Category Archives: 48 hour book challenge

Hello, again!

So, after a long, mostly unplanned hiatus from blogging, I’ve decided to participate in the 48 Hour Book Challenge.  My start time is 11:11 p.m. on 6/19/15 (a little later than I expected, but here it goes!)

Here’s my TBR pile:

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You may notice these books have a theme: summer.  Since we’re crossing over into that magical season, I thought I would read some books that take place in summer to try to uncover some of its mystery.  I’m aiming for 12 hours this weekend…wish me luck and happy summer!

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YA Book Review: Keep Holding On

Keep Holding On was the first book I picked up for the 48 HBC.  Not because it was the one I wanted to read the most (I didn’t even get to that one sadly…it was Swamplandia!)  I chose it because it looked like a light YA read and I was quite tired after a busy day at work.

As I started reading, I realized that the book was better than I thought it would be.  It was well-written, and best of all, it actually had something to say.  For the book’s main character, Noelle, high school is a constant source of dread.  There are many people who like to look down on her because of her clothes or bully her because she’s poor.  She tries to put up with this daily abuse, but after a while it gets to her.

In my opinion, for Noelle, the challenge becomes following that old serenity prayer:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And wisdom to know the difference.

(couldn’t remember that one myself.  Thanks, wikipedia).

There are certain things in Noelle’s life that she does have control over:  her actions, her reactions, and her general attitude about life.  Other things, unfortunately, she has little say about:  her mother’s unwillingness to take care of her, her best friend’s relationship problems, and the taunts she must endure at school.

This book accurately describes the bully culture and what can happen if it goes too far.  On the brighter side, it also shows that everyone has at least some control over how they are treated.  Noelle’s story is so inspirational and realistic that it comes as no surprise that the author herself was bullied in high school and learned to overcome it.

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Adult Book Review: Bitter in the Mouth

Image from frisbeebookjournal.wordpress.com

I read this book for the 48 HBC challenge, and it is amazing.  I will keep this a spoiler-free review because this is one of those books that has a lot of secrets to reveal, and discovering them is part of what makes this book so good.

The book features beautifully (and in some cases, painfully) flawed, realistic characters.  Linda, the main character, has a rare condition called synesthesia.  It’s almost like wires have crossed in her brain, causing her to taste something when she hears words spoken aloud.  The story is told from Linda’s point of view, and therefore the reader gets to see the world from her unique perspective.  During dialogue, the author attaches the taste associated with each word so we can get an idea of how Linda processes conversation (for example, “Linda” is written “Lindamint” indicating that the taste of mint leaves accompanies the sound of her name).  As you can imagine, reading tastes at the end of most words in a conversation is a little jarring (especially due to the fact that the tastes seem to have little to do with the words).  However, I thought this was a brilliant way to explain Linda’s condition.  It must be jarring for her to have to process a random sequence of tastes everytime she has a simple interaction with someone.

The book also focuses on the topic of family and how we interact with the people who are closest to us.  This book reminded me of The Solace of Leaving Early.  The two books are very different, but both are well-written and focus on characters instead of plot.  By using a character who processes the world in such an interesting way, the book asks questions about the contradictions of human perception.  On the one hand, we all experience life in our own specific way, but on the other hand we all exist in the same world. I have to admit that it took me a while to finish this one, mostly because I wanted to savor the words on the page (no pun intended).

Recommended by:  my Mom 🙂

Recommended for:  Anyone who appreciates a good book focused on character development and family dynamics.

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48 HBC: Finish Line!!!

Wow!  That was quite the weekend.  To check in at the finish line, click here.  Here are my final numbers:

Over the past 48 hours (starting Friday night at 8:00 p.m. and ending tonight at 8:00 p.m.) I have:

Read for 14 hours and 12 minutes

Listened to an audiobook for 11 hours and 32 minutes

Networked (reading and commenting on other participants’ blogs) for 1 hour and 18 minutes

Blogged for 3 hours and 31 minutes

for a GRAND TOTAL of 30 hours and 33 minutes.

