Reading Challenges of 2018

Another year, another round of reading challenges! Serious reading happened last year, and more of the same will happen this year. I have challenges to complete and TBRs to clear. I’m sure I will hit burn out before June because I will be taking the final two classes needed for my graduate degree during the spring semester. I should probably only take one class, but I really, really want to be done with it.

Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder Challenge
I have completed this challenge every year it’s been offered and have always managed to find categories completely out of my comfort zone and new books to fall in love with. Admittedly, when I first saw the list for 2018 I was a bit underwhelmed because very few of the categories felt like a stretch, but after spending time trying to find books, I warmed up to it. As with previous years, there are several categories that are a bit tricky, specifically #2 – True crime, #9 – Colonial/post-colonial, #13 – Oprah book club, and #20 – Book with a cover you hate. I really hope that reading challenges will slow down on using Oprah as a category because I’m starting to run out of books on her list I find remotely interesting. I also have an issue with “a cover you hate” because it is just so subjective.

To counteract my complaining, there are categories I am excited to read: all three comics categories (#4, #8, and #18), #3 – Genre fiction classic, #16 – first book in new to you MG/YA series, and #17 – Sci-fi with female author and protagonist.

As for reading companions, my husband has no interest in participating. Paraphrasing, he does not want to be told what to read. Sophia will be participating, but will be doing her own thing in regard to blog posts, most likely posting only when she gets to the halfway mark and then when she completes it.

PopSugar 2018 Reading Challenge
Last year, I completed 55 of 56 challenges. It will most likely be the same this year given how much time I spend inside my house (advanced list, #3 – Being read by a stranger in a public place). As with last year, some of the categories are going to be tough to find books for, either because it is a genre I have no interest in (#2 – True crime, #5 – Nordic noir, #23 – Also a stage play/musical, and #38 – Ugly cover) or because the topic is somewhat obscure (advanced list, #4 – Tied to your ancestry and #6 – Allegory).

I am not planning on rushing PopSugar, and will try not to get mentally tied into completing it within a certain time frame. I will pick at it until I am finished with my degree, and then I’ll knock it out.

YALSA’s The Hub Reading Challenge
This will be my third year participating, and I am impatiently waiting for the list to come out (probably late January/early February). I would like to read between 25-35 books, as I have in previous years, but my final tally depends on what books are on the list. It was hit or miss last year in regard to books I had an interest in reading. I do like that this challenge pushes me beyond what I normally read in YA, and I have found hidden gems, but as with any challenge that pushes the comfort zone boundary some reads are rougher than others.

Emma’s Amazon TBR Challenge
I still have over 1000 books on my Amazon TBR list, but I did manage to make a small dent in it in 2017 – 127 books to be exact. I am hoping to get at least that number read this year. I didn’t add too many books to my list because I stopped reading my normal blogs and websites.

Amazon TBR – December (Part 1)

2017 ends with my Amazon TBR list 127 books lighter. This number is relative given the list is over 1000 books long and I’ve managed to add more to it. My net reduction is probably closer to 70. That being said, I’m looking forward to seeing how many more books I can knock off in 2018.

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick
This was a sweet book about a widower coming to terms with his grief at his wife’s passing, and his inability to leave his comfort zone of daily routine (to the detriment of his relationships with his children and neighbors). The charm bracelet was the impetus for each aspect of his adventure – in learning about her hidden past and in learning about new facets of himself. The novel itself was nothing groundbreaking, but sometimes it’s nice to read a book where the main character becomes a better version of themselves.

Gunpowder Alchemy by Jeannie Lin
It took me several weeks to finish reading Gunpowder Alchemy. I was initially excited because steampunk set in Asia? Yes, please! The mechanics of the technology were fascinating, but I just didn’t connect with Jin Soling or her story. While it was well-written, it just didn’t grab me.

 

That Wolf-Boy is Mine by Youko Nogiri
A four volume manga about the relationship between a recently transferred high school student and one of the most popular boys at her new school. She learns his secret – he can transform into a wolf. Que the relationship and ensuing drama. Overall, it was a cute story with an interesting twist between the two main characters, however it wasn’t amazing.

