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December 2019: Reading Challenge Reviews

We made it!

52 books in 52 weeks and our annual challenge is once again drawing to a close. This year was a fun one with categories like, “an ugly cover,” “a book about time travel,” and, “a beach read.”

In just a few days, we will launch the 2020 Challenge! This challenge will look the same as the previous two years: 52 different categories to check off and read throughout 2020. With brand new categories and a thriving Facebook group for ideas, suggestions, and accountability — this is the book challenge to participate in this year!

And in case you’re still not convinced, here are a few more reasons why YOU should join next year’s challenge:

  1. It’ll help you read MORE! I recently posted an article on 12 Ways to Read More — one of which is “reading challenges.” If you’re looking for motivation, tracking your reads and setting an attainable goal is always a good first step.
  2. It might be time to mix up your reading. Let’s be honest, we all fall into reading ruts from time to time. We all get comfortable with our favourite authors and genres. But maybe this year, it’s time to try something new. With 52 different categories, this challenge invites participants to expand their regular reading and pick up books they might not otherwise read. Who knows, you might just find a new favourite or two?
  3. It’s a TON of fun! One of my favourite parts of this challenge is lining up which books fit which categories. I love researching books and looking beyond my usual line up. I also love the community of readers who participate in this challenge every year — with bookworms from around the globe, your “to be read” pile will only grow!

So, what do you think? You in?

While I let you decide, here’s a look at my final reads for 2019:

An Audiobook
(Week 49: December 3 – 9, 2019) Witness to a Trial: A Short Prequel to the Whistler – John Grisham

This was my first ever audiobook, and I have to admit, I am clearly not an auditory learner.

So, what are my thoughts on audiobooks in general? I still prefer holding a physical book in my hand, reading it at my own speed, and not having to deal with someone else’s voice in my head. I don’t have a ton of time that’s conducive to listening to audiobooks (no long transit times) and I found myself occasionally tuning out. I understand the appeal but I’m not sure that audiobooks are for me right now.

As for the book itself, I am always a John Grisham fan. (Although it would have helped if I’d read The Whistler more recently.) This prequel was short and was written in a very different and interesting way.  The entire book is set within the courtroom and revolves around the facts of the specific case. It’s traditional Grisham and an enjoyable read for those who love legal thrillers.

4 stars out of 5

An Author Who Uses a Pseudonym 
(Week 50: December 10 – 16, 2019) Absent in the Spring –  Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie)

Okay, first of all, how is it that I only discovered these novels this year? Agatha Christie is my number one, all-time, forever and always, favourite author. I’ve read all of her mystery novels (most of them, 5 or 6 times.) But for some reason, I never realized that she wrote six different “romance” novels under the name Mary Westmacott.

Now, to be clear, these books may be marketed as romance, but they’re really just portraits of people. Christie does an amazing job at analyzing and studying characters and in essence, that’s what these novels are — psychological, character studies.

Absent in the Spring is introspective and challenging. It’s completely different than Christie’s mystery novels, and yet, written in the unassuming and insightful style we know and love. It’s the sort of book where nothing happens but the story is, at the same time, so rich and layered. I thoroughly enjoyed it and can’t wait to read the rest of “Mary Westmacott’s” novels.

4.5 stars out of 5

Fantasy Novel
(Week 51: December 17 – 23, 2019) Flight of the Eagles – Gilbert L. Morris

I remember reading this series in elementary school. It was a favourite in our little school library, and I know I re-read them several times. Flight of the Eagles tells of fourteen-year-old Josh, who is awakened from a 50-year sleep to find that the world he once knew has disappeared. He embarks on a quest to wake seven other “sleepers” to fulfil a prophesy and defeat evil.

There are some books that you re-read as an adult and love just as much as you did when you first read them as a child. These classics are brilliantly written bits of childhood fiction that stick with you and evoke nostalgic memories.

Unfortunately, for me, Flight of the Eagles just wasn’t that.

The story hasn’t been flushed out. From one paragraph to the next, things move quickly without building suspense or motivation. It feels rushed and a bit flat. This is completely different from the writing style in Morris’ other books, and I feel disappointed by that. While I loved the series as a kid (the intended audience), it definitely doesn’t translate as well for the adult reader.

I give it 3 stars out of 5.

A Play
(Week 52: December 24 – 31, 2019) Twelfth Night –  Shakespeare

Shakespeare and I never got along well in high school. Every year, the required reading of Romeo & Juliet or Macbeth, was my absolute least favorite part of English class. I just didn’t understand it. Even with the side-by-side “modern comparisons,” I barely understood what I was reading, and found the texts extremely dry.

While I never imagined myself willingly picking up another one of his plays, I decided to give it one more go for the sake of this challenge.

Truthfully, I was quite pleasantly surprised and am glad that I did. Twelfth Night has a fun little plot and was so much easier to follow than I remember. Shakespeare’s “humor” still flies well over my head, but overall, my appreciation for his work has grown with time.

In terms of an enjoyable Shakespeare read, I leave this play with 4 stars out of 5.


**And that’s it for 2019! Don’t forget to join our 2020 Challenge!
What were some of your favourite reads this year?**

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