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155: Our 2020 Reading Challenges - Reflecting on Our Goals


In this episode of the Unabridged Podcast, Ashley, Jen, and Sara reflect on the reading goals they set back in January. After the Bookish Check-in, they reflect on each reading challenge they chose and provide an update on how they did, what they gained, and what has changed in their reading lives in 2020.


After listening to the 2020 reading challenge update, let us know how your reading challenges went this year!




Bookish Check-in

Ashley - Sofía Segovia’s The Murmur of Bees

Jen - Edward Lee’s Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef's Journey to Discover America's New Melting-Pot Cuisine (for the Read Harder Challenge)

Sara - Jessica Redland’s Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe

Sally - Jennifer Donnelly's Poisoned

Find Sally, one of our Unabridged Ambassadors, @phoenixlib on Instagram!

Interested in the Ambassador program? Find out more here.


Reading Challenge Episodes - The Background

2020 Reading Goals and Challenges - Episode 109

Reading Challenge Midyear Check-In - Episode 131


Mentioned in Episode

The Tournament of Books and the Super Rooster

John Boyne's A Ladder to the Sky Bernadine Evaristo's Girl, Woman, Other

Susan Choi's Trust Exercise

Dexter Palmer's Mary Toft; Or, the Rabbit Queen: A Novel

Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad

Toni Morrison's A Mercy

Ali Smith's The Accidental


Give Me One - Favorite Holiday Song

Listen in to find out our favorite holiday songs!


#shownotes #readingchallenge #readinggoals #tournamentofthebooks

(A note to our readers: click on the hashtags above to see our other blog posts with the same hashtag.)


Interested in what else we're reading? Check out our Featured Books page.

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Bookish Check-In

book cover of Jessica Redland's Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe

Sara said, "So, I am continuing with my theme for the last--it feels like forever. I'm reading Jessica Redland's Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe. It used to be called Christmas at the Chocolate Pot Cafe, but they changed the name. So, if you've seen the book with the other name, it is the same book. I don't know why they changed it. It was released with a new title. Anyway, so this is the story of Tara Porter. She is the owner of the Chocolate Pot Cafe, and Christmas is a difficult time of the year for her. I haven't gotten too far into the book, but I just know that this is a difficult time and she has some secrets weighing her down. I don't know what the secrets are. And so basically what I can tell from reading the summary on the book jacket and just what I've read so far, she has closed herself off to letting people in and she is going to have a journey where she figures out how to let people back in. Again this is a nice cozy book so far. That seems to be the theme of my fall and winter and I'm here for it. So that is Jessica Redland's Starry Skies Over the Chocolate Pot Cafe."


book cover of Edward Lee's Buttermilk Graffiti

Jen said, "Okay, let me just say I was hoping to have this one done for this episode, because I am reading it because of Book Riots Read Harder Challenge, which I will talk about soon. And I was desperate to have one more checked off my list. And so I'm sharing it with a little bitterness because I did not quite finish it. I am currently reading Edward Lee's Buttermilk Graffiti: A Chef's Journey to Discover America's New Melting Pot Cuisine. I am really loving it. So, I am skipping all the recipes because as I've established for many years, I do not cook. I love my husband. He does all the cooking in our home. And that's not the only reason I love him. But anyway, but this one is just a great reflection on the history of cuisine. So, Edward Lee he sort of found his beginnings as a chef in New York City. But now he lives in Kentucky and so that's where the title comes from—Buttermilk Graffiti. He sees these two different threads of his life coming together. His ancestors are from—I believe his parents immigrated, but I'm not positive—from Korea. And so he talks about the way he brings all of these different parts of his life, identity, his Korean ancestry, that sort of New York sense of food and adventure, and then just some Southern Cooking to his restaurant. And he wants to find other chefs in other parts of the country who do the same thing. So each chapter is this little essay of him going to explore a different place in the United States, meeting different people, but they aren't the traditional cuisines of that region. So there's a part that was very dear to my heart, where he's in West Virginia, and he's talking about pepperoni rolls, and where that tradition came from, why that's a big part of the Appalachians. And he talks about slaw dogs or West Virginia hot dogs, or whatever you want to call them. It's just really interesting. He's a great writer. And I think the threads that he is pulling through, that are on the surface about cuisine, but are really about culture and heritage and identity, both as individuals and as a nation, are just really fascinating. So that is Edward Lee's Buttermilk Graffiti, and I am just loving it.


