2020 Book Challenge Quarter 3: 14 -25

Book Challenge 2020: Quarter 3

Not bad! I’m still very, very behind on my book challenge, but I’ve made up a lot of ground already and am very much enjoying the books I’ve been reading.

This quarter was quite a mix of books! Everything from horror to modern fiction to historical fiction that goes back through Egypt, Florida, and more. Audible had a huge sale at one point, and I renewed my Kindle Unlimited membership, plus I have a digital library card now, so I have a lot of books in my queue and I just keep adding more.

Anyway, this quarter was pretty Audible-heavy since I had a few long bus rides and the aforementioned sale, so next quarter I’m going to make more an effort to read on my Kindle more.

2020 Book Challenge Quarter 3

14. The Last Train to Key West

  • Author: Chanel Cleeton
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: 20th Century Historical Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

As the now infamous 1935 Labor Day Hurricane is approaching Key West, we meet three women who are dealing with their own demons. Mirta Perez has married an American man who seems to be caught up in dangerous business. Elizabeth Preston just wants to find her long lost brother, who’s the only family she has left. And then there’s Key West local, Helen Berner, who’s stuck in an abusive marriage and just wants to get away.

THOUGHTS

I absolutely loved Chanel Cleeton’s Next Year in Havana and When We Left Cuba, so I was super excited to pick up the next book set in that world. I do think we lose a lot in her splitting up the story between three narrators, and I remember not feeling as connected to any of the women or stories as I did with the other two.

I don’t know that I’d recommend going out of my way to read this, but it’s a good book if you’re missing this world Cleeton has created or are interested in Key West’s history. For me, it’s to tide me over until her next book, The Most Beautiful Girl in Havana, is released!

Out of the Silence Book

15. Out of Silence by Eduardo Strauch

  • Authors: Eduardo Strauch with Mireya Soriano
  • Translator: Jennie Erikson
  • How I Read: Kindle (World Book Day)
  • Category: Memoir
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

This memoir is from Eduardo Strauch who was one of the survivors from the Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crash, otherwise known as The Miracle of the Andes.

THOUGHTS

The translation and, presumably, original work are really beautifully written. Strauch looks back at his experience not only surviving the crash and subsequent 72 days of survival in freezing, inhospitable conditions as well as what happened afterwards. But really what much of the book is about is what he’s learned from this crash and how it shaped his outlook on life. A pretty quick read that gives you some interesting food for thought.

16. The Heretic Queen by Michelle Moran

  • Author: Michelle Moran
  • How I Read: Kindle (Book Club)
  • Category: Ancient Egypt Historical Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

As a sort of follow up to Nefertiti, The Heretic Queen is about the famous Nefertari and her rise to becoming one of the most well-known queens of Ancient Egypt as well as her love story with Ramses the Great.

THOUGHTS

Ahhh such a good story! Like Nefertiti, I didn’t know much about Nefertari or even Ramses the Great, except that he was often who biblical scholars pin as the pharaoh from Exodus. First of all, Nefertari and Ramses are some of the best known rulers of Ancient Egypt and this is best seen in real life at Abu Simbel. And what we’ve discovered of their lives from these temples tells us a lot about how much they must have loved each other. Gotta love an epic romance, especially when both characters are quite strong and smart in their own rights!

17. An American Princess: The Many Lives of Allene Tew

  • Author: Annejet van de Zijl
  • Translator: Michele Hutchinson
  • How I Read: Kindle (World Book Day)
  • Category: Biography
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

This book weaves together the complicate life of Allene Tew while introducing readers to what was going on historical through her life, from her birth in 1872’s Wisconsin through her passing in Paris in 1955.

THOUGHTS

Good lord the life of Allene Tew. More than that, I really liked how the author used her story to teach us more about the world of the wealthy from the turn of the century through two world wars and the the fifties. I can’t even imagine how much research van de Zijl did because Allene was hardly a hugely prominent figure. Her life is a bit more obscure, though still very much entwined with big historical figures.

