Category Archives: Reading Challenges

The Hub – May

I have been trying to get my May Hub post written for a month and half. The post has been sitting as is for over two weeks, and I still have not written my thoughts on one of the books  (I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina and Stacey Robinson). I am going to call it good at this point just to get it out.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
I read Pashmina in January, and was somewhat underwhelmed by it. The concept of the magical shawl and its use to help Pri deal with serious life changes was good, but the narrative was not cohesive. If the shawl is there to help Pri, then each time she used it, then she should have walked away with another piece of information to help her deal with her problems. This wasn’t the case, and ultimately, we never learned how Pri overcame her issues to be satisfied with her life. So much more could have been done with a magical shawl that gave women a new perspective, allowing them to better their lives.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
The pros of this book were the diversity of voices, topics covered, and the creative layout. The con was the lack of density – meaning it have been better if there had been more. It felt like an appetizer instead of a full meal.


The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
I listened to Gentleman last year, and didn’t like it. The second time around and I still don’t like it. The book is essentially Monty whining his way across Europe, completely oblivious to how his words and actions hurt those around him. It’s not funny. If it’s satire, then the humor is beyond me. Monty is an entitled jackass, I get that his personal life is awful, but it’s hard to have sympathy for him when he treats everyone around him so selfishly. Everything is about Monty. Even when he learns of Percy’s epilepsy, Monty views it in relation to how it will affect him (meaning Monty) and his access to Percy. There is pretty much zero character growth for any of the characters, and only in the last 10 minutes of the book is there a whiff of growth potential for Monty. The book tried to be too much. It would have been better if it had focused on Monty, Percy, and Felicity, and their growth as human beings, and not on some conveniently lucky adventure that would have been better as a separate story.

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from a book about an 11-year girl who goes on the lam with her released convict father while he tries to find a way to protect her from a kill order. It was surprisingly gripping – I had a hard time putting the book down. The narrative flowed and was well-paced. I loved how Harper used words and cadence, and how he allowed Polly and Nate to grow. Definitely a book I will read again.

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gilman
I have mixed feelings about this comic. It was a very uncomfortable read both in the careless racism exhibited my most of the characters, and the weird anti-male, Christian overtones. Bee, the camp leader, was squicky in her fanaticism. I did like the friendship Charlie and Sydney, but that’s about it. The comic also ended in the middle of the story. It was not a natural stopping point. I had to reread it several times to figure out why the story ended there, and I’m still not entirely clear on it.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
I almost put this book down after the boring introduction. While it was a set up, and explained aspects of the following story, removing it wouldn’t have taken anything away from the narrative. Once past that, however, and The One Hundred Nights of Hero was a dark, beautiful, and painful feminist fairy tale. The framing is similar to Arabian Nights and Scheherazade, though in this case a young woman must protect her friend/mistress from unwanted sexual advances by telling stories to her would-be assaulter. The running theme throughout was how educated and/or powerful women can be scary to men.

Sandwiches!: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering
Sandwiches! is essentially a cookbook with interesting tidbits of information thrown in. It was interesting and mostly well-researched – some of the dates relating to baseball off by a century. I believe they meant the 1700s/18th century as opposed to the 17th century (which would be the 1600s). While there are references to the origin game, early incarnations of the game as we know it came about in the 1700s, with the first actual baseball taking place in the mid-1800s. I put less stock in the facts presented because of this, though all three of my children were enthralled by the recipes and illustrations.

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
The magical world operates invisibly along side daily life in NYC, and it’s time for a magical competition to determine which House will be in power until the next competition. The magical world is dark and corrupt, and given that magic has been waning, they will do what needs to be done in order to retain their magic/power. Told from multiple POVs, the story focuses mostly on Sydney, the mystery of her origin, and how she uses her underdog status to upend the status quo. The pacing was a bit slow at times, but the story was very, very well-conceived.

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield
I read Spill Zone last year and thought it was intriguing, but somewhat vague. I found I liked it more the second time around. I was able to catch details and nuances I didn’t see before. While it ends with many questions raised, and almost none answered, I am curious as to how some of the threads will play out in future volumes, especially with Vespertine, and Addison’s “change”.

Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
The poetry felt a bit disjointed. Individual poems were good and/or wrenching, but it was hard to see how they all flowed together thematically. It is still a solid work of poetry, and I can the potential for it to resonate with the right reader. My favorite poem was “What I Talk About When I Talk About Black Jesus.”