During some of my blogging time, I was writing reviews for the books I finished.  Here is the schedule for those reviews:

Monday, June 11 at 12:oo p.m. :  Bitter in the Mouth

Wednesday, June 13 at 12:00 p.m. : Perfect

Thursday, June 14 at 12:00 p.m. : Keep Holding On

In addition to these books, I also finished Tina’s Mouth and finished listening to The Abstinence Teacher, which brings my book total to 4 print books and 1 audiobook.  During the last hour of the challenge I started Made for You and Me by Caitlin Shetterly (thanks for the recommendation, Cam 🙂 ).  I won’t count it, considering I just just started it, but I love it so far.

I pledged myself 50 cents per hour read and donated $20 to Reading is Fundamental (I rounded up).

This was a great experience and I hope I have time to participate next year!  Thanks again for everyone’s help, especially to you, Mom, for helping my system for keeping track of time spent reading go from this:

 

This is my original system for keeping track of hours (or minutes)…a little crazy to say the least!

 

to this:

 

A much better system! (Note: The circled time here that says total reflects the total at that time, not the final total).

Happy Reading, everyone!  I’m off to have a shower and go to sleep…maybe we should do a sleep-a-thon next weekend, who’s with me? 🙂

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48 HBC Update #4

It’s time for an overdue update.  I have now finished Tina’s Mouth:  An Existential Comic Diary.  For a project for her high school Existentialism Class, Tina writes letters to Jean-Paul Sartre, asking for advice about how to live authentically.  I loved this book, because I have a personal interest in existentialism, and I strongly believe that Philosophy should be part of a student’s education from elementary school up through high school.  Also, on a purely aesthetic note, the cover is this saturated shade of turquoise blue that I find very beautiful.

Photo from bookworm1858.blogspot.com

Also, I finished The Abstinence Teacher, and I know I’m fond of this phrase, but it was The Best Book Ever (in this case, The Best Audiobook Ever).  I plan to write a review and post it later in the week.  I listened to this book while taking a hike in Acadia.  It was a beautiful day, and surprisingly not a very busy one.  The numerous bubbling brooks and mini-waterfalls caught my attention today:

 

So, thus far into the challenge, I have read/listened/blogged/networked for a total of 26 hours and 56 minutes (not counting the networking/blogging time that’s happening right now).  I have read a total of 3 books and listened to one audiobook.  My goal is to reach over 30 hours, and if I stay strong until 8:00 p.m., I think I can reach it 🙂

I plan to finish Bitter in the Mouth and also take some time to write up reviews (still haven’t done any of that yet).  Happy reading to everyone who is working on this challenge and thank you to everyone who has helped me out and encouraged me this weekend!

 

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48 HBC Update #3

***CAUTION:  SOME SPOILERS AHEAD***

I finally finished book #2!  It was Perfect by Ellen Hopkins.  I had never read anything by her before, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

 

Image from frisbeebookjournal.wordpress.com

I must admit, at this point, my mind is kind of mushy in terms of functioning with people in the real world.  I can still get caught up in the stories, even though I’m reading/listening to three at the same time, the plot points seem to blend together.  The more I read in this fashion (about 20 minutes of Bitter in the Mouth, then roughly 30 minutes of Perfect, then a couple stolen moments of The Abstinence Teacher and then repeat the cycle) I couldn’t help but see some similarities between the stories.  As I mentioned before, it’s tricky to keep each character in his/her book, especially if characters in different books share the same name.  This is a likely commonality, especially considering that the names in question are common themselves (like Bobby or Sarah).

In a more general sense, the three books all feature flawed characters and their relationships (with each other, with themselves, and with the world at large).  I guess you could say this of all books.  With this thought in mind, it doesn’t seem unrealistic to confuse certain characters.  In theory, why couldn’t one of them “jump ship” and play a part in another book? 

