Friday, 31 January 2014

Heat and Dust

Finished January 30
Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala

This novel won the Booker Prize in 1975. It has two story lines. One occurs in 1923 in colonial India in the town of Satipur and the nearby Khatm. The other occurs in the present (1970s) also in Satipur.
In 1923, Olivia has come to join her new husband Douglas who works as an assistant commissioner. During one social event Olivia meets the Nawab of Khatm and becomes fascinated with him, and the Nawab begins to visit her regularly and send his car for her to come and visit him. Staying with the Nawab is Harry, a young Englishman who doesn't seem to know whether he wants to stay or return to England. Olivia is bored with the other English wives and flattered by the attentions of the Nawab, but her actions soon lead he to a choice that will change her life forever.
In the 1970s, Douglas' granddaughter has gotten hold of Olivia's story, through her letters home to her sister and the reminiscences of her grandmother and great aunt and others. She has brought the letters with her to India to see India for herself and tell Olivia's story. But she falls into actions reminiscent of those of Olivia and must make her own choices and follow her own story.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches

Finished January 28
The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle

This is the sixth and most recent book in the series featuring 11-year old Flavia de Luce. Here is it spring 1951, shortly before Flavia turns twelve, and she is waiting with her family for her mother's body to be returned home. Her mother disappeared in the Himalayas when Flavia was a baby and she has no memories of her mother, something she deeply regrets.
A couple of encounters on the train platform as they meet the funeral train redirect Flavia's detecting instincts. One of them is a stranger who approaches her with a cryptic message to pass to her father, and who is shortly thereafter pushed under the moving train. The other is a face-to-face meeting with former prime minister Winston Churchill, who makes a private comment to her, one that triggers a memory of a similar phrase Flavia had recently encountered elsewhere.
A couple of new de Luce family members have shown up for this homecoming, a cousin and her young daughter. Flavia responds to them in a territorial way and isn't sure whether they are to be trusted.
As the body of Flavia's mother lies in the house awaiting the funeral the following day, Flavia makes a plan, based in chemistry of course, to reconnect with her mother and prove her own worth. But things turn out differently than she expected and she encounters hidden depths in her family history heretofore unsuspected.
This time will change Flavia's life and redirect her future. An immensely satisfying episode in the series and I hope to see more of Flavia as she moves into her life.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

The Story of Beautiful Girl

Finished January 25
The Story of Beautiful Girl by Rachel Simon

This book was written to highlight the sad history of state homes for developmentally delayed adults and those with disabilities. The author's sister Beth had an intellectual disability and that made Simon interested in the history of society's treatment of these individuals.
This novel begins in 1968 when retired schoolteacher Martha has a knock on the door of her remote farmhouse on a rainy night. She opens the door to Lynnie and Homan who have escaped from the Pennsylvania State School for the Incurable and Feebleminded, as it was known at that time. They also have with them Lynnie's newborn baby. Martha takes them in, clothes and feeds them, but unfortunately the authorities aren't far behind and are soon also knocking on Martha's door. They take Lynnie back to the School, but Homan makes a successful run for it, and the authorities seem to have no knowledge of the baby's existence. Lynnie's please to Martha to "hide her" rings of desperation and Martha struggles with the right thing to do.
Martha was an inspiring teacher and she has a number of former students to come back to visit her. Now, she is the one going to them, for advice, for assistance, and for shelter as she follows Lynnie's instruction, and raises the child she has quickly grown to love.
Lynnie resumes her old life back at the school, and one of the staff Kate, that has been close to her, discovers her situation regarding the baby and struggles with whether to inform others or not. With Lynnie's confiding pictures, Kate follows the trail to Martha's house and finds support to keep the secret for both Lynnie and the baby's sake.
Homan, meanwhile is on the run once again. Misunderstood and prejudiced against the young deaf man struggles to understand the world he lives in and find a place in it.
Neither Homan nor Lynnie forget the other and both hope to one day find a way back to each other.
Of course over the course of time, society's role in the lives of these marginalized people changes as well as the maltreatment of them becomes more widely known and changes are made to help them rather than just hide them from view.
A moving tale of love, societal change, and perseverance.

A Month of Letters

After seeing another participant in the Postal Reading Challenge commit to this endeavor, I decided to join as well. As she said it fits perfectly with the Reading Challenge, and as I love so to get personal mail, I will let others in on that pleasure.

