Popsugar 2017 Reading Challenge

A book recommended by a librarian:The Phantom Tollbooth (Norton Juster)

This was given to me ages ago by a mate who lives in America. It took me way too long to read it, however it was right up my alley. English jokes, puns and a huge dog.

A book that’s been on your TBR list for way too long: One Day (David Nicholls)

It had Anne Hathaway in the movie, although I never saw it, so I bought the book a while back. Unfortunately, I was really disappointed by the ending- you’ve just made your way through a huge story and gotten attached to everyone.

A book of letters: The Documents In The Case (Dorothy Sayers)

Utterly predictable outcome. I don’t know if my mind is just trained by the brilliant works of Agatha Christie, or if it’s really difficult to write a book that is just made up of letters, but I was frustrated to know that whodunnit was exactly who I thought had. Apparently this author is a good crime writer, so I’ll have to investigate further.

An audiobook: What Keeps You Up At Night (Pete Wilson)

My dad bought this for me because I was having trouble sleeping. Unfortunately, it doesn’t really address insomnia but rather a wider scope of where our fears come from and how to overcome them by trusting God in all situations. Still enjoyed, however I dislike audiobooks in general because of the gadget struggle [he had an epic accent though.]

A book by a person of colour: Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi)

Recommended by Emma Watson, who drops good books for people to find in subways, I thought it would be well worth my time. What I didn’t know was that it is a comic strip, hand drawn by the author about her life as an immigrant. It was one of the most interesting formats of autobiography I’ve ever read.

A book with one of the four seasons in the title: Europe in Autumn. (David Hutchison)

I like to consider myself an intelligent person, or at least an adequate reader. However, I ended this book still with no idea what was going on. Firstly, it’s about a spy. Secondly, it’s apparently science fiction which I completely missed. Thirdly, it’s set in various parts of Europe so, although he’s apparently an American author, I still got to struggle to pronounce words like Wesoly Ptek [two such consonants together?!] I really disliked it if only that it was almost impossible to follow.

A book that is a story within a story: Truly, Madly, Guilty (Liane Moriarty)

Set in Australia, it’s just about an event that happens between two families and what that sparks, how they interact with eachother afterwards. It was a good portrayal of Australian suburban life, but a bit slow.

A book with multiple authors: Closed Casket (Sophie Hannah// Agatha Christie)

It is a pet peeve of mine when people think they can eminate the writing of a famous author, otherwise known as fan fiction. It was written adequately and the mystery was there but it was three times as long as a classic Christie and I constantly felt she was trying too hard to weave the classic elements in.

An espionage thriller: The 7 Dials Mystery (Agatha Christie)

An actual Christie, it was pretty good. A bit hard to follow but really did have all the perfect elements of surprise, intrigue and a touch of romance.

A book with a cat on the cover: The Complete “Chi’s Sweet Home” (Konami Kanata)

I was panicking to my uni bible study group that I hadn’t found a book for this cat-egory and a friend brought me a book her sister owns- I haven’t read a manga since early high school, so this was quite a throw back. It was an adorable story about a stray kitten getting adopted by a young boy and his parents. Simple, cute.

A book by an author who uses a pseudonym: Cuckoo’s Calling (Robert Galbraith, a.k.a. J.K. Rowling)

I can see why J.K. Rowling wouldn’t want this book to crop up on Google searches made by her younger fans. A murder mystery with all the gory bits thrown in, it was written with the detail and eloquence her other works have but a hard dash of reality. I’m always curious as to why females choose male names to write under- I found myself searching for female touches, which were in the detail of the clothes and the qualities of the characters, as well the relationships they had with each other and their significant others. My only complaint is that, while the murderer was ultimately someone you wouldn’t have expected, he had no reason to do what he did [a bit hard to explain without giving it away, but if you’ve read it, let me know if you understand].

A bestseller from a genre you don’t usually read: Cell (Stephen King)

There’s a very good reason I never read this horror, and especially avoid Stephen King. I could stomach “Under the Dome” out of curiosity [after the show was a complete flop] but although I flew through this book, it gave me nightmares. For anyone who knows me well, I’ll put it as such: in the first chapter, a man walking his dog rips its ear off with his teeth.