The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler
This was a fast and fairly interesting read. The writing was a bit juvenile, so I’d range this more for middle school than high school readers. I liked the sidebars, but they were mini-chapters unto themselves (snippets of information, they were not), and their placement was awkwardly in the middle of chapters, which ruined the reading flow. The lack of illustrations, diagrams, and eye-catching photographs was a big mark against it. Give the readers an illustration of what The Whydah looked like, or at least of ships similar to her. Give the readers photos of the cool treasure, like the African gold. A syringe is not captivating. All my gripes aside, for what it is, The Whydah is a solid little read.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel adapted by Damian Duffy
I listened to this book in 2017 and absolutely loved it. I was a bit trepidatious about the graphic version because I didn’t know if it would stand up to the audio version. Duffy ended up doing a good job with translating the material into a visual format. His angular drawing style (while not my favorite) worked well with the rawness of Dana’s experiences.


Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
I love how Reynolds uses words, and I love how he formatted Long Way Down. Verse worked beautifully for Will’s story, and each word had meaning, packing a punch, moving Will forward. It’s Will’s journey of learning about his family history, how the cycle of violence has both directly and indirectly affected him – the “whys” behind the cycle of violence. There is no judgement or moral lesson given, just a look at how toxic “rules” can be. The ending was the only sticking point for me because of its ambiguity. But having a straight ending would have put the story into good vs. bad territory, which would have caused it to lose credibility.

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming
My first thoughts on this book was that the writing felt juvenile, especially in the beginning. I read a similar book recently, The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley, and it quality of the writing was much better. I had to push through the writing style of Hope because I wanted to read Doaa’s story. I am glad I did because her experiences and the obstacles she overcame were incredible.  I cannot imagine living through and surviving such traumatic experiences.

PopSugar – April & May

I have not been actively reading PopSugar for the past several months. Between school and the YALSA Hub Challenge, my attention has been focused elsewhere. It also doesn’t help that I have now maxed out the number of audiobooks I’ve allowed myself to use (20 out of 40). I have seven books left in the basic challenge, and hope to finish them in either July or August. Once I’m finished with those, I will move onto the advanced challenge prompts.

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn
#5 – Nordic noir
The Bird Tribunal wasn’t a slow burning story so much as it was dead in the water. I get that it was supposed to be an atmospheric build up to an explosive conclusion, but was frustrated for most of the book waiting for something to happen, or at least an increase in tension. There were glimpses of possibilities, but the only two things that kept me reading was that this book knocked out one of the tasks for PopSugar, and it was short.

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
#28 – Two authors
Illluminae was amazing (Hal 9000 and reavers, oh my!), and Gemina was almost as amazing, but…Obsidio was not. It was good, but it was too ambitious with too many POVs.  It was hard to keep track of what was happening in Obsidio, and there were times I tuned out what was going on because I couldn’t figure out how a scene related to the story as a whole. It really should have been split into two books. One for Asha and Rhys, and one to tie everything together bringing BeiTech down in the process.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
#32 – Celebrity book club (Reese Witherspoon)
I didn’t know what to expect going into Erotic Stories. I assumed I would have to force myself to finish it because it was a celebrity selection, and I have a hard time reading/enjoying the majority of books chosen by celebrity book clubs. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that I absolutely LOVED this book. Different subplots complimented or intertwined with each other, each one looking at community and/or a woman’s sense of self. There was also character growth all around! I enjoyed how Niki went in with a set perception, then had it drastically altered as her relationship with the widows grew. The widows were by far my favorite characters.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
#40 – Favorite prompt from past PopSugar Reading Challenge
(2017 – #46 – Subgenre you’ve never heard of – afrofuturism)
This book was so very, very different, and weirdly wonderful. It’s speculative, magical realism, and science fiction rolled into one, though at the same time it felt like something more. Alien contact was the catalyst, and the impact of that event was seen from various perspectives – human, metahuman, animal, and mythological. Political, religious, and climatic implications of first contact were explored as well. It’s a character-driven story, with plot taking a backseat. Because of this, the story was a bit confusing at times, but I think it would have been more so had I read instead of listened to it.

Sophia’s Book Riot Read Harder 2018 – COMPLETE!

