Category Archives: Reading Challenges

2018 Hub Challenge Completed!

Now that the 2019 YALSA Hub Challenge has begun, I decided that I really needed to put forth the effort to get my “challenge complete” post from 2018 up and out. I was expecting this year’s challenge to start in March, as it did last year, but discovered today that the challenge started on Tuesday, February 12th. I need to get cracking.

Going back to 2018, I read 38 books (37 during the allotted time). I didn’t read as many of the books as I had wanted to, mainly because my final semester of graduate school and putting together my portfolio got in the way. I love the wide range of genres and formats of this challenge, even if not all of them appeal to me personally. I was surprised to find how much I loved She Rides Shotgun. It is nowhere near any genre I would read on my own, and I never would have picked it up on my own. I’m looking forward to discovering the gems of 2019.

Favorites

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 trued 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
Before I get into the actual fairy tales, I loved the illustrations and how they grew and flowed with each story. Seeing how they changed page by page was almost as fun as reading the stories themselves. As for the stories, they were clever, dark, and lush with sharp edges (they way a fairy tale should be). It’s hard to pick favorites, but “Amaya and the Thorn Wood” and “The Witch of Duva” were the two that stood out the most.

Books Read

A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig
The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell
All Systems Red by Martha Wells
My Brother’s Husband, Volume 1 by Gengoroh Tagame
The Backstagers, Volume 1 by James Tynion IV
Black Hammer, Volume 1 by Jeff Lemire
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson
Jonesy, Volume 1 by Sam Humphries
Lighter Than My Shadow by Katie Green
Brave by Svetlana Chmakova
Scooby Apocalypse, Volume 1 by Keith Giffen
Flying Lessons & Other Stories edited by Ellen Oh
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander
Roughneck by Jeff Lemire
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
#Notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackkenzi Lee
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
Sandwiches!: More Than You’ve Ever Wanted to Know about Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering
I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield
Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy
The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming
Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Dreadnought by April Daniels
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya
The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali

PopSugar 2019 – January

Month one of PopSugar’s Reading Challenge down! As with Read Harder, I am trying to force myself to read only a set amount of books each month in an attempt to stave off burn out. I had initially planned on reading six books in January, but ended up reading eight. Six books were from my Amazon TBR, and four were audiobooks. I had better book luck with this challenge, enjoying most of the books I read. My favorites being At the Mouth of the River of Bees, An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good, and And Only to Deceive.

Tentative books for February: Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (#1), Pride & Prejudice (#7), Unmarriageable (#15), Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? (#16), Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating (#21), Labor of Love (#29), A Paris Apartment (#38), Blackfish City (Adv #1), My Lady’s Choosing (Adv #2), and A Green and Ancient Light (Adv #6).

mouth river of beesAt the Mouth of the River of Bees by Kij Johnson
#9 – Meant to read in 2018
In general, I am not a fan of short story collections. I find them to be very hit or miss – mostly miss. River of Bees was an exception to this. Johnson writes beautifully, and while none of the stories are high action, they flow well and and most had a nice fantastical feel to them. My favorites were “26 Monkeys, Also the Abyss” (slightly absurd, with a nice ending), “At the Mouth of the River of Bees” (sad, but comforting – especially if you have pets), “The Bitey Cat” (everyone needs companionship), and “Ponies” (so very, very disturbing).

pirate latitudesPirate Latitudes by Michael Crichton
#13 – Published posthumously
This felt like a fairly standard pirate story that had a whiff of the fantastic (the kraken). I liked the intersecting plots and the dynamics between various characters. I like this style of Crichton’s writing. It’s in the same vein as The Great Train Robbery and Dragon Teeth, though not quite as good.

 

An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good by Helene Tursten
#23 – Set in Scandinavia
A short book in a small package, Maud is the black hat version of Miss Marple. I loved these stories! and would love to read more. All Maud wants is to be left alone in peace, and there is always someone who disturbs it. She puts on a classic frail, ditsy old lady act and manages to get away with murder. The stories are all connected chronologically, though they don’t read in that order.

and only to deceiveAnd Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander
#30 – Featuring an amateur detective
The pace of this story is slower, but the writing is lovely. The main character, Lady Emily, doesn’t start out as an amateur detective, but as she delves further into the secret life of her deceased husband, she becomes one. Throughout the book, she educates herself about Greek antiquities, realizes that her husband’s death might have been intentional, and discovers that he was madly in love with her while she saw him as a slightly better alternative to living under the thumb of her mother.

Sour Heart: Stories by Jenny Zhang
Adv #3 – OwnVoices
The book had a gritty tone overall. The stories were all well-written, even if I ended up not liking most of them. Honestly, if I wasn’t reading it for a challenge, I would have DNF’d it. “The Empty the Empty the Empty” was horrible. I can’t imagine young children behaving like this. I have two daughters, and what the characters did were completely outside their sphere of reference. In my bubble of reality, this would be a complete outlier. “Our Mothers Before Them” was also very hard to read. The mom was so extremely narcissistic and emotionally manipulative. It was one of the longer stories, and all I could think about was when it would end.