A book by or about a person who has a disability: Wonder (R.J. Palacio)

I actually read this book as part of a uni project- it’s one of the greatest perks of studying education, getting to read really good books. I was touched by it, and related to some of the parts having a mother who was bullied at school for her disability. I have to admit, I thought it would be written with a sense of bitterness or naïveté but it avoided both with grace, resulting in a great read.

A book involving travel: Anna and the French Kiss (Stephanie Perkins)

Recommended by some friends of mine, this book has everything I hate about young adult fiction. Predictable romance plot line, tortured mysterious boy with dark past, stupid girl who’s into the arts [in this case cinema] and moves to another country resenting her parents and not bothering to learn anything about the culture.

A book with a subtitle: Jesus Is [Find a New Way To Be Human] (Judah Smith)

This was such a good simple round up of Christianity. I gave it to a Muslim co-worker and she actually read it through. Addressing people’s assumptions of Jesus, which were submitted on a website over a couple of years, I think it’s a good introduction for youth or people who really are wondering who Christ was and what he means for the individual.

A book that’s published in 2017: Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk (Kathleen Rooney)

This I think, was the best novel I read this year. I laughed and I cried and I’m giving it to my Nan. To put it simply, I have a famous impatience with the elderly, and so to read a novel from the perspective of one and fall in love with her was something I wasn’t expecting.

A book involving a mythical creature: The Call (Peadar O’Guilin)

Another book with a disabled protagonist- the same one as my mum this time, polio- the storyline was sort of corny but the premise was pretty fresh and clever. I think it’s worth a read for young adults, particularly if you enjoyed the Hunger Games or Divergent, etc. What made it unique from those was its inclusion of a class of kids who haven’t been around in our mainstream books before, certainly not as heroes.

A book you’ve read before that’s never failed to make you smile: Betram’s Hotel (Agatha Christie)

An Agatha Christie again, yea. It was short and simple and smart.

A book about food: The Little Book of Hygge [The Danish Way to LIve Well] (Meir Wilkins)

My friend gave me a book for Christmas about the Danish philosophy of being happy. My takeaways were to burn more candles, eat more comfortable food and try mulled things (I did).

A book with career advice: Almost Adulting (Arden Rose)

I bought a book by a Youtuber and, perhaps predictably, regretted it. It was way too personal for me, in the weirdest ways and the advice really jarred me. This isn’t to say other people won’t enjoy it but for me it was definitely a mistake.

A book from a nonhuman perspective: A Dog’s Purpose (W.Bruce Cameron)

First up, yes I wept at the end of every part. Moving on, a huge commendation to the movie for sticking almost exclusively to the storyline. The book was of such brilliant writing and storyline that I think to have diverged from it would have been a stupid injustice. It was great.

A steampunk novel: Android Karenina (Leo Tolstoy// Ben Winters)

I got through Year 10 English by reading “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”. I was so proud to discuss Russian literature with friends by referring exclusively to a book where the protagonist was a robot. There is really no downside to reading these books.

A book with a red spine:The Other Hand (Chris Cleave)

The only book I’ve ever read whose blurb said it wouldn’t tell me anything and I should just read it. My advice to you is the same. I wasn’t disappointed and did not expect about half of what happened.

A book set in the wilderness: Wildwood (Colin Meloy)

Apart from being a good story, it would make a brilliant gift, illustrated with hand painted watercolours of what is happening in the story. Really good, although slightly nostalgic of stories such as Hans Christen Anderson’s “Snow Queen”.

A book you loved as a child: Airy Fairy, Magic Mix-up! (Margaret Ryan)

This was given to me by a girl who was in my dad’s scripture class when I was really young and still bears her inscription on the inside. It was definitely enjoyable as a child, whereas as an adult I can’t help but question how Scary Fairy could have become anything other than an awful, bullying brat.