Waste of Space by Gina Damico
Hellhole is still my favorite novel by Damico, but Waste of Space is in second place. Her humor is dry and satirical, and pokes fun at the ludicrousness that is reality television. It took me a bit of time to warm up to it, but once the story got going, I enjoyed it immensely. My favorite character(s) is toss up between Chaz and the NASAW scientists

Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
I’ve been on something of a Holly Black kick recently, and have enjoyed most of her books (I did like or finish Doll Bones). While Darkest Part of the Forest was not my favorite, it was still a good read, with a darkly creative spin on the coexistence of humans and fairies. I have a penchant for fairy tales that focus on the dark underbelly fairies and not on the pretty sparkles. There is always a price for dealing with fairies, and Darkest focuses on that complicated web and the ramifications it has on those involved..

Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
I put this on my list because I liked Seven Black Diamonds, and while (again) Marr’s idea was interesting, how the story was written was staunchly mediocre. I kept listening with the hope it would get better, but it didn’t. The characters were boring and I didn’t particularly care about their situations.

 

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
I haven’t decided how I feel about this book. The whole thing felt like a novel-length set up for the actual plot. On the one hand it was incredibly slow and nothing much actually happened. On the other hand, the glimpses of future Tea and her actions were great. She’ll either be a villain or an anti-hero in the next book, but it would have been better if this had manifested earlier in the book, or of the present/past had been done a better set up. We know she wanted revenge, but no motive was given at any point during the novel.

One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter by Scaachi Koul
Even though I have very limited cultural understanding of Koul’s experiences, I really enjoyed her insights, sense of humor, and writing style. Pretty much all of us can relate to the complicated dynamic between parents and children regardless of our backgrounds. The part that stood out the most to me, and the part I most related to, was her essay on rape and  rape culture.

DNF

Someone to Love by Mary Balogh
I liked Balogh’s Bedwyn Saga and Simply Quartet, and assumed I would like this one as well. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to because I did not care for Anna. She wasn’t bad per se, but I didn’t have any sympathy for her situation. I cared more about the lives of her sisters and brother because their lives were upended for the worse. I would have liked to hear their stories, not Anna’s. I also found Anna to be somewhat condescending towards the upper class and the rules that dictate society.

Gilded Cage by Vic James
This was not a bad book, but more that I am getting jaded of YA dystopian books. They’ve all started blending together and feel like only slight variations of the same theme. The Us vs. Them mentality is superficial and lacks depth. There is an infinite amount of gray, which is much more interesting, so it makes no sense that authors stick with black and white.

Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan
I lasted a whopping eight minutes into this audiobook before I wanted to stab my ears. Part of me kept hoping it was really clever satire, but then I realized that it was supposed to be straight. I probably should have stopped listening as soon as the main character started waxing poetic about “mommy wine”. She was so very, very modern mom cliché, and that type of mom makes me want to hurl.

December Books

With 2017 finished, I managed over 400 books, about half of which were audiobooks (which is why I managed 400 books in the first place).

Audiobooks (24)

Most of my audiobooks were not for Amazon TBR. Dad is Fat was hilarious. Jim Gaffigan has a good peg on what it’s like to be a parent. Some Danger Involved was an interesting start to a late Victorian era murder mystery series. I liked it enough that I would read more books, but not so much that I would buy the books. The same goes for Fated, though this was urban fantasy. Rebel Queen was surprisingly good. I liked that the main character was not the rebel queen herself, but was one of her security guards. On Her Majesty’s Frightfully Secret Service was surprisingly good, in large part because Queenie wasn’t in it. She is one of the most obnoxious characters, and I hope she does not return as Georgie’s maid. Mermaids and the Vampires Who Love Them was alright – a YA mystery involving mythical creatures. It would have been a better read than listen as I do not particularly care for the narrator. She is good as part of an ensemble, but not as the sole narrator. I have mixed feelings on God is Disappointed in You. On the one hand, it was a a funny, but accurate interpretation of the Bible. One the other hand, there were parts that were not entertaining and felt like a chore to get through. There were times that God came across as an emotionally/physically abusive spouse.