Cover of "The Abstinence Teacher"

Cover of The Abstinence Teacher

One of the troubled teens from Perfect could mask his drug problem from the world until he goes off the deep end and then find Jesus and ultimately ends up as the recovered drug addict in The Abstinence Teacher (well, he would also need to have a talent for creative time travel:  in this scenario, he would be 18 in 2012 and then in his early 40’s in 2007…)

My point is that no matter how “original” a story seems, it has more in common with the rest of the books on the shelf than might be evident at first glance.  I don’t think this is a bad thing, I think it indicates that there are far more universal themes in the world that we realize.  The ones that immediately come to mind for most of us are love, hate, competition, betrayal-these things seem primal and instinctive, so of course everyone can relate to them.  But, I would argue that little things can strike a chord with everyone, too, but perhaps in a more subtle way.  These themes are more difficult to identify because their manifestation comes in many forms. 

For example, in Perfect, Kendra, an aspiring model with an eating disorder, constantly compares her body to her sister Jenna’s curvy figure.  Her sister seems to have no reservations about eating whatever she likes and this infuriates Kendra, who is starving to death for a chance on the runway.  In The Abstinence Teacher, Ruth decides to do something completely spontaneous and out of character because she longs to “catch-up” with her older, more experienced sister.  And, in Bitter in the Mouth, Linda measures her teenage life by the behavior of her best friend, who is flirtatous and spends most of her time trying to attract a boy’s attention.  In all three relationships, the girls are defining who they are by comparison-in a sense determining who they are by carving away what they are not.  Kendra is not comfortable in her own skin like Jenna.  Ruth is not her sister’s equal until she loses her virginity.  Linda is not in her best friend’s social circle, and also can’t bring herself to sell out in order to be accepted.

Image from goodreads.com

Isn’t this what we do everyday?  We look to others to be our mirrors both through their behaviors and their reaction to our behaviors.  The reflection gives us information about who we are and who we are not.  Both sets of information seem to prove invaluable to constructing a complete self-image. 

Ellen Hopkins stressed in an Author’s Note at the end of Perfect that everyone should strive to develop their own inner beauty and appreciate others’ unique perfection.  Her book focuses on the horrible things that can happen if people feel that they are not enough.  Although I agree that teenagers especially are suseptible to insecurities brought up by comparing themselves to others, but I think the truth is that these mirrors are all around us and we can’t avoid them-they are an integral aspect of human perception. 

The reflected image is not always straightforward, in fact it’s often fraught with contradiction.  To use an example outlined above, Kendra works hard to reach a size two, which she believes to be the ultimate female form.  She tortures her body to attain this goal, all the while seeing her sister eat whatever she wants, and still draw attention to her size 10 frame.  The message here is that confidence is attractive, not size.  Kendra may have the “perfect body” but she has none of the self assuredness that makes her sister so charasmatic and appealing.  The mirrors that others hold up for us to see won’t necessarily give us clear, simple answers, but they can give us clues into our own psyches.

We can choose how we react to the reflections we see.  And if we can choose to see the mirrors for what they are-a way to perceive, not a constant source of judgment, maybe we can start to appreciate the image reflected back to us as a method for understanding ourselves and the world.

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48 HBC Update #2

Whew!  What a day of reading.  Strangely enough, I have not finished a second book yet, although I’ve been reading/blogging/networking for a little over 14 hours.  At the end of this thing, I will sit down with my notes and break down the time in terms of reading, listening, blogging and networking.  I don’t have the energy (or capacity for partial hour math) at the moment.

I’ve going between my two current books and the audio.  So far, this has been a lot of fun, although I have to give myself “permission” to read what I feel like reading (even if that means going back and forth between different books).  No problem with that, so far, but I have confused the three storylines a couple of times (they all have a couple of themes and characters’ names in common).  My goal is to finish both print books tonight and save the rest of the audio for the Acadia hike tomorrow 🙂

So far, I’ve spent most of the day outside on the deck, watching an eagle circle above and being thrilled to hear/see a hummingbird land on the feeder right next to my chair for a quick snack.  (All bird watching was done while I listened to The Abstinence Teacher).

Photo from momsofcapemay.com

The weather in Ellsworth has been perfect today-nice and sunny.  After a week of rainy, ho-hum weather, it was pure joy to soak up some rays.  In fact, I think I’ll head back out for some afternoon sun while I try to finish at least one of these two books.  Sunbathing (with SPF) and reading is my ultimate multitask combination 🙂

 

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