A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited: Leaving Time (Jodi Piccoult)

Apart from being a great exploration of the relationship between mother and daughter, and including elephants, this book had the greatest plot twist I’ve ever read. I did not see it coming, and I had to sit there for a good ten minutes afterwards processing. Ignore whatever preconceptions you have of Jodi Piccoult [if, indeed, you have any] and go and buy it. Underrated as it is, I found my copy for $2.

A book with a title that’s a character’s name: Eleanor & Park (Rainbow Rowell)

Okay, so this is another book I feel it’s not fair to slam on the premise of it’s predictability. It’s a teen read, and just had so many stereotypical roles to fill (she’s from the wrong side of the tracks and a little odd, he’s struggling with the cultural traditions of being half Asian, breaking free etc.) I would like to say it lead me to read more of Rainbow Rowell and I really enjoyed those.

A novel set during wartime:And Then There Were None (Agatha Christie)

In case you have read this and would like to complain it’s not set on a battlefield, I’m using a little bit of artistic license. It was published during the war and has a General in it.

As for the book, I think it’s possibly her greatest, and I have read around three quarters of everything she’s written, including the play adaption of this very novel. I was still surprised when I got to the end.

A book with an unreliable narrator: We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)

This is another book that had an intriguing blurb. Really enjoyed it and wasn’t really expecting what happened. The writing frustrated me- I can’t stand narrators or protagonists who are spoiled and feeling sorry for themselves. On one hand, it turns out she’s not really like that. On the other hand, you suffer 90% of the story believing she is, so you’re still left with the feeling she needed a good slap around the head.

A book with pictures: A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness)

A good read and a great reflection of grief, I think especially for younger kids. Another book I read for uni and so I really had to pick it apart and delve deeply into it, but it really is rich enough that you can just float along to where it intends you to be.

A book where the main character is a different ethnicity to you: Death Comes As the End. (Agatha Christie)

A really weird idea by Christie to set a novel in ancient Egypt. I figure it wasn’t super historically accurate, and was really stretched to be one of her usual mysteries, but props to her for exploring a world she was interested in and trying to write about it. Perhaps my least favourite book she’s written but definitely not my least favourite book on this list.

A book about an interesting woman: Fangirl (Rainbow Rowell)

Now here’s a Rowell book I appreciated. This was really interesting and had unexpected characters in it, who I came to really love. Good, easy read.

A book set in two different time periods: The Perfectionists (Sara Shepherd)

I was a big fan of “Pretty Little Liars” for it’s duration of 7 years, so I thought I’d read something by it’s author. Regrets. Very predictable, kind of gross (I’m pretty touchy about when male teachers are portrayed as creeps seeing as true are about two guys in my education course) and wasn’t resolved- frustratingly, it was meant to be part of a series that she only got around to writing two of, so I will never even know what was meant to happen. Stay away.

A book with a month or day of the week in the title: A Week Without Tuesday (Angelica Banks)

Two initial surprises: Tuesday is the name of the female protagonist [wrestled with whether I could include it in my challenge, but couldn’t find any other books I hadn’t read that were within my local libraries with such a specific requirement], and it’s smack bang in the middle of what seems a very complicated series of children’s books. Nevertheless, I enjoyed it and could follow it. Don’t think I’ll be searching out the other books though.

A book set in a hotel: Hickory Dickory Dock (Agatha Christie)

Cheated slightly, as it’s set in a hostel. And yea, it’s another Christie. It was a good idea, but set on the sad and incorrect premise that someone will be mentally if if their parents were. I guess that’s the hardest part of reading older novels, is they don’t fit my modern “political correctness”. (If you think you’ll struggle with this, stay away from “And Then There Were None”.)

A book written by someone you admire:Death In the Clouds (Agatha Christie)

SHE WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST AUTHORS IN A MALE DOMINATED FIELD AND SUCCESSFUL DURING A PATRIARCHAL PERIOD OF HISTORY!!! You know, I didn’t even try and fit all of the Christie’s I read this year on the list. Anyway, it was a good book which was pretty cleverly written. There was a little bit of dodginess in the solution, but sure. I’ll take it.