Novels (9)


Most of the books were read for my Amazon TBR. As for the two books that weren’t TBR related, The Strange Case of Finley Jane was decent – better than The Girl in the Steel Corset; and Eternally Yours was a somewhat disappointing finish to an otherwise good trilogy.

Manga (4)

Emma’s PopSugar 2017

I managed to finish the PopSugar Ultimate Reading Challenge faster than I did in 2016. Instead of waiting until after 11pm on December 31st to finish my final book (Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers), I finished my final book in September (The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern). I read all but four books in the first five months of the year, picking at the remainder because reading challenge burnout.

2017 was another year of expanded horizons, though I don’t feel as if I expanded them as much this year as last year because many of the books fell into my comfort zone. That being said, there were still categories that caused anxiety, such as bestseller, not from your usual genre, has career advice, and 800+ pages. Those ones were particularly hard because 1.) many bestsellers are written by authors I have no interest in reading, 2.) I don’t really need career advice because I am exactly where I want to be professionally, and 3.) I didn’t have the mental patience to read an 800 page book that wasn’t Outlander, and I didn’t want to do a reread. I debated reading Sarum (read when I was around 13 years old), but by that point in the year, I was burned out and didn’t want an in-depth book to keep track of.

Favorites

Kindred by Octavia Butler
(task #5 – Person of color author)
I loved Butler’s Xenogenesis/Lillith’s Brood trilogy, so I thought I would give another one of her books a try. Time travel is one of my preferred genres, and the concept of Kindred seemed interesting – a modern African American woman traveling back to antebellum Maryland multiple times for the purpose of keeping her white, slaveholding ancestor alive. Dana’s journeys were always a mix fascinating and horrifying. She had to learn to navigate the reality of being a slave while attempting to keep herself psychologically separate from it. Almost 11 months have passed since I read Kindred, and it is still with me. I plan on reading it again, and have been trying to get my husband to read it.

Awaken Online: Catharsis by Travis Bagwell
(task #10 – Cat on the cover)
This is the best book I’ve read in the RPG sub-genre. It takes the concept and twists it a bit, placing the main character, Jason, as the villain of the newly launched MMORPG, Awaken Online. He has to grapple with what real life has thrown at him, and with his growing realization that he has been cast as the villain online by the AI that runs the game. Both Jason and his adversaries exist in a gray zone, which adds to the interest level when aspects of  real life and online life collide. I’ve since listened to the sequel, which was almost as good as Catharsis.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
(task #19 – About food)
The basic premise of this book: private chef is kidnapped by pirate and forced to serve her an elegant dinner every Sunday. Food played a central roll, of course, and Owen, the chef, must get creative in coming up with a worthy meal while at sea on a minimally equipped pirate ship. However, my favorite aspect was watching Owen grow as a character. He started out with a very rigid and narrow worldview, but even with the brutality he saw and dealt with, he ended up accepting and embracing the fact that nothing is strictly black and white. People who might seem good on the surface are really cruel, and vice versa. It turned out to be a really lovely book.

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
(#17 – Involving a mythical creature)
My sister has been after me for a long while to read this, and I finally broke down because I realized it fit a needed category. I’ve read books by Seanan McGuire, but couldn’t get into her writing style. However, I absolutely loved Rolling in the Deep. Yes, you already know how the book is going to end before it even starts – that’s kind of the point. What makes the story fun and exciting is how it gets there. She did a fantastic job with her mermaids. No buxom beauties here, but instead, highly evolved deep sea predators.