Another year of Read Harder down!  I really love doing these challenges, and it has had a noticeable impact on my reading habits.  I’m more willing to pick up books that 4 years ago I would have passed over after making a snap judgement.  I’m less intimidated by tough topics, particularly political non-fiction.  My understanding of the world only expands and grows more complex with every book I read that’s written by an author who isn’t white and/or male and/or cishet and/or American.  And these challenges have shown me that I can always do better.

Book Riot 2018 First Half

Now for a few of the amazing books I read for the second half of this challenge:

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Dawn by Octavia E. Butler – I never read anything by Octavia Butler until this year, and I have been absolutely, totally, and tragically missing out.  If you’ve never read anything by her, GO.  GO NOW.  To the library, a bookstore, JUST GO.  That’s all I have to say about that.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain – I consider myself a hardcore introvert, and as I get older I get more comfortable with that reality.  But for a long time I just thought I was some kind of weirdo and therefore deficient in the eyes of people who fit society’s expectations for ‘normal’.  Quiet helped me to better understand introversion, and it was fascinating to learn how American culture has continuously pushed extroversion as the ideal personality type for every situation.  Even if that’s not changing anytime soon, it’s nice to feel validated.

The Incarnations by Susan Barker – I finished this book back in January, and it’s really stuck with me.  It’s not gentle or soft or even particularly happy, but it’s compelling and immersive.  Barker seamlessly weaves every thread together, taking the reader through Chinese history and mythology while examining the complexities of human relationships.  This isn’t a beach read – be prepared to be challenged, appalled, heartbroken, and riveted.

Completed Tasks

1) A book published posthumously – Ariel, Sylvia Plath
2) A book of true crime – The Map Thief, Michael Blanding
3) A classic of genre fiction – Treasure Island, Robert Louis Stevenson
4) A comic written and illustrated by the same person – Through the Woods, Emily Carroll
5) A book set in/about a BRICS country – The Incarnations, Susan Barker
6) A book about nature – The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s Eye View of the World, Michael Pollan
7) A western – True Grit, Charles Portis
8) A comic written or illustrated by a person of color – Black Panther: World of Wakanda, Roxane Gay et. al
9) A book of colonial/postcolonial literature – Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad
10) A romance novel by or about a person of color – Destiny’s Captive, Beverly Jenkins
11) A children’s classic published before 1980 – The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum
12) A celebrity memoir – Believe Me: A Memoir of Love, Death, and Jazz Chickens, Eddie Izzard
13) An Oprah Book Club selection – The Road, Cormac McCarthy
14) A book of social science – Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, Susan Cain
15) A one-sitting book – Binti, Nnedi Okorafor
16) The first book in a new-to-you YA/middle grade series – How to Hang a Witch, Adriana Mather
17) A scifi novel with a female protagonist by a female author – Dawn, Octavia E. Butler
18) A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image – Lumberjanes, Vol. 7: A Bird’s Eye View, Shannon Watters
19) A book of genre fiction in translation – Penance, Kanae Minato
20) A book with a cover you hate – Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding
21) A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ author – The Cutting Season, Attica Locke
22) An essay anthology – We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Coates
23) A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60 – At Bertram’s Hotel, Agatha Christie
24) An assigned book you hated – A Separate Peace, John Knowles

The Hub – April

I fell well short of my goal of 12 books in April by only reading 5 books. It was crunch time with projects for my two classes, and when I’m stressed, I end up reading brain candy. Now that the the worst has passed, I plan on focusing on Hub books again.

Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
I didn’t like Brave as much as I liked Awkward, but that is a personal thing and not a reflection on the quality of the story. Chmakova does a wonderful job of capturing the awkwardness and nuances that encompass middle school. Jensen is frequently bullied by both his “friends” and other students. He is oblivious to their bullying, though at the same time has created a self-defense mechanism. It takes someone outside of his normal social circle to open Jensen’s eyes to the bullying. And then Jensen has to find the courage to stand up for himself.

Scooby Apocalypse, Volume 1 by Keith Giffin and Howard Porter
My initial thoughts after I finished was the storyline had a lot of potential – I really wanted to see the actual cause of the apocalypse. I liked that while the characters were still essentially their classic selves, the author had made some interesting changes. However, my wonderful sister read it as well, and pointed out the various flaws with the characters that escaped my less than critical notice. Daphne was a complete jerk – she could have been a strong badass without treating others with contempt. And Velma was turned into something of a coward.

