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Cait86 Reads in 2019

75 Books Challenge for 2019

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Edited: Dec 30, 2018, 8:19am Top

Hello, and thanks for visiting my thread!

My name is Cait, and I am a high school English teacher in Burlington, ON, Canada. I was part of this group in 2009 and 2010, and a few other years on and off, but I have a terrible habit of joining yearly challenges, posting until March, and then never returning. Every December, however, I feel the pull of LT. So I'm back, to try again.

I currently have 176 books on my TBR shelves, so my 2019 reading will be dedicated to making a dent in these books. I read mostly fiction, along with the occasional memoir or book of investigative journalism. In 2018 I read 76 books, which is a huge increase from the last few years. My plan is to continue this trend into 2019.

My five star reads from 2018 were (in reading order):
1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
2. Harry Potter: A History of Magic by the British Library
3. Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by John Krakauer
4. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (reread)
5. Columbine by Dave Cullen
6. Warlight by Michael Ondaatje
7. Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
8. The Anne of Green Gables series by L. M. Montgomery (reread)
9. The Power by Naomi Alderman
10. Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

Besides books, I love to cook, travel, and attend theatre performances. I have a Siamese cat, Ariel, who is my favourite reading buddy.

Please drop by and say hi -- looking forward to rekindling old friendships, and meeting new readers!

Edited: Dec 26, 2018, 7:51am Top

Book-Related Goals for 2019

1. End the year with less books on my TBR shelves than I started the year with
2. Complete the POPSugar Reading Challenge
3. Read every day

Edited: Jan 13, 12:38pm Top

Books Read in 2019

1. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein - 4.5 stars
2. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein - 5 stars
3. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick - 3 stars
4. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue - 4.5 stars
5. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck - 5 stars
6. Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North - 1 star

Edited: Dec 26, 2018, 7:49am Top

Books Obtained in 2019


Edited: Jan 13, 10:33am Top

January Reading Plan

1. The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante - completed!
2. Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante - completed!
3. Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick - completed!
4. Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue - completed!
5. The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck - completed!

Dec 26, 2018, 12:03pm Top

Hello and welcome back. I love your book related goals for 2019. I should add something like that to my thread.

Dec 26, 2018, 7:06pm Top

Hi from Michigan (so we're sort of neighbors?!) I'm Jenny- it looks like we have some shared reading interests. Looking forward to see what you're reading this year.

Dec 27, 2018, 7:27am Top

>6 crazy4reading:, >7 jennyifer24:: Thanks very much to you both for stopping by! I'll be sure to visit your threads too :)

Dec 31, 2018, 3:35am Top

Happy New Year!

Dec 31, 2018, 9:13am Top

Happy reading in 2019, Cait!

Dec 31, 2018, 10:58am Top

Happy new year and new thread!
I saw you on the introductions page and we are almost neighbours (I'm 30 minutes from London)
Have a great reading year!

Dec 31, 2018, 4:25pm Top

Happy to see you back again, Cait. Much luck with your goals for the year!

Jan 1, 7:11pm Top

>9 The_Hibernator:, >10 FAMeulstee:, >11 ChelleBearss:, >12 MickyFine: Thank you all for dropping by, and for the best wishes! I will be following your reading as well.

Edited: Jan 1, 7:33pm Top

And here we go! I'm not a full reviewer of books, but I will try to leave a few comments/impressions.


Book #1: The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein
PopSugar Category: A book by two female authors (I'm including the translator, because I don't think they get enough recognition!)

I love when the new year starts with an excellent book! What a pleasure it was today to immerse myself once again into the story of Elena and Lila; despite being three years since I read My Brilliant Friend, I quickly remembered their story and was swept away by Ferrante's narrative.

If you haven't yet read this quartet of novels set in Naples, Italy, please do! They are rich in character development, and beautifully written and translated. I find myself identifying a lot with Elena, as she struggles to find her place in an academic world that is very different from the neighbourhood where she was born. Lila, on the other hand, is stuck in a bad marriage, and she often takes out her unhappiness on Elena and the other people who love her. Both women are fascinating characters, and their friendship is even more interesting. While their life situations often push them apart, a strong bond continues to pull them back to each other. I'm looking forward to seeing how these characters evolve over the course of the next two books.

4.5 stars

Jan 1, 7:41pm Top

Happy 2019
A year full of books
A year full of friends
A year full of all your wishes realised

I look forward to keeping up with you, Cait, this year.

