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POPSUGAR Reading Challenge 2020 Update: Week Nine

Where has February gone? It’s hard for me to believe that tomorrow will be March 1st. This past week has gone extremely fast, with a lot of busy (but good) activity. My grandmother was released from the hospital early Sunday afternoon, and is settling back in at home with support from family and her new in-home healthcare team. While she is still recovering from her fall, she is very glad to be out of the hospital.

Another bright spot in the week was completing and submitting my short story entry for a local, library-sponsored writing contest. Overall, I am very pleased with how my narrative turned out. I won’t receive any news about the contest until the beginning of April, which will be difficult, but I am excited to have an opportunity to be published (by someone other than myself).

This week has also been a fairly productive one with regard to the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. As of this morning, I have completed a total of 20 prompts (out of 50), which means I’ve now completed 40% of the challenge.

A book about a book club…

The first book I finished this week was All Roads Lead to Austen: A Yearlong Journey With Jane, by Amy Elizabeth Smith, a college professor with a passion for Jane Austen’s novels.

All Roads Lead to Austen is technically a memoir, but could also be described as a travelogue. The book is about the year Smith spent living in six different countries in Central and South America: Guatemala, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Paraguay, and Argentina. Smith really makes an effort to immerse herself in the culture of each place she visits, making a point of spending the first part of her trip at a language school in an effort to improve her Spanish. As a result, she learns a great deal about each of the countries in which she lives and, more importantly, about the people and their cultures.

One of her goals for her trip is to learn how Jane Austen’s novels resonate with people outside of Great Britain and the United States. In each country, she has the opportunity to discuss one of Austen’s novels (focusing on Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, and Emma) with a group of local readers. Each book club has unique insights on Austen’s novels and characters, some of which are similar to those expressed by Smith’s college students, and some which are inspired by differences in societal norms. In addition to her book clubs, Smith takes the time to become acquainted with local literature and authors, ultimately shipping home a tremendous number of books from each country she visited.

This was actually my second time reading All Roads Lead to Austen. Ironically, my first reading of the memoir came about because it had been chosen by the book club I was attending at the time. I remember thinking that it was a really cool idea, traveling with literature as a focus. I thought the book was every bit as interesting the second time around, and really enjoyed the differences in each of the Jane Austen discussions that she related.

If you are a fan of Jane Austen, or a book lover in general, All Roads Lead to Austen is definitely worth checking out. Just be aware that reading this book may make you feel the need to re-read your favorite Jane Austen novel.

A book you meant to read in 2019…

My second book of the week was Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells. Artificial Condition is the second book in The Murderbot Diaries series, and picks up shortly after the events of the previous book.

With the help of a research transport ship, Murderbot travels to the RaviHyral Mining Facility, seeking answers about a group of humans it had once been contracted to protect… hoping to find conclusive evidence of its level of responsibility in their deaths. After using the transport’s medical facilities to make itself appear more like an augmented human than a SecUnit, Murderbot hires itself out as a security consultant to a group of researchers who are attempting to retrieve their data from an untrustworthy employer.

When I first read All Systems Red in 2019, I meant to read its sequels during the same calendar year. Unfortunately, as so often happens, I ended up getting distracted by other books and never got around to the rest of the series. With my recent re-read of the first book in The Murderbot Diaries series, I knew that I couldn’t let history repeat itself. I’m so glad that I immediately continued the series, because I enjoyed Artificial Condition every bit as much as the first book. I’ve already begun reading book three, and I’m sure that I will have it (and the fourth book) read within the next couple of days.

Now that things have begun settling down a little, I feel like I can set a slightly more ambitious reading goal for the upcoming week. For the next week, I will be focusing my attention on completing some of the POPSUGAR Reading Challenge prompts that deal specifically with a book’s cover art, such as “a book with a book on the cover” and “a book with a pink cover.” I will also be trying to read enough books to put me at 50% challenge completion, but I am not formally making it a goal for the week.

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