Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge 2017 – May Update

I am seriously behind on my Goodreads Challenge. I blame working on my novel. But since I made the first post about Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, I fulfilled a major dream and became a Book Riot Contributor! And yet, that gives me less time to read. Ha!

Anyway, here’s an update on my Read Harder progress.

 

  1. Read a book about sports. – Lord of Misrule by Jaime Gordon
  2. Read a debut novel. – Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
  3. Read a book about books. – The Emotional Craft of Fiction by Donald Maass (This totally counts imo!)
  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. – I have several on my TBR.
  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
  6. Read an all-ages comic.
  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
  8. Read a travel memoir.
  9. Read a book you’ve read before. – The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. – UGH this one is hard. Their Eyes Were Watching God would count. So would Paper Towns. But I’ve read those, and I don’t like rereading!
  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. – Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
  12. Read a fantasy novel. – Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
  14. Read a book about war.
  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
  17. Read a classic by an author of color.
  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead.
  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel – I need a rec for this, please!
  21. Read a book published by a micropress. – This weird thing.
  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman.
  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love.
  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. – The Sellout by Paul Beatty

 

So I may need some recommendations… I have ideas for about half of them.

Writers’ Homes: A Phenomenon

In the summer of 2016, my cousin (a fellow book nerd) and I journeyed to Key West to visit the home of Ernest Hemingway. A bizarro heat cloaked the whole day. We saw dozens Hemingway lookalikes on the street. There was a contest apparently, but knowing that didn’t take away from the feeling of surrealism. It was the heat, I told myself. The heat turned the tour group chatty as we petted the cat perched on the great writer’s bed. A mother said to her son that people would tour their house like this someday. That made me chuckle. He must have been a writer, especially from the way he shrunk from the volume of her voice.

That mother’s words got me thinking how strange this all was. There we were, twenty strangers touring a dead guy’s house, petting the six-toed descendant of his cat, marveling at the authentic bathroom fixtures (even the urinal in his garden). I was the only English teacher among us. Of the people I talked to, there were a few students, a postal worker, and a nurse. I knew why I was there: to experience and tell my students about it when I go back. But why were they?

Of course there are Hollywood tours, but most of them seem to focus on pointing out houses and hoping for celebrity sightings. On others, you can tour the sites of famous deaths and murders. Then there are homes famous for their architecture like the Biltmore. Historical residences like Mount Vernon bring the past to life. They also memorialize figures in our country’s collective imagination.

Writers, especially the greats like Hemingway, tend to be elevated to monolithic proportions. These writers, they are not like us mortal beings. You see, this is where they worked their magic. This is where Hemingway slept. This is where Hemingway coached boxing. This is where Hemingway sat to read. Look how glamorous his life was.

Wait. There is no air conditioning. His wife took out all the fans to put up chandeliers. Hemingway probably sweat like we were sweating. Hemingway was a human despite his miraculous gift (and hard work) with words. People tour writers’ homes to see writers both ways. They want a little bit of the mystical to slough off on their lives, but they also want to witness the mundanities, hence our fascination with Hemingway’s toilet.

LITSY A-TO-Z READING CHALLENGE – May Update

My life has been so crazy full this year. I am unbelievably behind on my Goodreads reading challenge. I think I’ll make it up. Maybe? I’m also participating in the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, which I’ll write an update post on soon.

Another challenge I’m participating in this year is the Litsy A-to-Z challenge. There are a few options for that one, but the one I’m choosing is this: read 26 books, each with an author whose last name starts with a different letter. If you’re on Litsy, follow me: @becky_renner, and click this link to join in the fun.

