Best of the Best Challenge: Weeks 6 & 7 Update

Events conspired last week to keep me from posting a Week 6 update. Not that I’m complaining. It was a pretty good event – a vacation trip to visit old friends in San Francisco followed by several days of wine tasting in the Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Most people use vacations to catch up on their reading. In my case, we were so busy that I actually did not finish any books during the trip!

I have still made progress, but it was definitely slower – two books in Week 6 and two in Week 7. In Week 6 I finished listening to the audio of Beauty Queens and read Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition. This past week I read The Returning and listened to Ghetto Cowboy.

That brings my total for the challenge to 19. Just 6 to go! It’s pretty clear that I will meet the challenge, probably before the end of May. That brings up the question of whether I should set a new goal for the challenge – maybe 35 titles by the end of June. That certainly should be doable.

When I completed The Returning, I reached my personal mini-goal of reading, or listening to, at least one title from every category. So I am now trying to choose another interim goal to help guide my reading choices. I’m working on The Influencing Machine. When I finish that book I will have read every graphic novel from the Top 10 Great Graphic Novels list that my library system owns. Sad to say, that is only 4 titles! I am close to completing some of the other shorter lists too. I think that I will try to do the entire lists for the Morris Award, the Odyssey Award, the Nonfiction Award, the Edwards Award and the Printz Award. (For purposes of counting a list completed, I will include titles I read before the challenge. But I will obviously not count those toward my challenge total.) It’s tempting to try to finish the Top 10 Best Fiction list, too. But that would probably mean I wouldn’t have time to read more titles from the Top 10 Popular Paperbacks and the Quick Picks list, and there are several on those lists I want to read.

Apologies for the length of this post, but I can’t end without mini-reviews of the titles from these two weeks:

Beauty Queens by Libba Bray. Read by Libba Bray. Scholastic Audio.
Libba Bray tackles some powerful themes in this book. It is interesting to watch, or hear, the girls grow as the story progresses. Along the way they learn that they are strong, capable young women. They come to question the expectations with which girls are raised. I really enjoyed it when they decided to make a rule that no one could use the phrase, “I’m sorry” because it was time to stop apologizing for who they were and what they thought. Bray does a fantastic job narrating the audio version. She captures the different accents and personalities of the girls and really brings the story to life. This wasn’t my favorite book of the challenge, but I’m glad I listened to it.

Bootleg: Murder, Moonshine, and the Lawless Years of Prohibition. By Karen Blumenthal. Roaring Brook Press.
I hadn’t really intended to read this book. It’s just not a topic that would usually interest me. But I have enjoyed the other titles on the Nonfiction Award list so much that I thought I would give it a try. I am very glad I did. It was fascinating. Blumenthal does a wonderful job of clearly presenting the context of the history. I had never really thought about the circumstances and social climate that allowed Prohibition to be enacted. The process of repealing it was also more complicated than I realized. Well balanced and well written, this is definitely a book worth reading and recommending.

The Returning. By Christine Hinwood. Dial Books.
This book is now my second favorite from the Printz Award list. (My top choice is The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, and it’s a close decision.) I found myself completely drawn in and caring deeply about all of the characters. Hinwood does as amazing job of examining the lingering effects of war after it ends. Cam struggles to make a new life for himself after returning home maimed. The villagers are tormented by the failure of anyone else to return. I could go on and on. In fact, I think this book merits a full review!

Ghetto Cowboy by G. Neri. Read by JD Jackson. Brilliance Audio.
This is another book that I didn’t really expect to like but that I really enjoyed. Cole starts out as a bit of a punk on a downward spiral towards becoming another statistic. In desperation, his mother drives him from Detroit to Philadelphia and leaves him with the father he has never met. Cole’s Dad is an inner-city horseman, active in running a stable that serves as an anchor for the neighborhood and gives the ghetto kids a place to belong and learn responsibility. Cole transforms from a young man who can envision no future for himself to one who is willing to stand up for what he believes and follows the Cowboy Way. I did find it hard to accept how quickly Cole adapted to working with the horses and learned to ride. But I still loved the story. Now I need to find out more about the real-life Ghetto Cowboys of Philadelphia and Brooklyn!

Already started for Week 8: The Influencing Machine and Greenwitch. Listening to Scorpio Races. I know that I have already read the book. But I couldn’t resist the chance to revisit this fantastic story. And so far I am loving the audio version!


About booksnquilts

I'm the Children's Services Coordinator for the Jefferson-Madison Regional Library in Central Virginia.
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