Honorable Mentions:  My Holiday in North Korea, The Bees, Slaughterhouse Five, Norse Mythology, The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, Hotel Ruby, Pines

Completed Tasks

1. Library recommendation – Geekerella by Ashley Poston
2. Been on my TBR list way too long – Bed-Knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
3. Book of letters – The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
4. Audiobook – Pines by Blake Crouch
5) Person of color author – Kindred by Octavia Butler
6. One of four seasons in title – Scandal in Spring by Lisa Kleypas
7.) Story within a story – The Marvels by Brian Selznick
8.) Multiple authors – My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
9.) Espionage thriller – Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
10.) Cat on the cover – Awaken Online: Catharsis by Travis Bagwell
11.) Author uses a pseudonym – Feed by Mira Grant
12.) Bestseller, not from usual genre – All By Myself, Alone by Mary Higgins Clark
13.) Author/main character has disability – El Deafo by Cece Bell
14.) Involving travel – My Holiday in North Korea by Wendy E. Simmons
15.) Book with a subtitle – The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker
16.) Published in 2017 – Eleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones
17.) Involving mythical creature – Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
18.) Reread never fails to make me smile – Bum Voyage by David Greer
19.) About food – Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
20.) Has career advice – The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferriss
21.) Book from nonhuman perspective – The Bees by Laline Paull
22.) Steampunk – The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr
23.) Has a red spine – Fatherland: A Family History by Nina Bunjavec
24.) Set in the wilderness – The Revenant by Michael Punke
25.) Loved as a child – Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey
26.) Author from a country you’ve never visited – Maresi by Maria Turtschaninoff
27.) Title as character’s name – Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
28.) Set during wartime – The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
29.) Unreliable narrator – Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
30.) Book with pictures – The Singing Bones by Shawn Tan
31.) Main character different ethnicity than me – Bollywood Bride by Sonali Dev
32.) About an interesting woman – Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell by Janet Wallach
33.) Set in two different time periods – Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
34.) Month/day of week in title – One of Our Thursdays is Missing by Jasper Fforde
35.) Set in a hotel – Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young (also known as Hotel for the Lost)
36.) Written by someone I admire – Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain
37.) Becoming a movie in 2017 – Ten by Gretchen McNeil
38.) Set around non-Christmas holiday – Hallowe’en Party by Agatha Christie
39.) First book in new to you series – Moon Called by Patricia Briggs
40.) Book bought on a trip – Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal

Completed Tasks (Advanced)

1.) Book recommendation by loved author – The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
2.) 2016 bestseller – Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill
3.) Family member term in title – The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
4.) Takes place over character’s life span – The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
5.) About immigrant/refugee – The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui
6.) Genre/sub-genre you’ve never heard of – The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
7.) Eccentric character – Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace
8.) 800+ pages – Winter by Marissa Meyer
9.) Bought at used book sale – The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
10.) Book mentioned in another book – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
11.) About a difficult topic – This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp
12.) Based on mythology – Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Sophia’s Bookish Monthly TBR – COMPLETE!

The Bookish Monthly TBR is the last of the three main challenges I took on this year – my second year in a row with no stragglers and the earliest finish yet: December 18th!  Last year I was reading challenge books up to December 28th, and in 2015 I didn’t even complete either challenge (more on that white whale in another post).  I have one book left to meet my Goodreads goal of 150, but a few hours of reading over the holiday weekend will take care of that no problem.  And with any luck, Bookish will release the 2018 TBR list in the next couple of days so I can get that spreadsheet up and running!  Here’s what I read for the second half of this year’s challenge:

Bookish First Half

July – Read a book about an overlooked figure in history.26030711

Rise of the Rocket Girls: The Women Who Propelled Us, from Missiles to the Moon to Mars

Nathalia Holt

I enjoyed reading The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan – a very different perspective on World War II, but a bit disjointed and not totally satisfying – so I was cautiously looking forward to Rocket Girls.  Fortunately, it did not disappoint.  It’s engaging and informative, with a sociable tone and accessible information on the technical aspects of rocket building.  It was fascinating to learn about the beginnings of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and impressive to see how many barriers the women who worked there faced and ultimately broke through.  These are stories that should be told and contributions that deserve to be recognized.  In this same vein, I plan on reading Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures soon.

August – Read a collection of essays and short stories. 24611587

Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

April Genevieve Tucholke

This was a fun bunch of spooky stories.  As a whole the collection was fine – easy to read, some nice tension, and a few surprises, but nothing hugely impressive overall.  However, there were three very strong stories that were good enough for me to justify adding a full star to my Goodreads rating: In the Forest Dark and Deep by Carrie Ryan, which offered an extra gruesome version of a Wonderland tea party; Sleepless by Jay Kristoff, wherein Norman Bates uses the internet; and The Girl Without a Face by Marie Lu – you must have done *something* to provoke that ghost into haunting you.  I would consider purchasing a copy of this book just to be able to re-read these stories in particular.

