The reading challenge goes astray in February and March

It’s a good thing I got a HUGE head start in January, because things got a little sidetracked in February and March. I blame Hawaii.

Am I the only avid reader who can’t seem to concentrate on reading while travelling via car, airplane, etc.? You’d think that during the 24 hours+ of flying to Hawaii I’d at least read ONE book. Nope. Nada. Zilch.

I’m caught up now on my 2015 Reading Challenge. Here’s what I read.

Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov


Quick summary

Humbert Humbert – scholar, aesthete and romantic – has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady’s gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love. Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust.

Book challenge requirement: A classic “romance.” Ew.

Three-line review

This book was thoroughly disturbing. I longed to be back in an English lit class talking about how awful and dirty and intriguing I found this whole thing to be. And yet the most beautifully written book, ever.


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou

i know why

Quick summary

Sent by their mother to live with their devout, self-sufficient grandmother in a small Southern town, Maya and her brother, Bailey, endure the ache of abandonment and the prejudice of the local “powhitetrash.” At eight years old and back at her mother’s side in St. Louis, Maya is attacked by a man many times her age—and has to live with the consequences for a lifetime. Years later, in San Francisco, Maya learns that love for herself, the kindness of others, her own strong spirit, and the ideas of great authors (“I met and fell in love with William Shakespeare”) will allow her to be free instead of imprisoned.

Book challenge requirement: A memoir.

Three-line review

Good grief, Angelou is a beautiful writer. Why did this book have to end? That’s why I gave it four stars. Because I’m not really sure why it ended.


A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

a tree grows

Quick summary

The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness.

Book challenge requirement: A popular author’s first book.

Three-line review

I’m 100% a complete sucker for long life stories. I loved following little Francie’s life from toddler to teen. Also a fascinating look at Brooklyn in the early 1900s. I loved all the characters in this book.


American Gods – Neil Gaiman

american gods

Quick summary

Days before his release from prison, Shadow’s wife, Laura, dies in a mysterious car crash. Numbly, he makes his way back home. On the plane, he encounters the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, who claims to be a refugee from a distant war, a former god and the king of America.

Together they embark on a profoundly strange journey across the heart of the USA, whilst all around them a storm of preternatural and epic proportions threatens to break.

Book challenge requirement: A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet

Three-line review

I…didn’t love this book as much as Gaiman’s other books. DON’T HATE ME WORLD. I just didn’t LOVE it. I was confused for so much of it. Why? I’m mad at myself since people talk so highly of this book. People I trust.


Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walter

beautiful ruins

Quick summary

The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.

And the story begins again today, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot—searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier.

Book challenge requirements: A book with antonyms in the name

Three-line review

This was a beautiful read, and Walter is exceptionally talented, but the million + viewpoints was a little unbearable at times. Still, I was hooked from page one, and couldn’t put it down for long.


  • April 05 2015

    Looks like I have some books to add to my list!

    I just finished reading ‘Not That Kind of Girl!’ I promise you’d knock it over in a few days because it’s so funny, gripping and relatable!

  • April 06 2015

    Good for you! i’m the same way… concentrating while flying/driving is a bit of a challenge.

  • April 06 2015

    I actually got sick while reading on a very long bus ride- felt like sea sickness. Maybe ferry boats are a better place to read! Who can read on a plane anyhow, when u r surrounded by so many interesting stories, right?

    • April 09 2015

      That’s what I figure! I just wanna people watch, haha. I’m so happy I don’t get motion sickness while reading in the car — that’s rough

  • April 09 2015
  • April 09 2015
    Maggie BB

    I read on planes no problem, in cars is hit or miss. Sometimes I get really sleepy in cars and can’t keep my eyes open. Sometimes I get nauseous from reading.

    I haven’t read “American Gods” yet either, and now I’m a bit worried to…

    • April 10 2015

      You might like it more than me, I think you appreciate fantasty/sci-fi more than I do!

  • April 27 2015

    Book goals. We’ve seen that damn blue “Beautiful Ruins” books all of the place! Happy to finally see your opinion! 1962 Italy sounds good to us.

    • May 06 2015

      Hahaha really?! This was the first time I’d heard of it. It totally makes me wanna go to Italy.

  • February 24 2016

    ‘scuse me while I dust off this thread to mention that I was also underwhelmed by American Gods. Great characters, great idea for a story, but it never compelled me to keep reading.

    So don’t fear the anger of the world—or have you found a reason to LOVE American Gods over the last year, and now I’m the one who should feel bad?

    • February 26 2016

      Ha, I haven’t! Definitely wasn’t one of my most memorable books last year.

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