18. Queenie by Candace Carty-Williams

  • Author: Candice Carty-Williams
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Modern Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

Queenie is the titular main character who just can’t seem to quite catch a break. Between stumbling into bad sex with men who don’t deserve her, lingering in a weird limbo of breaking up with her boyfriend, Tom, and feeling listless in her newspaper job, she is, in so many words, not doing well.

THOUGHTS

Ohhhhhh, Queenie. I’ve never wanted to give a fictional character a hug more. Sure, some of her problems arise from very poor decision-making, but others are simply flung at her. She basically has a lot of unresolved issues with her relationship to her race, her relationship to men, and her relationship to her family and friends — all of which she refuses to confront head on. Sometimes I just wanted to shake her and say, “No do NOT have sex with the creepy man who hits on you!”

Someone decided to market this book as a modern Bridget Jones, but I really don’t think the two stories relate much at all. Maybe that they’re both British? I don’t know, but this book delves into much darker topics. While there are some funny moments and Queenie is both a witty and clever narrator, her obstacles throughout the novel won’t exactly leave you giggling.

19. The Flathshare

  • Author: Beth O’Leary
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Modern Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

Tiffy Moore needs a new flat fast. The only problem is that she doesn’t have much money and this is London we’re talking about. On the flip side, Leon Twomey works nights and could use some extra cash to help fight against his brother’s incarceration. When he posts an ad about bed sharing, Tiffy decides to take the leap, and what begins is a friendship built over Post-It notes and text messages!

THOUGHTS

After a stretch of quite a few more serious books, I was definitely looking for a more lighthearted romantic one to enjoy. The Flatshare is one of those romantic books that’s just a bit unrealistic and still real enough you could maybe see it happening to someone! The characters really are so charming, and I enjoyed getting both their point of views. I was cracking up at different parts of the book, especially when they finally meet in person!

20. Truly Madly Guilty

  • Author: Liane Moriarty
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: Modern Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

The book follows three couples in the aftermath of a backyard party that went wrong.

THOUGHTS

I read a Goodreads review that basically said, whoever does the marketing for Liane Moriarty’s books does her a great disservice by trying to make all her books seem like thrillers. I’ve read almost all of them now, and I’d say Big, Little Lies is the only book that comes remotely close to a thriller or mystery novel. Like even the title of this book makes you think something awful and salacious happens at this random party but when the reveal comes, you go, “That’s it?!”

For me, Moriarty is really good at developing characters out of seemingly normal, uninteresting people and making mundane suburbia intriguing. I wish people marketed to those strengths instead of making all her novels seem like a “whodunnit” story. Then I’d be way more receptive to the plot reveals.

21. Cleopatra’s Daughter

  • Author: Michelle Moran
  • How I Read: Kindle (Library)
  • Category: Roman Empire Historical Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

So we all know Cleopatra, but whatever happened to her children? This book follows her only daughter, Selene, as she and her twin brother, Alexander, and their younger brother Ptolemy must move to Rome after their beloved Egypt is taken over by the Roman Empire and both her parents commit suicide.

THOUGHTS

Over all, I liked this story more than I thought I would given that it mostly takes place when Selene is younger (so not much romance lol). The real life Selene is so interesting that I wished the book had been longer and followed her into adulthood! Elissa recommended this other series about her to read and I already have them all on my Kindle.

Also, I’m kind of here for Juba’s Mr. Darcy treatment.

22. The Soul of an Octopus

  • Author: Sy Montgomery
  • How I Read: Audible (Sale)
  • Category: Memoir
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

Sy Montgomery loves octopuses and has taken it upon herself to study and learn about these special but misunderstood creatures.

THOUGHTS

The cover and marketing for this book make it sound way more interesting than it actually was. Like I thought it’d be a book about octopuses, not a book about some person who likes learning about octopuses via an aquarium.

I’m also deeply troubled by the lack of discussion around the ethics of capturing them in the wild to study them in an aquarium, especially as she often mentions behavioral problems in the new additions!