The host says 23 days as she skips Sundays and statutory holidays, but our post offices are open Sundays and letter boxes are available at all times, so I see no reason to skip any days. Maybe it will get me out for a walk as well. As I said in my Postal Reading Challenge posting, I bought a box of literary postcards that will serve as a source for many of my mailings, but I also have a large collection of postcards from other sources and cards that I have picked up just because I like them.
I may even renew my membership to the Letter Writers Alliance.

This should be fun. Bring on February.

Postal Reading Challenge - Mail

I have been trying harder this year to get on board with writing more cards and letters.
So far this month, I have sent three cards, and two packages with cards in them, so not doing too badly.
I received my first challenge-related card this week.

It is a lovely card of a textile art work by Jane Jackson, perfect for my love of needlework. The stamps have a textile theme as well.
Still haven't read any books for this challenge though, so better go through my pile and dig out some of the ones I know are there.

Bigfoot Dreams

Finished January 23
Bigfoot Dreams by Francine Prose

This unusual novel follows Vera, a single mother living in New York City and working at a tabloid called This Week. Vera writes stories about outlandish creatures, weird occurrences and the unbelievable. She makes all the stories up. Her brain is constantly thinking up lurid headlines for everything she observes and lately she has been dreaming about Bigfoot befriending her and letting her see where he lives. One day the paper's photographer gives her a picture he took and Vera makes up a story about the picture, choosing names and ages for the kids portayed, names for the parents, and a profession for the father. And against all odds, the match the family's true identity. so the family is suing the paper, and Vera's job is in jeopardy.
Her daughter Rosie is at the age where she is starting to be interested in boys, as well as starting to not share everything with her mother.Vera's husband Lowell is a wanderer and dreamer and although they are still married and care about each other and Rosie, he lives out in California, so it is a surprise when he turns up one day. He seems to slide effortlessly back into their lives, but it is only temporary.
The issue with the story makes Vera look harder at her life, her losses and her gains, her skills, and she takes advantage of a connection to the American Cryptobiological Society to explore her Bigfoot Dreams more closely, and come to terms with her reality.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much

Finished January 22
The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession by Allison Hoover Bartlett, read by Judith Brackley

This book I picked to fulfill one of my reading challenges for the year, a book on True Crime. Of course, I had to pick one with a literary slant!
Bartlett is a freelance journalist who grew interested in the world of book theft when a friend was left a book as part of an estate that came with an instruction to return it to its rightful owner. The task wasn't as easy as she might have thought, and it led her to wonder who stole books and why. This led her to the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America (the ABAA) and bookseller Ken Sanders, who took his job as security officer for the organization seriously, setting up online alerting processes and other tools to help quickly disseminate information about stolen books and people suspected of such crimes. Sanders told her about the different types of thieves: those who steal for profit, those who steal for a specific purpose, and those who steal for love.
This led her to John Charles Gilkey, a man who has stolen hundreds of rare books from book sellers across the United States, seemingly for love. Gilkey rarely resells his books, although he doesn't necessarily steal them to read either. He steals them for the image of himself owning rare books of literary merit portrays to him, that of an esteemed gentleman. He is a charming, polite conman and came up with innovative ways to steal the books that he thought "it wasn't fair" that he couldn't afford. His methods and the fact he didn't resell them often are what made him harder to catch.
But Sanders was instrumental in catching him, and when Bartlett approached him in jail, he was willing to talk. However after a while, she began to realize that instead of merely telling the story, she was becoming part of it, and had to consciously take a step back and remove herself from it to complete this book.
Her book explores the reasons people steal, the world of rare books and book collectors, and the temptations within that world.
A very interesting book.

