Read Harder – February

I managed to gun through nine Read Harder books in March, leaving only five left until I complete the challenge. Go laser focus!

Five Final TBR Books

#8 – Travel memoir – An African in Greenland by Tété-Michele Kpomassie
#13 – Nonfiction technology – Reality is Broken by Jane McGonigal
#14 – Book about war – A Long Walk: A Story of War and the Life that Follows by Brian Castner
#23 – Translated poetry, not about love – View with a Grain of Sand by Wislawa Szymborska
#24 – All POV characters are POC – The Sellout by Paul Beatty

Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg
#2 – Debut novel
I wouldn’t have finished if not for the challenge. If Ceony Twill was training to become a paper magician, then the focus should have been about her gaining and using those skills. While she did learn some rudimentary paper magic, the majority of the book took place while she was trapped inside a human heart, learning about her master’s past. Yes, she did use those skills to save his life, but it felt like it was a detail rather than the purpose. There was also no foundation created for her to start falling in love with her master. It happened because it was “supposed” to happen, but there was no legitimate path toward falling in love.

Death Going Down by Maria Angelica Bosco
#4 – Set in South or Central America, written by a South or Central American author
I chose Death Going Down because it was compared to Agatha Christie’s novels. I can see the similarities in tone and description, and the ensemble aspect of the storytelling reminded me of Murder on the Orient Express. It took a little bit of time to get into the book as the opening pages were a bit clunky and confusing. However, the story and writing evened out.

Hellhole by Gina Damico
#9 – Book you’ve read before
I read this book for Read Harder 2015 (#11 – YA). Since then, it’s been hovering in the back of my mind, whispering that I needed to read it again. It’s snarky and sarcastic, and the whole concept of discovering a devil in your basement, eating Cheetos, wearing a velour tracksuit was definitely different from what I’ve come across before. It had a madcap adventure feel to it. I liked how the characters played off of each other, and how Burg slid between helpful and selfish – it was always a bit unclear as how good or bad he actually was.

City of Light by Lauren Belfer
#10 – Set within 100 miles of home
City of Light is set in Buffalo, which is general geographic area of where I live. And if I had realized that Written in Red by Anne Bishop would have fit this category, albeit in an alternate universe, I would have chosen it instead. I had a very hard time reading this book, and had to set “reading goals” like I do for nonfiction in order to finish it. As a transplant to Buffalo, the historical aspects of the story were interesting, but they amounted to information dumps bogging down plot progression. A good 100+ pages could have been axed, which would have helped immensely with making the book more readable. The plot itself was a bit loose, with too many subplots. The main plot – power company murders – had very little page time.

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
#17 – Classic by an author of color
I first read this book when for an English course when I was 19. I remember loving the book, and it’s been simmering on my TBR list as a reread for quite some time. In the simplest terms, it is about the unnamed narrator’s coming of age. In more in-depth terms, it’s about alienation, invisibility (because of race, because of socio-economic status, because of not living in a way segments of society believe you should, etc…). It’s a powerful book, and I can see why it left such an impression on my 19-year old self.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
#16 – Banned/frequently challenged in US
I enjoyed this book more than I probably should have. It was extremely well-written; disturbing, but well-written. Humbert Humbert was vile, but at the same time Nabokov gave him charm, made him a master of deception. HH was constantly justifying his actions to both himself and readers. On some level, he knew it was wrong, but whenever those thoughts bubbled to the surface, he shoved them down before he was forced to acknowledge how reprehensible his actions were. He pushed the blame onto Lolita. A love story this is not. It is a story about abuse and moral depravity.

The Lawrence Browne Affair by Cat Sebastian
#20 – LGBTQ romance novel
I picked this one up because of a mention on Book Riot. It was a nice story, and even if all the romance scenes were cut, would still stand strong. I liked that both men brought the each other out of their respective shells, and allowed each other to be a better person than they thought they could be.

 

The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World by Brian Allen Carr
#21 – Micropress
I first read Brian Allen Carr a few years ago for Read Harder (2015, #4 – Book published by an indie press, Motherfucking Sharks), and loved how weird and completely out there his storytelling was. I figured that I couldn’t go wrong with another BAC book, and I was right. The Last Horror Novel in the History of the World was equally weird and dark and amazing. He has a phenomenal way with words, and doesn’t use more when sparse is perfect.

Always Happy Hour: Stories by Mary Miller
#22 – Collection of stories by a woman
I enjoy reading books with flawed women as main characters, but this was not one of those books. All of the stories were depressing and pointless, and the women blended together to form a single one-dimensional person. They all felt the same, and it made reading the stories a chore. There were also several stories that had gratuitous descriptions or actions that would have had no impact on the plot if removed, but by being left in made it feel like it was there for shock value: “She stands and bends over, makes her anus pulse” is the one that comes to mind (“Big Bad Love”). While it related to a child in a non-sexual way, it had no bearing on the narrative. That being said, there were two stories I almost enjoyed, or at least I could relate to aspects of them: “Always Happy Hour” and “Charts”.

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