September – Read an entire series.9317452

Rivers of London/Peter Grant, Books 1-6

Ben Aaronovitch

This was a whirlwind of an audiobook marathon: I blasted through all six books in about as many days right down to the wire, finishing the last one on September 29th.  I enjoyed each of them pretty much equally – this series is excellent fun and the audio narrator is fantastic.  The concept of ancient deities claiming guardianship of the various rivers in England combined with London’s blend of cultures and history provides a great foundation for something beyond your typical detective story.  A perfect blend of suspense, dry humor, and pop culture references, this series is definitely worth revisiting multiple times.

October – Read a book that scares you.18498558

Bird Box

Josh Malerman

Yeah, this book scared me.  It had me crawling right out of my skin.  And I try not to read scary things too soon before bed, but I NEEDED to know what happened next.  And then, I wasn’t able to fall asleep because I NEEDED to know how it ended.  So I stayed up way too late on a weeknight for the sake of avoiding disturbing dreams and finished it.  This book was too much of a good time to really analyze it critically – for avid horror readers it may be nothing new, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a nice, solid contribution to the genre.  It’s creepy and tense and stressful and compulsively readable.  Check it out.

November – Read a graphic novel or comic book.35631919

Rat Queens, Volume 4: High Fantasies

Kurtis J. Wiebe

I adore Rat Queens.  The first volume was awesome – what’s not to love about a scrappy, snarky, boozy band of lady mercenaries?  The subsequent volumes were still fun, but the Queens deserved better.  I’d heard that the comic was going on an indefinite hiatus, so I was surprised to see Volume 4 pop up in the library catalog.  It was nice catching up the ladies, but overall it felt like a limp attempt at a not totally necessary reboot.  Hopefully the series can find its stride again and return to the glory of volume 1.

December – Read a book about belief.17568801

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth

Reza Aslan

I don’t practice any religion, and I haven’t spent much time studying the Bible, so I can’t react to this book from a spiritual or theological perspective.  But most of what I’ve learned about the Judeo-Christian tradition has been within the context of history as a whole, and from that perspective, this book is compelling.  Aslan takes the mythic figure of Jesus as presented by the Gospels and builds a more complete portrait of the man by describing him relative to the social and political realities of his time.  It’s fascinating to see him re-framed as a seditious revolutionary, whose words and actions were (and arguably still are, apparently) considered radical and dangerous to the general order of things.

Sophia’s PopSugar 2017 – COMPLETE!

Like this year’s Read Harder, the PopSugar challenge was a good one – lots of fun categories that led me to many new and amazing books.  However, I will admit to fudging my own rules for the last book of the challenge by reading Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to fulfill the 800+ page task.  I prefer not to use re-reads for these challenges, but I’ve been working my way through Harry Potter again as a nod to the 20th(!) anniversary of the first book being published, so I decided to let it count.

Here are three awesome new-to-me books from the second half of the challenge:

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Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky – This is a fun story all on its own – crazed fangirls take increasingly drastic steps to get their hands on their beloved boy band – but listening to the audiobook brought it to life.  It’s narrated by Barrett Wilbert Weed with that slow, slightly marble-mouthed valley girl vocal fry, which just elevates the already dark, dry humor to another level.  The plot moves in unexpected ways, making it feel fresh and surprising.  This is one I plan on reading more than once.

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Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – Another fun book that truly deserves to be described as quirky, but without the implication of being overly twee or saccharine.  There’s plenty of bite here.  It’s solid social satire, touching on mental health, PTA moms, and the unique sensibilities of the Pacific Northwest.  I’m a sucker for books that use ‘found documents’ to tell a story, and this one does just that to great effect.  The plot never sagged or waned, and I felt compelled to read just one more chapter, I swear! so I could get to the bottom of the mystery.