Flying Lessons and Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
I find short story collections in general to be hit or miss. This is more of a personal preference since I like concrete endings as opposed to a suggestion of the future or an allusion to what it’s all about. That being said, three stories stood out to me as favorites, “How to Transform an Everyday, Ordinary Hoop Court into a Place of Higher Learning and You at the Podium,” “The Difficult Path,” and “The Beans and Rice Chronicles of Isaiah Dunn.” These stories felt complete at their conclusion, with the characters either learning something about themselves or their potential place in the world around them.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander/J.K. Rowling
The only flaw to this book is that it wasn’t also a visual component (meaning, a cartoon I could watch). Between Eddie Redmayne’s narration and the sound effects, it would be wonderful to see the images and actions the sound effects represent. Regardless, my imagination had a field day.


Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
I wasn’t sure about Roughneck at first. I’m not a fan of Lemire’s drawing style, finding it too choppy and angular, but he is an amazing storyteller. The illustrations fit with the tone of the story, and the use of color (or lack thereof) to differentiate the present from the past made the reality of Derek’s and Beth’s lives that much more poignant. It is a story of coming to terms with the bad events and decisions of your life, and finding peace and redemption in that acceptance.

Emma’s Read Harder 2018

While I managed to complete the entirety of Read Harder in less than one month, I felt like I missed out on some of the fun of it. Much like when you eat an entire cake in one day instead making it last longer, while initially satisfying, you’re left with a huge cake-shaped (or book-shaped) hole that can’t be filled by anticipation of the next slice/book. Once I’m done with graduate school, and done with Girl Scouts, and done with the PopSugar Reading Challenge, I plan on doing a second round of Read Harder.

Emma’s Read Harder 2017
Emma’s Read Harder 2016
Emma’s Read Harder 2015


The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
#2 – True crime
I really enjoyed this book. It was both interesting and a fairly fast read (always a plus with nonfiction). I liked how she presented Robert and Nattie, laying out the facts as she could find them. She did offer some conjectures, but those were grounded more in child psychology than personal opinion. My opinion is that the home life of Robert and Nattie was somewhat volatile, and that the unpredictability and volatility of their mother while their father was at sea was the underpinning for why Robert killed her. His life after his verdict doesn’t lead one to believe he was psychotic. I am also glad that Summerscale included an epilogue. It gave Robert’s story closure, and the gave readers the suggestion that some of his later decisions were made with the potential to atone for killing his mother when he was a child.

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal
#6 – About nature
This was an interesting look at how humans test other animals for their capacity of intelligence and social behaviors. In general, humans tend to see themselves as superior to all other animals, and see animals’ intrinsic intelligence as less than ours because it is different. When conducting experiments, we tend to take a human-centric methodology and claim animals are less intelligent instead of looking at how animals behave in their natural habitats, then building experiments based upon those observations. Are We Smart Enough… was definitely eye-opening, creating good starting points for thinking about what constitutes intelligence.

White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
#14 – Social science
Many Americans live under the illusion that we have never had class distinctions in the US, and that our country was founded with the idea of equality. However, that is not the case, and the idea of such distinctions were shoved under the rug in order to fit with an edited narrative of our history. There have been class distinctions since Plymouth and Jamestown, and those distinctions – especially with regard to how the poor were perceived and treated – have continually played a part in historical events and how America was shaped. This is not the history you learned in school, but it is definitely a history you should know and is highly relevant to our current political climate.


  1. Published posthumously Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
  2. True crime The Wicked Boy: The Mystery of a Victorian Child Murderer by Kate Summerscale
  3. Genre fiction classic Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  4. Comic written and illustrated by the same person Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh’s Fortune by Sean O’Neill
  5. Set in a BRICS country (India) Before the Rains by Dinah Jefferies
  6. About nature Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans De Waal
  7. Western River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey
  8. Comic written or illustrated by person of color Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
  9. (Post)colonial literature Everfair by Nisi Shawl
  10. Romance novel written by/about person of color Destiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins
  11. Children’s classic published before 1980 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
  12. Celebrity memoir The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
  13. Oprah book club selection Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende
  14. Social science White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America by Nancy Isenberg
  15. One-sitting book Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  16. First book in new to you MG/YA series Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
  17. Female sci-fi author with female main character Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
  18. Comic not published by DC/Marvel/Image Ares & Aphrodite: Love Wars by Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens (Oni Press)
  19. Genre fiction in translation Super Extra Grande by Yoss
  20. Book with a cover you hate (British cover) Such Small Hands by Andres Barba
  21. Mystery by person of color/LGBTQ author Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
  22. Essay anthology Seven Seasons of Buffy: Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers Discuss Their Favorite TV Show edited by Glenn Yeffeth
  23. Female main character over age 60 Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
  24. Assigned book you hated/never finished Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller

PopSugar – March

I was hoping to read six books for PopSugar in March, but I only managed five. Not huge discrepancy, but because I’m now even closer to my self-imposed audiobook limit (17 out of 20), I have to focus more on my book-books, which is not always easy for reasons oft complained about.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale
#2 – True crime
I liked Summerscale’s book, The Wicked Boy, and decided to read another title by her (given that both Book Riot and PopSugar chose “true crime” to be a task). While Suspicions was not as enthralling as The Wicked Boy, it was still a fascinating look at the birth of both modern detective work and the modern detective novel (along with amateur armchair detectives). The case was sensational at the time because the detective, the titular Mr. Whicher, was a working class man who went against social norms and accused a young woman of the gentry of murder.

A Dragonlings’ Haunted Halloween by S.E. Smith
#19 – About / set on Halloween
This book has been on my TBR for a while because I enjoyed most of the other books in this series. This one was only meh. I don’t know if it’s because I haven’t read the other books in a while, or if I’m not in the right mental place for shape-shifting-alien-dragon-romance. It felt like the men were portrayed as doofuses (and not in a good way), and too much time was spent on their freakout on coming across what amounted to a Halloween theme park. The story would have been better served focusing on the children/dragonlings and the goddesses.

Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
#35 – Past Good Choice Awards winner (paranormal fantasy, 2012)
I enjoyed this book much more than A Discovery of Witches. While the story itself only minimally moved forward, the lushness of Harkness’ description of Elizabethan London and all of the historical tidbits more than made up for it. It is a book to get lost in, just don’t have high expectations for plot progression.

Disappointment River: Finding and Losing the Northwest Passage by Brian Castner
#30 – Local author
This is the second book by Castner I have read. He definitely has a conversation-while-drinking-beer style of narrative, i.e. it meanders, but is interesting to listen to (my husband’s interjection is that this style of  “speaking” is how both he and the other military guys he knows talks). The book is split between following Alexander Mackenzie’s exploration of Canada in search of the Northwest Passage, and Castner’s retracing of Mackenzie’s voyage on the Den Cho / Mackenzie River. I enjoyed both narratives – Mackenzie’s story because I love learning about lesser known aspects/persons in history; Castner’s story because I love reading the traveler’s perspective on situations they encounter and people they meet.

Mad Hatters and March Hares edited by Ellen Datlow
#38 – Ugly Cover
I have been a fan of Alice in Wonderland for as long as I can remember. The nonsense and weirdness was utterly fascinating to my young self, and it still is today. The stories/poems in this collection are varied and run the gamut of genres, some with more magic than others. That being said, I enjoyed only a few of them. “Sentence Like a Saturday” and “The Flame After the Candle” were my favorites. “A Comfort, One Way” was interesting in how it presented the concept of Alices and Mary Anns, and what made a girl become one or the other during her adventures in Wonderland. “Mercury” and “The Queen of Hats” were also enjoyable.

The Hub – March

The first month of Hub reading is over! My goal is to read 12 books per month (at least until I’m finished with my semester). In February, I completed 11 books and DNF’d one book. Most of the books were either audio or graphic because I don’t have the mental time to sit down and focus on a book. Most of the books were in my reading comfort zone for this reason.

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
This was an interesting imagining of how a 18th century boy became Santa Claus. There were definitely dark moments, but at its core, the story was about the importance of hope, goodness, and not giving up. The magic and the humor made it a fun read, enjoyable to both children and adults. And of course, Stephen Fry was the narrator for the audio version.


The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
I loved that David Tennant was the narrator (he was the reason I listened to this book). He was wonderful with the various voices – though I could have done without the random sound effect explosions, especially when I was driving. The story was great – I loved Cowell’s idea of witches and what they meant to the rest of the characters. However, Xar was selfish, self-absorbed, and utterly convinced of his own greatness, to the detriment of those around him. I’m assuming he will grow as a character and realize his errors, but I have no interest in being there to see that happen.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells
I can see why YALSA thought it would be a good YA crossover. The story moved quickly, and Murderbot, for all that he was a ‘droid, was incredibly relateable. He was fairly apathetic about his existence, his job, and humans in general. His main desire was to have uninterrupted tv-watching time. While Murderbot didn’t completely lack emotions, he did try to quash them. Towards the end of the novella, he did start developing some level of attachment to the crew. I am looking forward to reading the remaining three novellas in this series as they are published.