Here are the books I have read so far:

A-

B- Borsuk, Amaranth – Between Page and Screen

C- Cluess, Jessica – A Shadow Bright and Burning

D-

E- Engel, Patricia – Veins of the Ocean

F- Fitzgerald, F. Scott – The Great Gatsby

G- Garber, Stephanie – Caraval; Gordon, Jaimy – Lord of Misrule

H- Hartnett, Annie – Rabbit Cake

I-

J- Johansen, Erika – The Queen of the Tearling; James, Vic – Gilded Cage

K- Kendi, Ibram X. – Stamped from the Beginning

L- Le Guin, Ursula – Steering the Craft

M- Meyer, Marissa – Cinder

N- Novik, Naomi – Uprooted

O-

P- Poreba, Christine – Rough Knowledge; Patchett, Ann – Bel Canto

Q- Queneau, Raymond – Exercises in Style

R-

S- Saunders, George – Lincoln in the Bardo; Solnit, Rebecca – Men Explain Things to Me; Smiley, Jane – Horse Heaven (currently reading)

T-

U-

V-

W-

X-

Y- Yanagihara, Hanya – A Little Life

Z-

 

Somehow I’ve done 15/26. I have a list of other potential books I may read here. But who knows what I’ll end up reading.

Want to try the challenge yourself? Join the fun here.

Book List: Five Horse Books to Get You Hyped for the Kentucky Derby

When I was a baby, my dad ran a horse farm in Ocala, FL, and my mom trained racehorses. They first put me on a horse before I could walk. My earliest memories include the slough of horse hair on my mother’s jeans from riding bareback and the sway of the horse’s shoulders as we rode under mossy live oaks. Even after we left the farm and headed for the coast, horses remained a staple of my imagination. They were wild, majestic, magical, and free. Horse books like Misty of Chincoteague and The Black Stallion fluttered through my hands again and again. I blame these books for igniting my love of reading.

I plowed through all the horse books for kids (Saddle Club, anyone? I was totally obsessed.), and started to crave longer reads with more tangled stories. In other words, I was growing up. But that didn’t mean I wanted to leave horse books behind. To my surprise, there aren’t nearly as many horse books for adults. So now I’m writing one.

Here are five books that inspired me:

The most recent entry on the list, The Sport of Kings (2016) by C. E. Morgan follows an old Kentucky horse-racing family from the birth of their horse farm to racing for the roses. A doorstopper of a book that leaves no detail untold, The Sport of Kings is nonetheless a must-read for any horse lover.

And now for something completely different: Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon will completely dismantle your conceptions of what it is to be a novel. Capturing the seedy side of horse racing, Gordon’s 2010 National Book Award Winner is 100% voice-driven. I can hear every character when I read. It’s extraordinary! A word of caution: this book is very literary and not for the casual reader. The perspective is sometimes so close to the viewpoint character that the narrative will be difficult to understand if you don’t know anything about horse racing.

Lyrical and dark, Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses tells the story of a young Texas rancher who sets off on a journey to Mexico across the kind of wide-open spaces that make McCarthy famous. All the Pretty Horses won the National Book Award in 1993.

Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand is one of my all-time favorite books. The movie staring Tobey Maguire brought my grandmother, a long-time equestrian and the owner of my parents’ horse farm, to tears. At seventeen years old, she had cheered from the stands as Seabiscuit faced War Admiral in their iconic 1938 clash at Pimlico. Basically: I love this book, and I want to read it again and again.

(Side note: one of her daughters, my aunt, was bitten by Secretariat, but that’s a story for another time.)

Finally, the book I’m currently reading is Horse Heaven by Jane Smiley, who won the Pulitzer Prize for A Thousand Acres in 1992. My first impression with this book was: dear God, what have I gotten myself into?! It’s quite a brick. But I love horse racing, and I can’t get enough horse racing books. There’s just this strange beauty and mystery about horse racing, and so far, Horse Heaven does not disappoint.

I can’t wait until my book makes it onto this list. I should be finishing the rough draft in the next few days (or weeks), and then I’ll get down to the arduous task of editing.

Book Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Vic James’s debut dystopic fantasy, Gilded Cage, blends the magic of Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen and the well-known squalor of The Hunger Games with a relatable cast of characters and vast plot that reminds me of A Song of Ice and Fire.