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Reading Bingo Challenge

Reading Bingo Challenge (Thanks to Random House)

Came across this challenge from Random House and couldn't resist. 
They have a YA version as well:

so I'll go for it as well.
For both, I will try to get as many as I can.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Drawing Conclusions

Finished January 20
Drawing Conclusions by Donna Leon

This novel is a quieter story than many of hers, with less food. (And usually the lovely food is one of the draws for this series.) Here, a young woman, Signora Giusti has returned home early from a trip to meet her fiance's family and certain things don't seem right about her downstairs neighbour, Signora Altavilla, not responding to her calls or knocks. She goes to use her key to see what is wrong and finds the door unlocked and, after going into the living area, finds her neighbour dead on the floor, with blood near her head.
It is the blood that decides her to call the police, and thus Guido Brunetti enters the story.
The autopsy shows that the woman died of a heart attack, and yet Brunetti can't help but feel that isn't the whole story. There are the marks on her neck, and the nails on the wall.
As Brunetti progresses in the case he gets the helpful assistance of Signorina Elettra in gathering information and his search leads to an organization that helps victims of domestic abuse, and a luxury nursing home.
His case makes him miss more than one lunch at home, but he finds the consolation of his loving wife and some champagne before dinner make up for it.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Reconstructing Amelia

Finished January 18
Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight

This is an amazing novel about a subject that is very "in the news" right now, bullying and its effect on teens. Kate is a lawyer and single mother. Her daughter Amelia is 15 and goes to a private school with a good reputation. The two have a pretty good relationship despite Kate's long hours and the time they spend together is very much quality time.
But one day Kate gets a call from the school that Amelia is suspended and she rushes to the school. But by the time she gets there, Amelia is dead, seemingly having jumped from the school's roof. Following her initial grief, Kate struggles for answers and despite the police's initial investigation, doesn't believe Amelia killed herself. It is an anonymous text message that says simply "Amelia didn't jump" that triggers her to step back from her grief and look for what was going on in Amelia's life. Tracking her email, text messages, Facebook interactions and other clues, Kate finds that she missed a lot of what was going on in Amelia's life recently.
This book really shows how the online world and the anonymity that it can create allows bullying in a different form than what existed when I was young. This book is sad and shocking, but reads like something that actually happened. By the end, I was weeping.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

A Jew Must Die

Finished January 17
A Jew Must Die by Jacques Chessex, translated by W. Donald Wilson

This short novel is based on a true story. On April 16, 1942 a group of five men led by Fernand Ischi lures a man to a stable in the Swiss village of Payerne, kill him and dismember his body.
Ischi is a man unhappy with his own life, who has eagerly come under the influence of a pro-Nazi clergyman and is eager to prove himself and send a message to the Jews in his community of what he believes will soon come to them all. He has found eager assistants in two brothers who have lost their own-mismanaged farm and thus resent those farmers and the men who buy their product, the brothers' farmhand who follows them blindly, and the apprentice mechanic from Ischi's family's garage. Ischi's character is shown to us also in his relationship with women, as despite having a wife and two children, he engages in affairs, including a sadistic one with a very young woman. We see him for what he is: a man hungry for power and revenge, with a deluded sense of his own worth and entitlements.
The author of this book grew up in Payerne and was eight years old at the time this murder took place. He went to school with Ischi's daughter, the son of the local policeman, and the son of the judge that presided over the murder trials. Part of this story is his own reaction to the events and why he felt compelled to share them in this book, decades later. Chessex is one of Switzerland's most famous writers and has won both the Prix Goncourt and the French Literature Grand Prix of the Académie Française.

Sense and Sensibility

Finished January 16
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, read by Wanda McCaddon

This is a classic that somehow I'd never got around to reading. I picked this copy up at a library conference a couple of years back and really enjoyed the MP3, having the whole book on one CD made it easy.
And it even includes an ebook version of the book, useful for going back and checking on stuff (like when you are writing reviews ;-) ).
The novel follows the Dashwoods, and begins as old Mr. Dashwood passes away. The old man had never married, and had recently had his nephew Henry Dashwood's family living with him, as Henry was who was the intended heir. They were not only living with him in hopes but also through genuine goodwill and the relationship was happy on all sides. But the old man had more recently taken a shine to Henry's son by his first marriage, and his young grandson by him, and surprised all by leaving the estate to them, giving Henry only a life interest. Unfortunately for Henry's more recently family he didn't outlive his old uncle by many months, leaving his second wife and his daughters with little financial cushion to keep them up. The son, John Dashwood soon arrived with his family and showed little of the goodwill and generosity of his father, giving little real support to his stepmother and half-sisters, although perhaps he may have done more but for his wife's attitude towards sharing, which was to not do it unless compelled.
Luckily for Mrs. Dashwood and her three daughters, a cousin some distance away offered them a cottage on his estate for a modest rent and once the removed themselves there, involved them to a large degree in his social life.
The book's title is a play on the two aspects of character, sense and sensibility, and which of the characters has what amount of each quality. The majority of the novel follows the two eldest daughters Elinor and Marianne. Elinor has both qualities with sense ruling her reactions to situations and causing her to show less of the other quality, sensibility, to others at first glance. Elinor is a young woman who watches the people around her and takes a cautionary approach to situations, who is always polite and reasonable and knows that she must on occasion be polite even when she doesn't feel that way. Marianne, while not without sense, shows more of her sensibility, with passion leading her in all her reactions. She is quick to state her impressions and reacts emotionally and often without thinking what others must infer from those actions.
The book illustrates class, honor, and the interaction of characters with many different motivations. I really enjoyed it.