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Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys – Gorgeous, painful, and moving.  This book had me full-on crying by the end of it.  I had been listening to the audiobook during a long day of mindless data entry, and I was so engrossed I kept listening on my drive home.  And when I got home, I took off my coat and sat down to listen to the rest of it.  TEARS.  It’s beautifully written from multiple perspectives and captures a World War II event I’d never even heard of – the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff, a ship filled with refugees fleeing war-torn Europe.  It’s an amazing story.

Completed Tasks

1) Recommended by a librarian – Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple
2) On your TBR list for way too long – The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien
3) A book of letters – Griffin & Sabine: an Extraordinary Correspondence, Nick Bantock
4) Audiobook – Gemina, Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
5) By a person of color – When Dimple Met Rishi, Sandhya Menon
6) One of the four seasons in the title – Summerlong, Dean Bakopoulos
7) Story within a story – Beauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book, Jennifer Donnelly
8) Multiple authors – The Blumhouse Book of Nightmares, ed. Jason Blum
9) Espionage thriller – The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, John Le Carre
10) Cat on the cover – The Female of the Species, Mindy McGinnis
11) Author who uses pseudonym – The Bad Beginning, Lemony Snicket
12) Bestseller from genre you don’t normally read – milk and honey, Rupi Kaur
13) By or about a person who has a disability – The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath
14) Involving travel – The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead
15) With a subtitle – Trainwreck: the Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why, Sady Doyle
16) Published in 2017 – King’s Cage, Victoria Aveyard
17) Involving a mythical creature – The Gentleman, Forrest Leo
18) Read before that never fails to make you smile – Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
19) Book about food – Cinnamon and Gunpowder, Eli Brown
20) Career advice – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck, Mark Manson
21) Nonhuman perspective – Hammers on Bone, Cassandra Khaw
22) Steampunk novel – Etiquette & Espionage, Gail Carriger
23) Book with a red spine – Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld
24) Set in the wilderness – Beauty Queens, Libba Bray
25) Loved as a child – From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, E.L. Konigsburg
26) Author from a country you’ve never visited – Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood, Trevor Noah
27) Title is a character’s name – A Study in Charlotte, Brittany Cavallaro
28) Novel set during wartime – All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
29) Unreliable narrator – Kill the Boy Band, Goldy Moldavsky
30) With pictures – The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan
31) Main character is different ethnicity than you – The Gauntlet, Karuna Riazi
32) Book about an interesting woman – Shirley Jackson: a Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin
33) Set in two different time periods – Shadowbahn, Steve Erickson
34) Month or day of the week in title – The Last of August, Brittany Cavallaro
35) Set in a hotel – The Witches, Roald Dahl
36) Written by someone you admire – Scrappy Little Nobody, Anna Kendrick
37) Becoming a movie in 2017 – Annihilation, Jeff VanderMeer
38) Set around a holiday other than Christmas – The Accident Season, Moira Fowley-Doyle
39) First book in a series you haven’t read before – These Broken Stars, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
40) Book bought on a trip – Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness, Alexandra Fuller
41) Recommended by an author you love – Unmentionable: the Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners, Therese Oneill
42) Bestseller from 2016 – The Couple Next Door, Shari Lapena
43) Family-member term in title – Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Laini Taylor
44) Takes place over a character’s life span – Perfume: the Story of a Murderer, Patrick Suskind
45) Book about an immigrant or refugee – Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys
46) Genre/subgenre you’ve never heard of before – Lincoln in the Bardo, George Saunders
47) Eccentric character – Trouble Makes a Comeback, Stephanie Tromly
48) More than 800 pages – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
49) Got from a used book sale – Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
50) Mentioned in another book – The Tales of Beedle the Bard, J.K. Rowling
51) Difficult topic – Between the World and Me, Ta-Nehisi Coates
52) Based on mythology – Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman

Amazon TBR – November (Part 2)

Dove Arising by Karen Bao
I liked how Dove handled her situation – joining the military to keep her siblings from having to move to the slums of the base, even though her rise through the ranks felt somewhat tropy. I did not like her mother, and had little sympathy for her because of how the consequences of her multiple actions negatively impacted her children. I also didn’t like how she treated Dove after Dove bailed her out of jail; very selfish and ungrateful. Ultimately though, I didn’t have a strong enough connection with characters or their plight to read the remaining books in this series.