A book that’s becoming a movie in 2017: The Case For Christ (Lee Strobel)

A pretty chunky book, but definitely up my alley. Full of facts and figures and history- I keep recommending it to people and if you have a friend who is caught up on the science of the reality of Christ- the likelihood of the resurrection, the authenticity of the gospels- I would recommend getting them this. Plus, each expert he talks to, he also asks about their personal conviction about their faith. He himself was an atheist who turned to Christianity- even if you’re a Christian already, there is no reason to not get to know more about what you profess to believe.

A book set around a holiday other than Christmas: Something Wicked This Way Comes (Ray Bradbury)

Flipping flapjacks, this was a children’s book, and was adapted to film by Disney. Set around Halloween, I was on the edge of my seat. Scary.

The first book in a series you haven’t read before: Curious Minds (Janet Evanovich// Pheof Sutton)

Although their names are corny [Knight and Moon], the book was really clever and easy to read. Different from the mysteries I usually read in that it was set in modern times, the protagonists were I’d want to be friends with and the way people related with eachother was very different to 1940s Britain; very similar in that it was surprising and kept me thinking. [Speaking of interesting names, try saying hers five times fast.]

A book you bought on a trip: The Rosie Project (Graeme Simsion)

Picked it up at a book stall in Katoomba, although weirdly it’s set in the area where I live. Read it in a day. Loved it. Written by an Australian, it’s funny and sweet. A quirky romance, something a little different.


A book recommended by an author you love: Travels With My Aunt (Grahame Green)

Started this journey by reading the wrong “Invisible Man” [one is a quirky story written about one hundred years ago about a literal invisible man. One is a commentary on racism in America, written in the 50’s.] Then, frustrated, I googled Christie’s favourite author and read some of him. It was really weird to think she had probably read what I was reading almost a century ago, but the book was really enjoyable. It was sort of like sitting down to dinner with a really crazy family around a bottle of wine and hearing their stories.

A bestseller from 2016: When Breath Becomes Air (Paul Kalanithi)

Written by a doctor who had terminal cancer. I didn’t really know what to expect- it was sort of a collection of his philosophy and what he found out on his journey, as well as his medical knowledge and personal story. This is non fiction, so prepare your heart to have to deal with a really intimate look into a dying man’s world. However, it’s ultimately worth it I think.

A book with a family member term in the title: Just Another Manic Mum Day (Mink Elliott)

Regrets. So many regrets. Definitely my least favourite book on this list that I finished.

Written by a Brit who moves to Australia, it’s already cringe worthy- moves to Bondi, everyone’s attractive, lives on Didgeridoo Road and has a friend who’s a mystic at the markets on Sunday. Let’s display every stereotype Australia hides in their closet, and whip out “Good on you mum” [from the Tip Top bread ad]. Then she’s middle aged and pregnant, so let’s whip out all the stereotypes middle aged mums don’t talk about- weight gain, sex life, kids in cafes, only having other mums as friends. I just wanted it to stop.

A book that takes place over a character’s life span: Elephants Can Remember (Agatha Christie)

In the television adaption of this, Zoe Wanamaker plays Ariadne Oliver and it is just perfect. [This probably seems really random, it’s just me being happy at so many of my favourite things coming together.] I enjoyed having a clever woman come to the forefront and add a bit of humour to what are usually stoic novels. This was a good read, and I actually spent about two weeks reading it out loud to someone over the phone so it has some funny memories attached.

A book about an immigrant or refugee: The Island (Armin Greder)

After I’d read this for one class at uni it came up in another class where the lecturer pointed out that not all picture books are for kids. This is definitely one of them. I would probably recommend it for senior high school students if anyone school aged. Really harrowing and gripping, on one hand it’s just pictures. On the other hand, a picture can tell a thousand words.

