but also beautiful in the uplifting story beyond the stereotypical high school drama. I loved that it pointed out how silly romance can be, making fun of the stereotypical Romeo and Juliette star-crossed lovers motif, but also continuing to give hope in finding comfort and strength in friendship and love.

This book caused me to cry multiple times. It was interesting because Rainbow Rowell’s book Fangirl is one of my other favorites, but it never made me feel quite so emotional in spite of the fact that the main character was even more relatable to me. Even so, the way Rowell writes simply inspires a level of understanding for these two strange protagonists, even if neither is like any other character I’ve encountered before.

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One other aspect I loved in this novel was the defiance of gender stereotypes. I’ve rarely read a novel with a female protagonist who wasn’t described as attractive in some respect. Certainly, Park finds Eleanor lovely in her own way, but the fact that she was overweight and a redhead made her stand out to me. In the same way, I loved that Park struggled with figuring out how to please his overly masculine father while trying to be himself, constantly being told he was being a pussy. In terms of encouraging kids to be themselves and not worry about living up to a gender stereotype, I thought this novel hit that message right on the mark.

In fact, one of the most relatable sections I’ve ever read in a book was from this novel.

Eleanor is letting Park’s mom, a beautician, fix her up with a makeover.

“But I don’t wear makeup.”

“Why not?”

Maybe Eleanor should say that she wasn’t allowed to. That would sound nicer than, Because makeup is a lie.

“I don’t know,” Eleanor said. “It’s just not me.”

I have never in my life encountered a female protagonist who I could relate to in this aspect. Those words “makeup is a lie” are something I’ve felt and said before, and I really appreciated having someone who understood me in that respect.

EleanorBut even in the aspects I couldn’t understand, like dealing with being torn between two different cultures, or struggling with poverty, or dealing with an abusive stepparent, I thought Rowell communicated these characters well enough that I had a level of sympathy for Eleanor and Park regardless of having not experienced the same things.

I highly recommend reading this book. I think it speaks a beautiful amount of truth in multiple areas of life, and Rowell’s style is one that never fails to amuse me. It’s a good book if you love romance and young adult fiction, or if you’re just looking for a fun and easy read with unique characters and a touching story.

Also, there is a plan to make it into a movie! So it’s always good to get the book read before the movie comes out. Just a little extra motivation.

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Reality in Fiction, AKA Don’t Anger the Writer

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So I’m working on a novel for my senior project. And it’s about a college freshman who goes to school in Idaho and her weird roommate she lives with, and the problems that go on in their strange relationship. For a true synopsis see my What’s in the Cup page that includes my fiction works summarized for your perusal. However, in writing about a college student, I’ve had multiple people ask me if it’s a true story.

No.

I had a wonderful freshman roommate. We’re still friends and we even lived together a second year and would have lived together this year if housing had worked out better. Sure, I include a few elements of inspiration I found from other parts of life. I mean the roommate first meeting, a few random quirks about living with a different person, and the roommate bonding experience have little bits of truth to them. But the majority of the plot is fiction.

Real life circumstances can be great inspiration. They provide a level of realness to the text, probably help show your real feelings and passions as well. It’s usually not the happy times that really inspire me though. No, it’s the ones where I’m upset or hurt. And sometimes I include those. And other times I don’t. However, I feel like life inspiration requires balance.

A few months back I was working on a fiction piece specifically inspired by real life feelings and circumstances. Sure, it had a lot of fiction thrown in, but it had enough basis in reality that one could easily track what had inspired it. I wanted an outlet for the crazy emotions of the moment. I felt dedicating a book to unrequited love and the pain of that might be meaningful as I wrote about in When a Writer Falls in Love.

However, the circumstances surprised me. I felt overwhelmed by putting all of my life on a page. I worried what people would think of me, became too concerned about how my protagonist would be received, and hit writer’s block at a certain point on realizing some of the story I felt was important was obviously meaningless. My emotional connection to the work was simply too much to deal with.

Similarly, my roommates of last year asked me to write a book loosely based on us. I came up with a crime novel, hoping that would remove some of the reality of the story, but still it was hard to write about real people. I was concerned they wouldn’t like how they were portrayed, sometimes felt I didn’t understand their motivations and actions the same way I do with characters of my own creation. I still do hope to continue working on that one some day, it’s a fun story really, but there are challenges included regardless.

Sometimes I find my writing subconsciously absorbs what I’m dealing with in my life, whether I want it to or not. Writing last year I was dealing with friendship issues and I suddenly found this randomly interspersed:

“The options before her battled fiercely. In the end what did it really come down to? People came and went in everyone’s life. Living as long as she did she knew that this was simply a reality. Friends moved on. Family changed or died or left. And often one was left seeking newness in their life. Her heart, however, was in utter rebellion with this logic. Wendy. Her name was being called by every fiber of Melanie’s being. Smart interesting funny clever Wendy. Did she abandon that for nothing? Or did she cleave instead an infectious tumor beginning to turn malignant? There was no true telling. Would removing this woman from her life remove a part of her very soul? Or could she survive, thrive, come to new life as a result?”

I stare at that looking back. Hold on, did I just write about choosing my own health over friendship? Did I just put myself in one of my character’s shoes? Did the brutal death later represent that coming to an end, my own frustration with all that had happened?

I don’t tend to try to write other characters as people I know. Sometimes it happens. However, I can’t deny there is something therapeutic in letting off steam at people who frustrate me, at situations that are distressing. So, if anyone who ever pisses me off reads my works and wonders “hmm is that me she’s writing about as a villain/brutal murder/pathetic character?” Probably, but you’ll never hear those words from my mouth.  You can simply live knowing that if you make me angry, you’ll likely face the consequences in my fiction.

So yes, writing can emulate life. Sometimes that’s purposefully, using experience to create a greater sense of emotion in writing. Other times, it comes out subconsciously, especially in negative emotions. And sometimes I simply have to separate fiction and reality, because they become too overwhelming together. It largely depends. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to see how the two cross over.

Fellow writers, how much do you include real life experiences in your writing? Any other writers relate in how they react to people who have hurt or angered them? Any other remarks to make? Any of my friends suddenly scared?

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