In the world of Gilded Cage, not everyone is created Equal. Most aristocrats wield astonishing magical powers in addition to their powers of wealth, governance, and prestige. The common folk are kept down by a law that requires them to complete their “slave days,” ten years of brutal servitude beneath the rule of the Equals. But the commoners can’t cower forever. In Gilded Cage, they begin to realize the strength in their numbers and how oppression steels people who were once soft.

Gilded Cage is characterized by layers. In the way of the best works of fantasy literature, the reader comes away with the impression that they have only read the very surface. The characters seem real. They all have hopes, passions, and dreams. Even those who might be villains have a positive side.

In all, Gilded Cage left me with the impression that there is so much more that this world has to offer. I applaud James for hooking me, and I can’t wait for the next installment of the Dark Gifts series.

*Disclaimer: An ARC of this book was furnished through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.


Interested in my book reviews? Please read my review policy.

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Fahrenheit 2017

This post was originally published on obraartifact.com.

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” – Ray Bradbury

 

My students groaned when I passed out the books.

“I thought you said we weren’t reading another novel,” said the kid in front.

“I was wrong,” I said. “We’re reading this one because I think it’s important with everything that’s happening these days. Like how we just studied fake news.”

They lazed in their chairs. A guy down front took a pull on his Dunkin Donuts latte, eyeing me like he couldn’t decide if I was up to no good.

“What’s it about?” he asked. Continue reading

More than Weirdness Machines: The Inequality of Hurricanes in Fiction

I wrote this post right after Hurricane Matthew, but my life was so scrambled that it never got posted. The following are my belated thoughts on hurricanes in fiction.


Like many of my fellow Floridians, I evacuated for Hurricane Matthew. As I’m writing this, it’s been nearly a week since it hit. I’m still without power. I’m sitting in Denny’s, basking in the Wi-Fi, and thinking about how in my 26 years (in other words, my life) in Florida, hurricanes have always acted as weirdness machines.

Aftermath carries a bizarre glow, a strange cast to the sky. Oddities have been shaken out of hiding. Strangers carry on conversations, empathize and sympathize, never to see each other again. Matthew sent me to hunker with my cousin and his wife in Ocala, where I saw a letter-board outside a hunting outpost that read “Remember Lot’s Wife.” Driving home, a man dressed half in Army fatigues and half in Confederate gray uniform crossed the road in front of my car. I have found stray shot glasses in my yard after a storm not once but twice. Continue reading

Six Oscar-Nominated Movies Based on Books

This year, the Academy Awards will air on February 26th this year. Several of the movies nominated are based on books or stories.

mv5bmtexmzu0odcxndheqtjeqwpwz15bbwu4mde1oti4mzay-_v1_sy1000_cr006401000_al_Arrival (2016) is the story of an alien arrival on planet Earth and the linguistics professor, played by Amy Adams, who endeavors to interpret the language of the alien visitors.

Arrival is nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Production Design.

Arrival is based on Ted Chiang’s Nebula-winning novella “Story of Your Life.” You can read this and other stories in his collection Stories of Your Life and Others.

Continue reading

Book Giveaway!

Hello lovely people of Internetlandia,

I’m doing my first book giveaway. It’s hosted on rafflecopter, and you can enter to win one of these beautiful books:

It’s going until January 31st. Click here to enter!

My Top Five Favorite Novels of 2016

I have read a lot of books this year (124 as of today), some of them amazing, some of them egregiously bad. These are my top five favorite novels I read this year.

vegetarian-coverOn its surface, The Vegetarian by Han Kang is a deeply disturbing story of a woman’s descent into madness. But don’t let the surface fool you. At its core, this novel is about the rules for femininity that confine Korean society. I highly recommend The Vegetarian by Han Kang. It’s astonishing (but tight!) prose and highly significant subject matter would make it the perfect book for readers of literary fiction and maybe even for book clubs that want to push the envelope and spark discussion. Read the rest of my review. Continue reading