Friday, 17 January 2014

The Tulip Eaters

Finished January 15
The Tulip Eaters by Antoinette van Heugten

This novel begins with a violent scene in Houston, Texas, but we soon move to The Netherlands and find that the story has its origins there as well as its conclusion.
Nora is a pediatric intern who comes home from work one day to find her mother shot dead, a man she has never seen before dead as well, and her infant daughter missing. She can't think of who would do such a thing and her heart is torn between the loss of her mother and the worry over her daughter's welfare and whereabouts. The police find the man's hotel room with a false Dutch passport as his identification. Nora knows that her parents came from Holland after the war, but doesn't know of any current contacts of her mother from the country or what someone could want with her mother or daughter.
As Nora goes through her mother's possessions she finds old identification information for both her parents that seem to indicate they were on the side of the Nazis during the war and that her father may have murdered a Jew. Unable to sit and wait, Nora uses her own contacts in the Netherlands to access war history documents to try to find out if someone related to the murdered man may have enacted their revenge in this manner.
The story here is great, but the writing less so. Melodramatic in spots with quick changes in emotion and forced actions by the characters, this book could have been so much better with some helpful editing.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Fat Girl

Finished January 15
Fat Girl by Judith Moore

This memoir is not a happy one. As this author says, it is her story and her family's story. It is about the food they ate. It is about their unhappiness. As she says, "This is a story about an unhappy fat girl who became a fat woman who was happy and unhappy." She found her story difficult to tell, and at times it made her ill to write about it, but it also gave her relief to get the experiences out. She doesn't want people to feel sorry for her, as she doesn't feel sorry for herself. But I have to say that at times I felt sorry for the child she was. Children have less control over their experiences than adults, and her child self tried certain strategies, but always seemed an observer of her own life, wishing and dreaming of different lives but never able to understand what she could do to get there.
She says that while her childhood lacked love for the most part (her uncle seems to have provided the only consistent positive adult presence in her life, with his many friends, pet names for her, and general kindness. She did have the occasional other adult or child in her life who was kind, a neighbour who took an interest or the girl Glenda in her hometown who made sure she had people to sit with at lunch and got introduced to others. But she seems to be unable to know what to do with this kindness and it doesn't seem to have made a difference in her situation.
She calls herself a solitary and I think she is right. She seems the type of person who doesn't make connections either through her own actions or taking advantage of others' actions toward her. I think it is that that makes me feel sorry, sorry for a life without true connection to others.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014


Finished January 13
Touch by Adania Shibli, translated by Paula Haydar

This novella is a very unusual book. The main character is only identified as "the girl" and all the other characters have equally general descriptors. As one slowly gathers, the girl is the ninth and youngest daughter of a Palestinian family. Her story ranges from everyday occurrences, such as interacting with her siblings and spending time with her family and the neighbour she begins a relationship with, to experiences more specific to her situation such as watching her family mourn her brother and participating in a funeral procession. She seems both part of things and an observer. In one scene, she is ostracized by her sisters, left on her own while the other sisters spend time with their mourning mother. She craves silence, but also wants to know and understand what is going on, but only seems to find out pieces of things, like overhearing family members discussing the massacre at Sabra and Shatila.
The author has won awards for her writing, and the way she uses language her shows why. The translator also is skilled to be able to convey such a story to us.
Moving and seemingly simple, this story begs to be reread as soon as you finish it.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Necessary as Blood

