Reading wrap-up #35: Olympic Games bonus prompts edition

My previous reading wrap-up post explained the Olympic Games read-a-thon and what books I read to fulfill the mandatory challenges for Team Poseidon. Now, I’m doing as many of the advanced challenges I can before the month ends! The challenges I missed and what I planned to read for them were:

  • Climbing Wall: the next book in a series. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams. I probably could have had time to squeeze this one in, but I’m feeling a bit burnt out and want a fun read that wouldn’t really fit any of the two remaining prompts.
  • Monster Fighting: a book featuring magical creatures. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I’m not a huge fantasy fan, so I struggled finding a book for this prompt too. I didn’t want to start the Lord of the Rings series quiet yet and I wasn’t a huge fan of Circe, so it was time to call it a day on this read-a-thon.

Here is a Google Sheet with all the declared reads and I’m keeping an eye on the @OlympicGaames Twitter for final results/ updates! I had loads of fun with my first read-a-thon and will definitely be doing this again next year.

With each review, I will indicate which advanced prompt I am have matched with the book.

As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Liked it enough
  • (★★): Didn’t care for it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. I no longer go out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews. Finally, you can always check out my book review index page if you’re looking for my extremely important opinion on any book in particular.

The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

The New Jim Crow - Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness ...Rating: ★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, race, social justice, politics

GoodReads rating: 4.50 / 5 (52,600 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Capture the Flag: one of your most anticipated books.

Summary: “[W]e have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness.” 

Thoughts: I’ve borrowed this book a dozen times from the library as the topic has interested me and it’s always been available. However, in the wake of recent events the e-book now has a massive queue, but the audiobook was available to listen to on my drive back to Arizona. There was a lot of good information, but it was a bit dry and dense. It’s easy to get lost and confused in all the statistics shared so I wish there was a big picture summary at some points in the book to check in. This book came out ten years ago and it’s disturbing how little has changed but I believe with people eager to educate themselves, we’re headed for a revolution.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

New 'Great Gatsby' Book Carries a Hollywood Look - The New York TimesRating: ★★★

Genre: Fiction, classics

GoodReads rating: 3.92 / 5 (3,656,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audiobook (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Archery: a book shorter than 200 pages.

Summary: Nick moves to long island next to a mysterious neighbor, Gatsby, who throws fabulous parties. Upon being invited to one of these parties, Gatsby requests a meeting with Nick’s cousin, Daisy, to reunite a long lost love despite her being married.

Thoughts: Okay, sue me: according to GoodReads, this book is 200 pages on the dot, but I’m counting it. Some English classes in my high school read it (my class didn’t) and loved it, but I felt this book was overrated. It felt like a weird soap opera from the point of view of someone on the outside of the conflict, it was bizarre. Maybe I would have enjoyed it more from the perspective of literally any other character. Oh well, at least I knocked another classic out! Also, the audiobook was narrated by Tim Robbins a.k.a. Andy Dufresne (there’s also a version by Jake Gyllenhaal, swoon).

Other adaptations: The 2013 movie fared okay. I watched it but a long time ago.

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach

Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex (Kobo eBook ...Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, science, sex

GoodReads rating: 3.84 / 5 (50,000 ratings)

Medium used: Paperback purchased from Cannon Beach Book Co. (Cannon Beach, Oregon)

Prompt: Canoeing: a book with a blue cover.

Summary: Roach explores the weird and wonderful world of sex studies and what they tell us about male and female physiological and psychological sexual responses.

Thoughts: I loved Stiff, her book about the weird and wonderful history of cadavers (but also could have been an appropriate title for this book as well), so how could I resist a book about two of my  favorite things: science and sex? I love her voice and sidebars and how she is genuinely interested in the subjects she writes about. I’d love to write books like her one day. Also, finishing this book marked the completion of my 2020 GoodReads challenge: I’ve completed 52 books well ahead of schedule!

Unfollow: A Journey from Hatred to Hope by Megan Phelps-Roper

Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist ...Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Non-fiction, memoir, religion

GoodReads rating: 4.20 (nice) / 5 (6,500 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Sword & Shield: a book featuring a character whom you would not get along with.

Summary: “Megan Phelps-Roper was raised in the Westboro Baptist Church – the fire-and-brimstone religious sect at once aggressively homophobic and anti-Semitic, rejoiceful for AIDS and natural disasters, and notorious for its picketing the funerals of American soldiers. From her first public protest, aged five, to her instrumental role in spreading the church’s invective via social media, her formative years brought their difficulties. But being reviled was not one of them. She was preaching God’s truth. She was, in her words, ‘all in’. In November 2012, at the age of twenty-six, she left the church, her family, and her life behind.” 

Thoughts: As we all know on this blog, I love British documentary maker Louis Theroux. His documentaries has inspired to learn more about the topics he covers (most recently a Scientology memoir) and now I’m going off the deep end into another religious snakepit after rewatching his two documentaries on the Westboro Baptist Church. When I was telling my dad about these prompts, I told him I was having a bit of trouble bending them to my will as most of what I read and enjoy is non-fiction (speaking of my dad, neither one of my parents had any idea what the Westboro Baptist Church was, huh?). Not to mention I couldn’t think of a fictional character high on my to-be-read shelf that’s known for being an arse. With that, I thought outside the box and assumed this book would talk a lot about the church’s leader, Fred Phelps, and other churchgoers as the main characters I wouldn’t get along with (to say the least). This book was moving and the writing and storytelling were wonderful, damn near a 5-star read. I felt Megan’s conflict and confusion with her. It’s a great complement to the documentaries to really see inside the church and struggle a lot of the members go through as their own victims.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

I'm Thinking of Ending Things: A Novel: Reid, Iain: 9781501126949 ...Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, horror, thriller

GoodReads rating: 3.44 / 5 (6,800 ratings)

Medium used: E-book (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Prompt: Pegasus Riding: a book published within the last 5 years.

Summary: “[A] man and his girlfriend are on their way to a secluded farm. When the two take an unexpected detour, she is left stranded in a deserted high school, wondering if there is any escape at all. What follows is a twisted unraveling that will haunt you long after the last page is turned.”

Thoughts: I immediately connected to the narrator. “I’m thinking of ending things. Once this thought arrives, it stays. It sticks. It lingers. It’s always there. Always.” really reminded me of what I was going through the last few weeks before I broke up with my last boyfriend and the exciting roadtrip with a new flame made me think of my current special friend. Anyway, not to brag, but about halfway through I predicted where this book was going (start spoiler) when they wouldn’t say the narrator’s name (end spoiler). However, the suspense scenes were still gripping and I read this all in one day it was so engrossing. I can’t remember the last time a book literally made my heart pound.

Other adaptions: There’s an adaptation coming to Netflix at some point this year. I hate horror movies and the book gave me too much anxiety as it is.

Have you read any of these? Have you ever done a read-a-thon?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.


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