My Brother’s Husband, Omnibus Vol 1 by Gengoroh Tagame
As an introvert, I had trouble with the beginning of this manga. The thought of having a large, loud stranger show up unannounced at my house would give me a huge amount of anxiety. Until the story got rolling, there were times I had to put the manga down because I found that situation stressful. My personal issues aside, the story itself was very good. Thought at times the story veered into educating territory – meaning the narrative felt it was attempting to teach instead of allowing natural interactions between the characters – it was an enlightening look at a man’s attempt to understand and accept his brother’s choices and his own personal prejudices. I liked how Kana’s social innocence was used to create the bridge of understanding and acceptance.

The Backstagers, Vol 1 by Jamie Tynion IV and Rian Singh
Generally I don’t have an interest in theater, front- or backstage, but the added magical element put The Backstagers in my reading realm. It was a good balance of adorable and creepy, both elements working well with each other. I loved the cast of characters and their (somewhat dysfunctional) dynamics. The McQueen brothers especially were entertainingly over the top. I want to learn more about the magic tunnels, and what happened to the 1987 backstagers.

Black Hammer, Vol 1: Secret Origins by Jeff Lemire and Dean Ormston
I love the story idea of a group of superheros transported to an alternate universe, and how they would cope with being stuck there. This volume was mostly set up and character backstories. I plan to keep reading this series because the set up at the end makes me want to learn more. What I didn’t like (and this is one of the main reasons I don’t read traditional superhero comics) was the illustration style. I have a really hard time getting past how faces are sketched out. There are too many random lines and it can be hard to determine what emotion the character’s facial expression is supposed to convey.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
This is the second time I’ve read Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and it is still an amazing read. McGuire has a wonderful cadence to her writing that lends to the fairy tale feel of the narrative. The subject matter is dark, but it is balanced with the flaws and dreams of Jack and Jill. They are broken and far from perfect, and I love that the story showcases that there is no one right way to be a girl.

Scythe by Neal Shusterman
I read Scythe last year for the Hub Challenge, and I listened to it this year for the challenge again. The story is suited to both formats. After reviewing what I wrote last year, I still agree with my thoughts on the enjoyment of watching Citra and Rowan learn about the rot that pervades scythedom, and how they decide to tackle it. Citra grew me this time, and I enjoy how both her and Rowan compliment each other in their approaches. She is definitely closer to the white hat side of the spectrum, but she is good at manipulating the system. I am looking forward to seeing how things progress in Thunderhead.

The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
This was a fairly fast read – it helped that the chapters were fairly short. I liked that the chapters alternated between the present (June and her initiation into the world of avtomats, and her quest to find a way to save them) and the past (Peter and Elena’s story from the 1700s forward). The story was enjoyable, though it felt like there were plot explanation holes.


Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
Lighter Than My Shadow is definitely an uncomfortable read. Watching the adults in Green’s life fail her as she suffered from various eating disorders and sexual assault was hard. From the teenage perspective, I could relate because I had issues with food and regulation when I was in high school. It was so easy to go down that path because it was one of the few things I could control. From the perspective of a parent, I truly hope I never minimize and invalidate my children’s feelings and reactions the way her parents did. They were oblivious to how harmful their platitudes were. Both Green’s parents and doctors interacted with her only on a superficial level and didn’t really look at “Katie”.

Jonesy, Vol 1 by Sam Humphries and Caitlin Rose Boyle
I’m going to start with the fact that this is not a comic for me, and that I have zero interest in reading future volumes. I can see why it would appeal to readers, especially teenagers who feel like they are on the fringe of things, but I found Jonesy to be selfish, obnoxious, and fairly shallow. I couldn’t handle how annoying and spiteful she was.


**DNF** The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
I listened to about one hour before I had to DNF it. While the writing may have been lyrical on paper, it did not necessarily translate well to audio. The story was boring and felt monotone. I don’t know if this was due to the narrator or the writing, but I had a hard time listening.