Finished January 12
Necessary as Blood by Deborah Crombie

I've been reading this series in random order. In this one Gemma and Duncan are planning their wedding, but Gemma just wants to be married, and finds wedding planning stressful.
Meanwhile in Brick Lane, textile artist Sandra Gilles is working on a new piece that gets her wondering about the girls and women in her neighbourhood and she leaves her young daughter with a friend, but never returns. A few months later, her husband Naz steps out for a couple of hours and disappears. Gemma happens to be a friend to a friend and becomes involved. When his body is found, the pathologist suspects foul play and the case is referred to Scotland Yard. There, Duncan notes Gemma's involvement and takes on the case.
But Gemma finds herself involved in a more personal way as she has taken to Charlotte, the small 3 year-old daughter of Sandra and Naz and is determined that she be protected and properly looked after.
I like the mix of the personal and professional in this series, seeing how the two detectives both work together and live their lives together.
This case with its unmasking of those who prey on the vulnerable in society is a compelling one, and I could barely put the book down. I also really liked the quotes about Brick Lane, the part of London where this story is set, that began each chapter.

Death of a Nightingale

Finished January 11
Death of a Nightingale by Lene Kaaberbøl and Agnette Friis

This novel is part of the series featuring Nina Borg, a nurse, but the first one that I've read. Here, Nina is working at Coal-House Camp, a camp for refugees on the outskirts of Copenhagen. She has developed a relationship with Natasha Doroshenko and her daughter Rina as Rina suffers from asthma. Natasha and Rina are from Ukraine and Natasha fled when her husband was murdered.
When she attacks her Danish husband, she is imprisoned and Rina is housed at Coal-House Camp. When Natasha is taken to police headquarters one day, she overhears a conversation and takes the opportunity to escape. Natasha knows that she has nothing to do with either her husband's death or subsequent deaths, but has only minimal clues to the woman she believes is behind them, a woman she knows only as The Witch.
Nina tries to protect Rina from harm, and calls on her friend Soren who is with the police when an attack is made on the Camp.
A parallel story takes place in Ukraine in the mid 1930s where a family is torn apart through politics, ambition, and resentment. Of course there is a link between these two stories, that we finally see near the end.
The outcome of this case will turn Nina in a new direction, as she finds her husband's criticisms hit home.
This is an interesting novel, with a complex plot.

Sweetness from Ashes

Finished January 5
Sweetness from Ashes by Marlyn Horsdal

This novel is set in Vancouver, Ottawa, and a farm near Ottawa, with some historical references to life decades earlier in Ghana. Jenny, Chris and Sheila are tasked in Pat's will to go back to the family farm near Ottawa to bury Pat's ashes there. Pat was estranged from the rest of the family, but we don't actually find out why until we get into the novel a little ways.
Sheila is reluctant to open that door to the past, afraid of what she might discover and afraid of what other closed doors it may lead to.
Jenny is the will's executor and more curious about the past rift in the family, although even she is surprised at how it affects her future.
Chris is less intimately concerned with this lost past as he has no blood ties to that side of the family, but he finds that some of the new knowledge he gains draws him strongly and changes the course of his life significantly.
Meanwhile, an older woman reflects on her life as she reads over her late husband's memoirs and prepares to take them to be published. As the two stories draw together, she finds herself newly invigorated and moving forward with her own life.
An interesting tale of families, prejudice, and paternalism.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Teatime for the Firefly

Finished January 5
Teatime for the Firefly by Shona Patel

This novel is set in Assam, India in the 1940s. Layla is a young woman of seventeen who has been brought up by her grandfather, an educated man who believes in the importance of educating women so they have choices. Layla birth time and the death of her parents have led many traditional Indians to believe her to be bad luck and she has resigned herself to never marrying. She aims to continue her grandfather's legacy of education for girls and has started training to be a teacher. Her grandfather often hosts guests and the Russian author Boris Ivanov is a frequent visitor. One day when he is expected to come and make a speech for the opening of the new school her grandfather has started for girls, Layla encounters a young man, Manik, recently back from being educated overseas. His unusual attention to her and his outlook on the future draw her to him, but she soon finds out that he is engaged to a young woman down the street, an arranged marriage. When Manik gives up his civil service job to go work as an assistant manager on a tea plantation, everything becomes less certain, and the two young people begin a correspondence.
The historical events of India and partition come alive, but what is really brought to life here is Assam itself. The geography, scenery, and climate are well described, and life on the tea plantations comes alive for the reader. Their remote location, and how that draws misfits and thus unusual friendships is a big part of this story, as is the paternal relationship between the plantation managers and the workers.
Layla and Malik both grow through the challenges and circumstances that their lives bring them. This provides a glimpse of a life in a certain place at a certain time in an engaging read.