Jan 1, 9:42pm Top

looking forward to following your reading in 2019!

Jan 1, 9:46pm Top

Happy New Year, Cait. I also loved Home Fire and The Power last year.

Edited: Jan 2, 9:10am Top

Happy New Year Cait.

>14 Cait86: I'm in the minority, but I didn't get along with Volume 1 of this series, so DNF it or go on to the next. I'm not really sure why. It may have been a mood thing. I'm not big on 'coming of age' novels, which much of the first is, and I've been told it gets better from V2. At the moment no plans to give it another go, but never say never!

Jan 2, 10:35am Top

Happy New Year, Cait and Ariel!

Jan 2, 11:04am Top

Happy New Year, Cait!

Jan 2, 3:47pm Top

Thank you Paul, Rhonda, Beth, Caroline, Nora, and Darryl for the kind words! It really is a treat to find a thread full of visitors.

>18 Caroline_McElwee: If you aren't typically a fan of 'coming of age' novels, Caroline, you probably wouldn't like The Story of a New Name either. The two main characters are still quite young, navigating the transition from girlhood to womanhood, where the first book was about childhood-girlhood.

Jan 3, 7:23pm Top

Burlington? Seriously. I live in Buffalo. I can practically reach out and touch you Cait. To say nothing of the fact that I have relatives in Burlington..

I loved the Ferrante series and I also enjoyed the first season of the HBO series last year. Have you seen that? Also I’m a huge MaryLawson fan and have read all her books. She needs to write faster lol. I look forward to following your reading.

Jan 3, 7:35pm Top

It's so good to see you back again, Cait. I hope you stay with us all year this time. ;-) I have fond memories of Crow Lake in the past, and Home Fire made my Top Ten of 2017 list. I also really enjoyed the Ferrante series as audio books. I look forward to sharing more good books with you this year.

Jan 3, 8:49pm Top

>22 brenzi: No way! We are so close! If you are ever here visiting your relatives, let me know and we can get together! I haven't seen the HBO series yet, bit I want to very much. I'm halfway through the third book right now and love it even more than the first two.

>23 Donna828: Thanks Donna, it is good to be back! I hope I make it through the year as well. I have read several of Kamila Shamsie's books now, and Home Fire is definitely my favourite. That ending... so powerful.

Jan 4, 3:30pm Top

Book #2: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante, trans. by Ann Goldstein
PopSugar Category: A book that includes a wedding

Oh wow, what an emotional roller coaster! I loved this book even more than the first two, with its theme of the trials of motherhood juxtaposed with political upheaval and violence. Elena is such a complex character, and I go through periods of sympathizing with her, and periods of absolutely hating her. The same can be said about Lila, who shines when Elena is at her worst, and vice versa. Social concerns such as working conditions and gender politics come to the forefront of the narrative - one of the things I love about these books is the skillful way that Ferrante transitions between very private moments in Elena's life to much larger world issues that existed in Italy at the time. In this way, this story is of Elena and Lila, but also of their country.

5 stars


I'm on a book buying ban for now, but I will definitely ask for the fourth Ferrante novel for my birthday in March!

Next up: Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick, which is a retelling of Henry James' The Ambassadors (which I have not read).

Jan 6, 7:25am Top

Book #3: Foreign Bodies by Cynthia Ozick
PopSugar Category: A retelling of a classic

Foreign Bodies is the story of a fractured family, set in the early 1950s: Bea is a late 40s divorced teacher living in NYC who is ordered by her estranged brother, Marvin, to go to Paris to hunt down Marvin's son Julian, who has been living there for longer than planned, and shows no signs of coming home. Julian's sister, Iris, is the perfect child ready to shed that reputation, and their mother, Margaret, is at a "retreat" that is actually a centre for people struggling with their mental health. From that set-up comes secret after secret, lie after lie, told through chapters that alternate between the various characters, often in the form of letters to each other.

All of this sounds rather juicy and exciting, but in reality it wasn't. Ozick is a beautiful writer, but these characters were boring and I never came to really care about their problems. I didn't dislike this book, but it certainly didn't wow me.

3 stars

Jan 6, 8:21am Top

>26 Cait86: agreeing with your review of this novel Cait. I read it a while back, and was underwhelmed.