A book from a genre/sub genre you’ve never heard of: If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller (Italo Calvino)

So, antinovels are a thing. And the worst part is, I didn’t even know this book would fit the category when I read it so that was really trippy. It’s like being on one of those things at the theme park where they lock you in and it turns you in heaps of different directions really fast- you take a second to grip on and you finally think you understand what you’re seeing, right in front of you, before it’s torn away and you have to get used to something completely different. If you’re looking for a challenge, this is probably a good book but make sure you’ve got distraction free time on your hands or you’ll have to reread a page a couple of times [this happened to me on the bus].

A book with an eccentric character: The Rosie Effect (Graeme Simsion)

Nowhere near as good as the first book, and it was actually kind of sad. The first novel was an easy and romantic read, and perhaps he was criticised for that because sure, this one was more realistic. But damn, we don’t always want to read to recognise reality, sometimes we need to read to escape it. Still has a happy ending, it’s just tough getting there.

A book that’s more than 800 pages: The Bible (multiple authors)

This was a really rewarding challenge for me. I followed a plan, and did it with a friend. I think it was good, as last year I had so much Christianity pumped into my week that it taught me if I want to find God, I need to seek him.

If you are not a Christian, you should read the entirety of the Bible before you challenge it or you don’t really know what you’re challenging. If you are a Christian, you should read the entirety of the Bible to know what you’re defending and proclaiming to believe. It is not easy, and there will be a lot of soul searching [and internet searching] either way.

A book you got from a used book sale:Landline (Rainbow Rowell)

I picked this book up from Vinnies on my way to watching my friend perform in a pole dancing exhibition- thinking about all the books on this list, I realise what a crazy year it’s been. The book was really funny and it wasn’t easy to guess the next move, although it still had a happy ending. I was really pleased with this book.

A book that’s been mentioned in another book: The Sittaford Mystery (Agatha Christie)

Christie has been mentioned in two books I’ve read, so I took the liberty of choosing one to read myself. This plot was kind of scraping the barrel, but still enjoyable.

A book about a difficult topic: I’ll Give You The Sun (Jandy Nelson)

This was recommended to me by a friend, and I was excited as soon as I saw how beautiful the cover was. Thank you to that friend, because I think that was one of the best stories I read this year. It covers a couple of difficult topics, but with a kindness and carefulness that doesn’t seem like the author is being brash. Rather, I felt like I was being led through the story by someone gently holding my hand and showing me all of these beautiful and precious things.

A book based on mythology: The Hobbit

If the guy who finally introduced me to J.R.R. Tolkien reads my blog, thanks. I have been avoiding him for many years [perhaps due to the rivalry between Harry Potter fans and the Lord of The Rings Club]. It was really sweet and mystical. I did try starting the LOTR but it got a bit too serious. I missed my frolicking hobbits.


The Book Store


Today I walked into one of the most beautiful book stores I have ever been in. 

Sometimes book stores just have this aura- this sense that the walls are lined with stories and not just printed pages. I wanted to thumb each spine and read every word. What really caught my eye were these reimagined covers of some old classics. They had gold edged pages and were intricately designed- you could tell someone had really put thought into how to capture the essence of the story and not just rebrand an old tale to sell again. 

It may have been the light pitter patter of rain outside in the dark, or the warm glow of fairy lights- I can be manipulated by atmosphere like any fool. But I think it was more the smell, of new books and the fresh leather goods they had for sale. I think it was the smile of the shop keeper, who left their store open for wanderers like myself. I think it was the sense that this store wasn’t just selling a product but something special, like each book was a present with a surprise inside. 

This is true- when I got in the car, virtually dragged away (by the words “I am parked illegally and will leave without you”), my mum said when I was little I had entered a writing competition in that very book store (and won). I have absolutely no recollection of this. But it is fact that, since I was young, I have loved to read and write. To tell my stories and to make people laugh with them. 

However, receiving stories is just as fun as creating them. Reading books has always been a way to expand my mind, take me places and remind me of a world that is not half bad. A world full of magic and justice and love- although rare in their purest forms, they exist. Good will triumph over evil, the girl will get the guy and the world will keep on spinning, a little better for its heroes. 

And to step inside a book store is to step into a world of possibilities. 

To step inside a good book store is like flying into that world.