The Chaos Imperative

Finished January 5
The Chaos Imperative: how chance and disruption increase innovation, effectiveness and success by Ori Brafman and Judah Pollack

This book looks at how, despite what people often think, chaos can actually help you achieve success. The authors use lots of examples and take us through the processes they work through when consulting on this subject. These examples bring things to life in a way that theory cannot and shows how a variety of elements workings together can introduce this element of chaos in a way that brings new ways of thinking, new ideas, and new processes that move an organization forward.
The examples range from medieval history to video game development, showing that these ideas work across vastly different situations. There are several elements than can bring this controlled chaos into an organization. One is creating white space, time to step back and let people or groups stop working full-tilt at a problem so different connections can be made. This works the same way that solutions come to you in the shower, overnight, or while doing some unrelated activity. A second one is unusual suspects, which is bringing people with different experiences, different backgrounds, different methods, different ways of looking at things, into the mix. A third is planned serendipity, setting up a culture that encourages spontaneous interactions across the organization between all levels and all departments. This encourages the flow of new ideas.
A book that offers a lot to think about.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

The Obituary Writer

Finished January 3
The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood, read by Tavia Gilbert

This novel follows two story lines that come together near the end.
One story occurs in 1919, when Vivien Lowe is living in Napa and writing obituaries for people who come to her door. Vivien had moved to Napa some time after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, devastated by the disappearance of her lover that day. She searches for him still. She finds that understanding grief has made her more able to listen to others and help them cope.
In 1961, Claire lives outside Washington with her husband Peter and young daughter. She is feeling caught in her marriage to a man she doesn't thing she loves after an affair with another man. She is also pregnant and unsure of whose baby it is. As inauguration day for J.F. Kennedy approaches, the family travels to Rhode Island for Peter's mother's 80th birthday. It is here that Claire will make a life-changing decision and find a connection to her mother-in-law that will help her face the future.
I liked both Claire and Vivien as characters, and found Claire's situation very relevant to her time and the expectations of women then. Vivien was more of a rebel in some ways, but also got stuck in her own past for a while. A very good read, with a fascinating plot.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Around the World in 80 Books Challenge


Just heard about this challenge and decided to try it as well. This one is just fiction, but has a few sub-challenges to it as well.
Since I read 115 fiction books last year, I think 80 is doable. 

Here are the details:
  • You will collect gems for each part of the challenge you complete.

The red gem
  • Read 80 books in 2014. They can be any fiction genre and any length, as long as they are published and are available to purchase.
  • Since this challenge is about going round the world, read books set in different locations of the world. For example, there shouldn't be two books set New York. 
  • Complete this mini-challenge and collect the rare red gem.
   The green gem   

  • Read at least one book set on each continent –Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, North America, South America and Antarctica. If you need help finding books set in Antarctica check out this Goodreads List.
  • Complete this mini-challenge and collect all 7 green gems.
   The yellow gem   
  • Read our selected book of the month. There will be one each month. Complete this mini-challenge and collect the 12 yellow gems.
The blue gem

  • The coveted blue gem will be awarded to all those who complete all the mini-challenges and collect all the green, yellow and red gems. 
Please note:
  • You don’t have to select your books ahead of time. Feel free to add them as you go along. Also feel free to change them if you list them and then change your mind at a later date.
  • The books listed can also be used in other challenges.
  • Feel free to join in at anytime, as long as the books are read in 2014.
  • Book formats include paperbacks, hardbacks, ebooks and audiobooks.
  • This is a fiction only challenge.
  • Anyone can join in. You don't need a blog. Simply leave a comment below with the name you will be using for the challenge and add the link to your Goodreads, Amazon, or any other site you use to track your books.
  • Every month, there will be an Around-The-World-In-80-Days post where everyone can post links to their book reviews and discuss the books they've read.