The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron
Told through the parallel, but connecting stories of modern archaeologist, Rosamund Gale, and the Neanderthal, Girl, who must survive after losing her family. Both characters were sympathetic, with Rose battling to maintain her authority as an archaeologist and rights to discovery while being shoved off her dig because of her pregnancy; and Girl, who after being forced to leave her family because of transgression, must try to survive a cruel winter in a land where family can mean life or death.

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee
Eh. This was alright. I realized that I am not a fan of the rich teenagers who party and back stab each other genre. The characters weren’t interesting, and it felt like their actions and relationships existed for the sole purpose of causing drama. I also had issues with the step-sibling incest being portrayed as the “right” relationship for two of the characters, and the fact that sexism and slut-shaming was very much alive and well.

Seven Nights in a Rogue’s Bed by Anna Campbell
Pushing logic aside, I was swept up in the Beauty & the Beast-ness of this story. It was well done, and the pacing was fairly even. I also liked both characters. That’s not to say there weren’t issues with Seven Nights, specifically regarding Jonas’ initial intentions, and how he reacted both times Sidonie withholds information from him, but it was engaging enough that the critical part of my brain glossed over those details, allowing me to enjoy the story.

Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr
This wasn’t a bad book, but it wasn’t amazing either. It was an interesting concept, but the characters didn’t grab my attention enough to care about them. I’ve since listened to/attempted to listen to two other of Melissa Marr’s books, but felt the same way about them as well. She will not be an author I revisit.

Louisa: The Extraordinary Life of Mrs. Adams by Louisa Thomas
Louisa was a fascinating biography about an intelligent and creative woman who was restricted by society’s expectations even as she had amazing opportunities because of her marriage. She seemed to make the best of her situation given she did not have the freedoms modern women enjoy. It is yet another book involving a Founding Father that sheds them in a not necessarily flattering light. While I am aware of the social dynamics of the time, it’s still a bit shocking to see how the FFs treated the women in their lives, i.e. not very well. Adams was emotionally abusive and completely gaslighted Louisa.

Defy the Stars by Claudia Gray
I read A Thousand Pieces of You earlier this year, and while her imagined multiverse was fascinating, the story itself was only marginally interesting. I had a bit of trepidation over this book because of that. However, I was pleasantly surprised to read well-written and interesting story, to the point that I will read the sequel when it comes out next year. I want to learn more about the conspiracy Naomi and Abel discovered. I want to know what the next life chapter has in store for both characters as well as various secondary characters.

A Separation by Katie Kitimura
I seem to be in the minority of actually liking this book. It’s odd, and slow-paced, and it was more about the main character working through her emotions in regard to her estranged husband and the things she felt he kept hidden from her than anything of note actually happening (other than the husband’s disappearance). The narrative bounces between the present and past by way of explaining the dynamic between the main character and her husband. It’s not a thriller by any means, just a book about people dealing with their less than perfect lives.

DNF

The Dark Net by Benjamin Percy
I absolutely loved Red Moon, but I wasn’t able to get into The Dark Net. It was an interesting idea, but the descriptions and adjectives felt a bit purple.

The Aisles Have Eyes by Joseph Turow
I listened to less than two hours before I gave up. It just wasn’t interesting. It seemed like the author was just rehashing what is already about there in terms of research and anecdotal stories in regards consumer’s shopping habits and how companies influence those habits.

Daughter of Deep Silence by Carrie Ryan
Frances was an unlikable character who was poorly written. While I enjoy reading about unlikable characters, if they aren’t done right, it ruins the story. There was more focus on her lust for Grey than for her anger at her parents’ and friend’s deaths. Plus her actions were whiny, broody teenager and not well-planned revenge.

Everneath by Brodi Ashton
I managed about 15 minutes of listening before I got annoyed with Nikki. The set up was supposed to pull the reader in, but instead made me think of what an idiot she was. I decided to read the descriptions/reviews of the other two books and realized that I would not be able to handle the stupidity and poor decisions of Nikki et al over three books.