23. The Butterfly Garden

  • Author: Dot Hutchison
  • How I Read: Audible (Kindle Unlimited)
  • Category: Mystery Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

When the FBI discover a garden where girls are kidnapped and tattooed with beautiful, intricate butterfly designs, they must get to the bottom of what the hell happened. Except no one seems to want to talk unless one of the victims, Maya, chooses to tell her story.

THOUGHTS

I remember finishing this book and going, “this is the definition of a beautiful nightmare.” I just… there are no words. I can’t imagine getting kidnapped, tattooed so elaborately, raped constantly, and then just wait to die… Just.

24. Ayesha at Last

  • Author: Uzma Jalaluddin
  • How I Read: Kindle
  • Category: Modern Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

Ayesha is a clever, independent young Muslim woman who just wants to pay her uncle back for his years of generosity, including her recent teaching degree. Khalid is an uber-conservative Muslim man with well-meaning intentions and a warm heart but a terrible habit of sticking his foot in his mouth.

THOUGHTS

Such a cute story! It’s compared to Pride and Prejudice, which I could totally see. Khalid is a very prickly, judgmental-without-meaning-to-be Mr. Darcy and Ayesha is a smart and self-assured Lizzy Bennet. We even have our Lydia in the form of Ayesha’s cousin, Hafsa, who is every bit the spoiled princess.

Sometimes I just wanted to shake Ayesha and tell her, “Hey, man, didn’t you know we opened this book with Khalid staring at you moonily from his window?! Of course he’s in love with you!” And other times, I wanted to shake Khalid and say, “Dude, you have got to relax a bit. You not relaxing is why you keep sticking your foot in your mouth!” But, honestly, that’s why you just love them both and root for them the whole book.

My favorite character, though, is Amir. I appreciate the chaotic good he brought.

25. What the Wind Knows

  • Author: Amy Harmon
  • How I Read: Audible
  • Category: 20th Century Historical Fiction
  • Read Here

QUICK SUMMARY

After losing her beloved grandfather, Anne Gallagher returns to his home in Ireland to spread his ashes, finally visiting after years of being forbidden from the country. Once there she realizes why as she finds herself pulled back through time to 1921 and is mistaken for her great-grandmother who had previously been missing.

THOUGHTS

Autumn has told me to read this book for at least a year now, after she said I should read Amy Harmon’s other book, From Sand and Ash. The book is, of course, a love story, and it bounces between Anne’s POV and Dr. Thomas Smith, who was best friends with Anne’s great-grandparents and acts as a guardian for Owen, her beloved grandfather. Their romance grows slowly as we’re pulled into a tumultuous Ireland as it fights for freedom from England.

I personally loved it, as I’m a sucker for impossible romances. Who knows? Maybe my soulmate is really some guy from the 1800s and when I’m 30-something I too will be pulled back in time. LOL

tips for reading on the road

Here are my tips for reading while traveling! First and foremost, before looking at my recommendations, I’d always check in with your local library to see what they offer. Many libraries these days have digital offers! I do have a library card to mine but I couldn’t figure out the digital part… Working on it next time I’m home.

My main way of “reading” is with Audible. I know listening to books can be kind of a cheat, but oh well. I tend to listen to books at 1.5 to 2x speed and then slow them down if I want to enjoy a book more. I wrote about how much I love Audible here plus tips on how to maximize your membership!

Next I go between my actual Kindle Paperwhite and using the Kindle app on my phone. Love, love, love having a Kindle. Much easier on the eyes and I feel like I can “unplug.” I have a ton of books leftover from past Amazon free book days and I usually get a Kindle Unlimited membership when they have deals. Normally it’s $9.99/month, but you can always try your first month free. They have a surprisingly robust library.

And, of course, once in a while I do manage to bring an actual, physical copy of a book with me or I borrow one from someone. Or, even more likely, I impulse buy from a local bookstore!

I’ve already jumped into Quarter 4, so I can’t wait to write my thoughts on the books I’ve read so far. Lots downloaded to Kindle and Audible, and I also went and saved a bunch of books I want to read about Vietnam! I feel like I’m back in that groove of reading, so here’s to hoping I can actually meet my 52 books goal ;)

Follow:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.