Jan 6, 10:16am Top

>26 Cait86: I think I agree with your comments, Cait. I know I read this but have no memory of it.

Jan 9, 7:00am Top

>27 Caroline_McElwee:, >28 BLBera: Thanks Caroline and Beth! I'm glad I'm not the only one who disliked this novel. I think I picked it up on a whim from a sale table at my local bookstore, which is something I never do. I really only ever buy books that I have read reviews of, or was nominated for an award, because I like to know that I'm purchasing something I'll like. I don't like to waste my time on 3 star books.

Jan 9, 7:05am Top

Life update: I went back to work on Monday after two lovely weeks of vacation, and immediately got sick. I was out with some friends one night last week and one of my friends was coughing, and I just knew I was going to catch a cold from him. So, here I am at home on a sick day, only three days into the new year. I hate taking sick days, particularly in January when my students are stressed over final evaluations and exams, but I know that if I don't recover today, I'll be really sick by the end of the week.

My plan for today at home is still to get some work done, as I should really mark about ten essays, and I have to proofread all of the exams for my department before submitting them to the main office for photocopying tomorrow. Once that is done, I'm planning on reading a significant chunk of my current book, Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue, which I love so far.

Happy Wednesday!

Jan 9, 7:32am Top

>14 Cait86: I have at least one of Ferrante's books around my house somewhere. I really must get to it!

>30 Cait86: Sorry to hear that you are sick, Cait. I hope you get well soon!

Jan 9, 12:09pm Top

>30 Cait86: Sorry to hear about the sick day, Cait. Hopefully the day of rest has you feeling much more the thing tomorrow. :)

Jan 10, 10:05am Top

Get better soon Cait. I've had a low grade cough for ten days which is hanging on.

Jan 10, 6:57pm Top

I hope you’re feeling better today Cait. I hate getting sick and as a teacher it seems you’re more susceptible

Jan 11, 10:01am Top

Hope your sick day helped you to not get any worse! Could you at least mark the essays from the comfort of bed?

Jan 11, 11:29am Top

Hope you get better soon!

Edited: Jan 12, 7:16am Top

>31 alcottacre:, >32 MickyFine:, >33 Caroline_McElwee:, >34 brenzi:, >35 ChelleBearss:, >36 figsfromthistle: Thanks very much for the well wishes, Stasia, Micky, Caroline, Bonnie, Chelle, and Anita!

I ended up going to work on Thursday and coming home at lunch, and then taking yesterday off as well. I have never taken multiple sick days in a row in my ten years of teaching, but I was just so run down that I needed the rest. I am feeling back to almost normal today, and I'm off to my school to work with our robotics team as we build a robot to compete in this year's FIRST Robotics Competition. I know absolutely nothing about robotics or engineering, being an English teacher, but this group of students does such amazing things, and so I volunteered to help out. I'm not sure how much help I am, beyond paperwork and attendance and that sort of thing, but the few girls in the club do love that they now have a female teacher involved.

Hope everyone has a wonderful day!

Jan 12, 7:16am Top

Book #4: Slammerkin by Emma Donoghue
PopSugar Category: a book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover (a ribbon)

Slammerkin is the story of Mary Saunders, a real woman who lived in the 1700s whose story Donoghue imagines from a few mentions in historical documents. Mary is fourteen, living in London with her mother and step-father, and is very poor. She has an obsession with pretty things, including a prostitute who adorns her hair with a bright red ribbon. Mary desperately wants a ribbon just like that, which she sees as a symbol of a better life, and her desire leads her into a whole lot of trouble.

I won’t say any more about the plot, because the fun of this novel is in the ups and downs of Mary’s fortune. She’s a fascinating character living in a fascinating world — if you’ve ever watched a historical film or tv show and thought, I’d like to have lived in England in the 1700s... well, this book will change your mind. Donoghue is great at writing historical fiction that shows the good and the bad about history, instead of glorifying it, and her focus on female characters and their lot in life always reminds me how much I have to be thankful for, as a woman living in 2019. Our world isn’t perfect, not by a long shot, but it is certainly better than Mary’s.

Other Donoghue books I’ve read (all good, though this is my fav): Room, Frog Music, and The Wonder

4.5 stars

Jan 12, 7:55am Top

>38 Cait86: sounds like a good read Cait. I've Bly read Room which was quite a journey.

Jan 12, 1:50pm Top

Nice review of Slammerkin, Cait. I loved Room, so I'll keep my eye out for this book.