book cover of Sofía Segovia’s The Murmur of Bees

Ashley said, "I am reading Sofía Segovia’s The Murmur of Bees. And I am actually both listening to this one and reading it on the Kindle. And that is working really well. I don't do that very often. I don't have the Whispersync stuff. And I find that often I listen to things on audio, because I don't have access to them as a print copy. So that's part of how I choose to listen to it on audio. But I had this one already. And it's been nice to have both. So that has been a good experience. But I am absolutely loving this book. I chose this one for part of the challenge. This is a work in translation. And it is her first one to be translated. She is a Mexican writer. And it is lovely. It is complex. I was thinking about how to give a check in on it. And it's pretty difficult to summarize easily because there are a lot of characters, and there's a lot happening, but it's a really rich story. And I would say at its core, that it centers on Simonopio, who is at the center of a lot of what's happening. And he is this fascinating character. He was found by this wealthy landowner and his family, Beatrice and Francisco, who are a big part of the story. And so they have all these people who work for them and those kinds of things. And so a lot of story centers around what's related to their family. But one of the people who is with them on their property gets a sense that there is a baby out there who needs help, basically. And so she goes and finds him. He has been abandoned as far as they can tell. He is disfigured and he has a blanket of bees on him as an infant. And so she returns with this infant and cares for him and she's kind of her own legend. She has been with them a really long time. She is like part of the fabric of the land anyway, so she is a kind of mystical person. And then he she finds this boy. And because of his deformity, he does not speak, but he is this really fascinating character. He just has a very kind heart and he has this amazing relationship with the bees who stay with him throughout his life. And in a lot of ways he understands things about the world that other people do not and he uses that understanding to take care of the people around him. And so it's just a really sweet story. He's not the narrator. But we've talked before about child characters who have that precociousness and awareness of the world. He's definitely in that category. Obviously, there's some magical realism in the story as well. And I am really loving it. I will say it takes place in the early 1900s. And so it set amid the Mexican Revolution and also the influence in 1918. And of course, when she was writing the book, we were not in our current time. That's not the focus of the book. But I would say for people, I love it, it is not a heavy story. It's a beautiful story that is richly told. But there is a haunting feeling of some similarities between now and 1918. That of course, Segovia would not have known when she was writing it. So there's kind of that prophetic feeling of some of the things that she's describing that we are experiencing in our society, which I found fascinating. I did not mind, but that is something to be aware of, because again, that's not the focus of the book, but it is eerie, some of the similarities. Anyway, I am fascinated by it. It just reminds me of how much I love the works that I have read in translation. Often books that are translated are really great and that's part of how what leads to them being translated. So, I'm so glad that I'm reading it. I really love it and I love the tone. I love the atmosphere, and I love the characters. It is really well done. So again that is Sofía Segovia’s The Murmur of Bees.


book cover of Jennifer Donnelly's Poisoned

One of our Unabridged Ambassadors, Sally, joined us for our Bookish Check-In. Sally said, "My name is Sally and I'm really excited to be able to give my own Bookish Check-in. I am currently reading Jennifer Donnelly's Poisoned. It's a fairy tale retelling. To be honest, I love reading fairytale retellings. They really give a new perspectives or side views that I hadn't thought of before, or kind of backgrounds that I hadn't seen or thought of. I really, really enjoy them. So when I saw this one, after I had read Jennifer Donnelly's, Stepsister and enjoyed it, I was really excited. So when you start reading it, and I promise, I'm not going to give away any spoilers, but when you start the book, it's Sophie, our princess in the woods with her Huntsman. She's got her protection to keep her safe. But, what happens when your protection is the thing that's not safe? The reader literally gets slapped in the face with the Huntsman throwing her down and cutting her heart out. So, now we're on page like, I don't know what or minute five, let's say of the movie if it was a movie, and our main character is dead. But these seven mysterious guys show up and they save her. They get her heart working in a very mysterious way. So, now our princess is living on borrowed time trying to figure out what's going on. And my favorite part of this retelling is that you find out right away that perhaps our bad guy isn't the bad guy we thought of. We've grown up on the fairy tale of Snow White with the Evil Queen being out to get her. And you learn very, very early on like page four or something that the Queen isn't really who we should be looking at. There's someone else pulling the strings behind everything. So, our princess is going to really be going on this journey of trying to figure out what is evil in her life and who she should and should not be trusting. It's a really great retelling. You know, I really enjoy reading through it and finding that you've got a princess that our actual young adult community could look up to as a middle school teacher. I love finding books that aren't just about people being saved by other people-- kind of the idea of figuring out your own problems and how to go from there. And Sophie's really working on that. And that's kind of as far as I can give you without giving you spoiler alerts left and right, but it's a really great book. Again, it's Jennifer Donnelly's Poisoned. And it is a quick read and really enjoyable. So, I definitely suggest it. Thank you all for listening to me and thanks again, ladies, for having me on.


Main Segment - Discussion of our 2020 Reading Challenges


Ashley, Jen, and Sara talked about the update of their reading challenges. They referenced their past episodes where they decided their on the challenges and gave updates. The episodes that contain these goals are 2020 Reading Goals and Challenges, Episode 109

, and Reading Challenge Midyear Check In, Episode 131.


Ashley talked about Anne Bogel’s 2020 Reading Challenge. Jen gave an update on her participation in Book Riot's Read Harder Challenge. Sara gave her update on The Novel Knight's Beat the Backlist Reading Challenge along with The Unread Shelf Project 2020.


Give Me One - Favorite Holiday Song


Each of us shares a favorite holiday song! Listen to the episode to find out what each of us picked!

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