Around the World in 12 Books Challenge 2014

This is another new one for me. It is more flexible than the Global Reading Challenge as it also allows nonfiction, and I can read from more countries in particular regions. I also like the emphasis on the country as setting or subject. I am going for the Seasoned Traveller which is 12 books.
Happy Camper 2014
Level 1: The Happy Camper
- The Happy Camper likes to keep things simple and enjoys exploring her/his own backyard
- Read a minimum of 2 books over the course of the year
- Books can be set in your own neighbourhood, your home country or somewhere else entirely
- No re-reads
- Any genre is okay (including non-fiction) BUT books MUST be set in a specific country or region with a noticeable attention to the location or environment; some genre books won’t be much use for this challenge
Wayfarer 2014
Level 2: The Wayfarer
- The Wayfarer doesn’t like to plan; he/she likes to journey as the need takes them, deciding where to go on a whim or inspiration or simply how they’re feeling
- Read a minimum of 4 books over the course of the year
- Books can be set in any country, but they must all be different countries
- You do not need to decide on your choice of books ahead of time. You can select books as you go
- No re-reads
- Any genre is okay (including non-fiction) BUT books MUST be set in a specific country or region with a noticeable attention to the location or environment; some genre books won’t be much use for this challenge
Casual Tourist 2014
Level 3: The Casual Tourist
- The Casual Tourist likes to plan ahead but isn’t too ambitious. They’ve saved up their money and plan carefully, and intend to really explore the places they visit
- Read a minimum of 6 books over the course of the year
- Books can be set in any country but you should aim to read 1 title from each of the following areas: South America, Africa, Asia, Europe
- You can list your title selections in your challenge intro post but last-minute changes are allowed
- No re-reads
- Any genre is okay (including non-fiction) BUT books MUST be set in a specific country or region with a noticeable attention to the location or environment; some genre books won’t be much use for this challenge
Seasoned Traveller 2014
Level 4: The Seasoned Traveller
- The Seasoned Traveller doesn’t do anything by half-measures: they go the whole hog and the more obscure the better!
- Read 12 books over the course of the year, each set in a DIFFERENT country
- Books selected should include ones set in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia+New Zealand, North America and South America. The Middle East is a bonus
- You do not need to plan ahead but it might help you keep on track
- No re-reads
- Any genre is okay (including non-fiction) BUT books MUST be set in a specific country or region with a noticeable attention to the location or environment; some genre books won’t be much use for this challenge
Unlike previous years, we are no longer reading a book every month. You can read your selected titles whenever you like throughout the year (hell, you can read them all in January and be done if you like!) and you can take as long as you like to finish them
Unlike previous years, the countries to visit are no longer decided upon ahead of time. We will all be visiting different countries, at different times. The choice is all yours! (You can “visit” countries we’ve covered before in the challenge, too)
Reviews should include your chosen level badge and link back to this post (if you would like a high-resolution badge for your blog, send me an email and I’ll send you the bigger version)
Spread the word! This isn’t actually a rule, just an encouragement. ;) Tweet using the hashtag#AroundtheWorldBooks and link to me using my handle, @GiraffeDays. This is an effective way of letting me know you’ve left a review link

Eclectic Reader Challenge 2014

This is a new challenge for me, but I think I read pretty broadly so it should be quite doable.
Here is the info about it.
In it’s third year, the aim of The Eclectic Reader 2014 Challenge is to push you outside your comfort zone by reading up to 12 books during the year from 12 different categories.

The challenge will run from January 1st to December 31st 2014. Participants may join at any time up until December 1st 2014

  • Select, read and review a book from each genre listed below during the year for a total of 12 books. A book may be in print, electronic or audio format.
*  You can choose your books as you go or create a list in advance. You may combine this challenge with others if you wish.
*  Where a book is identified by more than one genre eg historical romance, it may only count for either the historical fiction or romantic fiction genres – not both.
*  You can read your chosen titles in any order, at any pace, just complete the challenge by December 31st 2014 to be eligible for the prize drawing.


1. Award Winning
2. True Crime (Non Fiction)
3. Romantic Comedy
4. Alternate History Fiction
5. Graphic Novel
6. Cosy Mystery Fiction
7. Gothic Fiction
8. War/Military Fiction
9. Anthology
10. Medical Thriller Fiction
11. Travel (Non Fiction)
12. Published in 2014