Jan 13, 10:17am Top

>39 Caroline_McElwee: I agree, Caroline; Room was quite the book. Slammerkin is very different in subject matter, obviously, but what is similar is that Donoghue always creates such vivid characters.

>40 kidzdoc: I would be interested in whether you would like this one or not, Darryl. It's very different from what I think of as your usual reading, though I don't think that means you shouldn't pick it up!

Edited: Jan 13, 12:39pm Top

Book #5: The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck
PopSugar Category: a book set in Scandinavia

The Moon is Down is set in an unnamed town in an unnamed northern European country, but it is generally assumed to be about Norway, since Steinbeck was awarded a major Norwegian war honour for writing it. Steinbeck wrote this book in 1942, as propaganda really, to inspire resistance in Nazi-occupies countries. It was distributed across Europe secretly, and reading it could result in death at the hands of Hitler’s army. I’m not really a Steinbeck fan, having only read Of Mice and Men and started East of Eden about ten times. So I didn’t exactly have high hopes for this one.

I was so wrong. I loved every page of this tiny book — its message about resistance is still applicable today, and the actions and words of the townspeople left tears in my eyes. It is a simple story, told in simple language, but wow does it pack an emotional punch. Highly recommended.

5 stars

Edited: Jan 13, 12:39pm Top

January Reading Plan, Part Two

1. Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North - completed!
2. Transcription by Kate Atkinson
3. The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer
4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley

I cannot believe that I have finished all of the books I listed in >5 Cait86: -- I never stick to a plan like that! Knock on wood that I can keep going for the rest of the month.

The Invisible Bridge is quite long, so it might bleed over into February. I'll borrow The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie on audio from the library, and listen to it while I drive to work, and Romeo and/or Juliet is one I borrowed as well.

Jan 13, 12:41pm Top

Book #6: Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North
PopSugar Category: a choose your own adventure book

Ridiculous. Read solely to complete this PopSugar category, which I think is so silly. At least it was short.

1 star

Jan 13, 12:52pm Top

>42 Cait86: ooo, a Steinbeck I've not read Cait. Actually I've probably only read half of his work so far, but I do have most of it.

Jan 13, 12:53pm Top

Burlington, Ontario would be on the way to Stratford if I ever get back to Stratford. I used to go every summer, but not for about 20 years now. When my partner retires (this year), we will have more time to indulge in summer theater trips. If we do, I'll certainly let you know! Maybe we can schedule one of those infamous meetups.

Jan 13, 1:10pm Top

>38 Cait86: That one sounds good. I have only read Room by Emma Donoghue and I loved it, so I will happily try another of hers.

>42 Cait86: I get to dodge that BB as I have already read that one. Whew!

Jan 13, 2:13pm Top

I"ve had both Slammerkin and The Moon Is Down on my WL for ages, Cait. Maybe your wonderful comments will push them up to the top of the pile.

I hope you're feeling better.

Jan 13, 3:14pm Top

Hi, Cait!

Like you I'm not a huge Steinbeck fan, though I have The Grapes Of Wrath on my best-of list for last year. I recently added The Moon Is Down to my Wishlist via the best-seller challenge---thank you for the recommendation.

Jan 13, 3:53pm Top

Slammerkin and The Moon is Down are now on my Hope to Read sometime soon. Thanks Cait.

Jan 13, 3:55pm Top

Dropping off a star as I think we have similar reading tastes! I loved the Neapolitan novels when I read them a few years ago. Do you plan to watch the HBO series? I'm interested but haven't been moved to actual watching yet.

Jan 13, 5:56pm Top

I've added Slammerkin and The Moon is Down to my wish list. I've never heard of this Steinbeck novel.

Jan 14, 10:32am Top

Thanks for the Slammerkin review - I'm adding it to my list. I really enjoyed The Wonder, even more than Room, because of Donoghue's terrific sense of place.

Jan 14, 11:39am Top

Hi Cait, dropping a star, and looking forward to what you think of The Invisible Bridge. It's long, but I remember not wanting to put it down when I read it.

Yesterday, 6:15pm Top

>42 Cait86: I loved this lesser known Steinbeck when I "discovered" it a few years ago. I may want to visit it again someday.

I also have fond memories of The Invisible Bridge. It was a keeper for me and a real page-turner. It may go faster than you think!

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2019

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