The 2020 book bingo reading challenge: first quarter check in

Woman with her hands folded over a book she is reading

It’s time for the first check-in for the 2020 Book Bingo reading challenge. Wondering what the challenge is? Check out this post where I lay out all the rules for the 2020 Book Bingo reading challenge, and then come back here and jump right in!

At the start of the year, I had decided to read at least two books a month. I haven’t quite stuck to that goal, because other things have taken up a lot of my time – including art! I’m hoping to remedy that during the current lock-down, so we will see how that goes.

As of this writing, I’ve read just 4 books so far this year. I figured I’d give you a quick little review of all of them, along with the bingo squares I checked off.

A genre you don’t generally read: I can’t remember the last time I read a straight-up romance, so when I came across Kalopsia by Lucinda Lamont, I figured it would make for an interesting read. Lamont used a rather breezy, first person narrative to address mental abuse in relationships – not something that’s dealt with too often in this genre. Here’s a full review of Lucinda Lamont’s Kalopsia, if you’re interested.

A book where an artist is the protagonist: The Painter from Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein was my first read of the year, and oh my gosh! It was an absolute delight. I’ve had this book on my TBR since years, and to be honest, I was a little skeptical about it as the blurb compared it to Memoirs of a Geisha. I find books that are compared to bestsellers, especially those that I’ve loved, generally fall short of my expectations. That wasn’t the case with this one, though. The book is loosely based on the life of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented – and provocative – Chinese artists of the 20th century. Her journey from prostitute to concubine to artist to international artist; and the struggles and sacrifices that she made for her art stayed with me for a very long time.

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Book bingo reading challenge update plus four fantastic book recommendations for you

In support of indie publishers: Watch Over Me by Jane Renshaw is a really well-written psychological thriller that looks at a gamut of human emotions – love and longing; dealing with loss and injustice; and the complexity of familial bonds. It also raises some very interesting questions: Is it fair to remove a young child from her kin? To what lengths would one go to protect those they love? Is the lack of education any indicator of a lack of intelligence? You can check out the full review of Jane Renshaw’s Watch Over Me if you’re interested. Highly recommended for those of you who enjoy thrillers.

Judged by the Cover: Magical Women by Sukanya Venkatraghavan was released last year. That was the year I decided not to buy any new books. But when I saw the cover art by Asma Kazi, I just had to have the book! Plus, I loved Sukanya’s first book, Dark Things, and was really curious about the feminist fantasy collection she had put together, even though I am not a fan of short story collections. Largely because I rarely like an entire collection – there are typically one or two really interesting stories and the rest tend to be meh! Not so with this book. Each story in this collection is a little gem, be it Tashan Mehta’s breathtaking Rulebook for Creating a Universe; Sukanya’s fragrant story, The Rakshashi’s Rose Garden; or Krishna Udayashankar’s Apocalyptica. I cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Your turn! Tell me how your book goals are going. What were your favorite reads of the year? And don’t forget to share your blog posts or Instagram posts or even your (public) Goodreads shelves in the linky below!

Posted in Book reviews.

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  1. The Painter from Shanghai has been on my list to read also. Once our library reopens I will grab it – thanks for the review. My reads so far:
    1. LISTED ON THE BOOKER: Midnight’s Children by Salmon Rushdie. I started this book over five months ago and read some nearly every day. I think I have a pretty good vocabulary but when I say I had to look up the meaning of a word or two or three every second or third page, I am not exaggerating. My husband would ask me, are you still reading that book!? Doesn’t it drive you crazy looking up words every two minutes? At first it did, but by page 100 or so it just became a part of my reading experience and by page 200, I found myself trying to use those words in conversation – lol. By page 500 I was in love with his writing and all of those words that wove a rhythm and magic to his storytelling. I enjoyed this magical realist story immensely.
    2. FOUND IN TRANSLATION: Tears and Laughter by Kahlil Gibran. I’ve been reading Gibran for years and years and I always turn to his writings and poems when I want to read something that touches my soul. Our February praxis for an online art class was poetry so I read Tears and Laughter and I smiled and cried all month long.
    3. ABOUT THE WOMAN: The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. A short and very enjoyable read. Miss Brodie is classic and witty and ultimately tragic and sad as she ends a victim of her own hubris.
    4. DYSTOPIAN WORLD: The Bees by Laline Paull. I so loved this story about Flora 717, the sanitation worker heroine of the dystopian beehive. I read somewhere it was like The Handmaid’s Tale meets The Hunger Games and that is quite apt. You will fall in love with Flora and root for her with all of your might through the entire book. A bittersweet and lovely tale of power, love and devotion.
    5. JUDGED BY THE COVER: Blended Embroidery by Brian Haggard. I picked this book up at the library last month and chose it for it’s really pretty cover. A quick, inspiring eye candy arts and crafts book about combining old and new textiles, ephemera and embroidery.
    6. A BOOK FROM LAST YEAR’S TBR: The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. Ugh, what can I say about Ernie except this book reminded me why I DO NOT LIKE his writing. Throw your tomatoes if you must Hemingway fans but I found this book a total bore. A bunch of unlikeable, annoying drunks droning on about pretty much nothing. I was hoping once they arrived in Pamplona for Fiesta it would pick up but it was more like Pamplona for Siesta. There were moments of lovely imagery but not enough for me.
    That was it for this quarter. I’ve got one horizontal Bingo so far. Loving the challenge.

  2. Haven’t been reading a lot this year. But this lockdown is a perfect time to do so. Grabbed the Sapiens and its a long arduous read, but well worth it. Reading Kaizen and some books on Buddhism.

  3. Oh my god the cover art of the last one is mind blowing. Your review is tempting me so so so much. Will just bookmark it and maybe once the lock down is over, shall request it as a bday gift from someone 🙂

  4. I only just joined the challenge today officially but I have read four of my ten categories this quarter.

    Found in translation
    Giordano, Paolo “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” (La solitudine dei numeri primi)
    A book from last year’s TBR
    Bryson, Bill “The Body. A Guide for Occupants
    Tung, Debbie “Book Love
    A book by an author from a country you want to visit
    Undset, Sigrid “Kristin Lavransdatter” (Kristin Lavransdatter)

    I hope to be able to carry on like this.

    My list is here: Book Bingo

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