Every Dog Has His Day by Jenn McKinlay
Adv #4 – Read during the season the book is set in (winter)
Ultimately, this was a cute story, and I will probably read the other two books in the trilogy. That being said, the author about lost me on the first page by using the phrase, “harshing my mellow.” 1) I haven’t heard anyone say that in at least 15 years, and 2) it’s a pot reference and should not be used to describe someone being woken up by a doorbell. The author also used “amazeballs” multiple times – another term I haven’t heard in years. There were also several conversations between the characters dedicated to how many names they could think of for orgasms and vaginas, which felt out of place and more like the author was trotting out all of this cool slang the younger generation (maybe) uses.

Fly Girls: How Five Daring Women Defied All Odds and Made Aviation History by Keith O’Brien
Adv #7 – Same title
Fly Girls looks at the history of female aviators in the 1920s and 1930s. Most of us know who Amelia Earhart is (and she is one of the women profiled), but there were other women who were equally daring, created and broke aviation records, and pushed their way into a male-dominated area battling extreme misogyny, opening the way for the fly girls of WWII.

Fly Girls: The Daring American Women Pilots Who Helped Win WWII by P. O’Connell Pearson
Adv #8 – Same title
This was middle grade book, and the information was presented on the level. It was interesting reading about the the challenges and sexism the women faced, and how they rose above them. Being a woman in the military world takes self-confidence and thick skin. The only complaints I have relates to the lack of proper capitalization of the individual U.S. military branches. It’s not army, navy, marines, etc… It’s Army, Navy, Marines, etc… There was also a lack of capitalization when a cabinet level position was mentioned. It’s not the secretary of the army, it’s the Secretary of the Army. It drives me nuts when authors do this (especially with the Marine Corps).

Sophia’s PopSugar 2018 – COMPLETE!

Deciding to try to read all 5 books from A Song of Ice and Fire was probably a bit overly ambitious on my part, especially for a single challenge year.  Which means, I did not in fact finish the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge.  Oops.

Aside from those 5 plus one other task, the second half of this challenge still led me to some truly amazing books.  Here are three of those:

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Kindred by Octavia E. Butler – Octavia Butler is a seriously spectacular writer.  This book is simply perfection.  It’s gripping, emotional, and effective.  It immediately pulls you in to the story and transcends all of the genres it falls under.  Everyone should read it.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin – This was a lovely and impressively compact family saga.  The characterization is strong – each personality is immediately whole and clear.  The plot progression is pitch perfect, moving along at an engaging pace while still creating a full reading experience.  Haunting and beautiful.

White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol AndersonWhite Rage is one of those books that should absolutely be required reading for absolutely everyone.  Carol Anderson provides a detailed outline of racism in the United States that is succinct, accessible, and powerful.

1) A book made into a movie you’ve already seen – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
2) True crime – Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, David Grann
3) The next book in a series you started – Eternally Yours, Cate Tiernan
4) A book involving a heist – Invictus, Ryan Graudin
5) Nordic noir – Midnight Sun, Jo Nesbo
6) A novel based on a real person – Margaret the First, Danielle Dutton
7) A book set in a country that fascinates you – House of Names, Colm Toibin
8) A book with the time of day in the title – The River at Night, Erica Ferencik
9) A book about a villain or antihero – Genuine Fraud, E. Lockhart
10) A book about death or grief – The Immortalists, Chloe Benjamin
11) A book with female author using a make pseudonym – The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith
12) A book with an LGBTQ protagonist – Look Past, Eric Devine
13) A book that is also a play or musical – The Phantom of the Opera, Gaston Leroux
14) A book by an author of a different ethnicity than you – Such Small Hands, Andres Barba
15) A book about feminism – We Should All be Feminists, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
16) A book about mental health – Heart Berries: A Memoir, Terese Marie Mailhot
17) A book you borrowed or that was a gift – How to Drink, Victoria Moore
18) A book by two authors – Obsidio, Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
19) A book about of involving a sport – Into Thin Air : A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster, Jon Krakauer
20) A book by a local author – The Fall, James Preller
21) A book with your favorite color in the title – Red Clocks, Leni Zumas
22) A book with alliteration in the title – A Clash of Kings, George R.R. Martin
23) A book about time travel – Kindred, Octavia E. Butler
24) A book with a weather element in the title – A Storm of Swords, George R.R. Martin
25) A book set at sea – Into the Drowning Deep, Mira Grant
26) A book with an animal in the title – American Panda, Gloria Chao
27) A book set on a different planet – Saga, Vol. 8, Brian K. Vaughan
28) A book with song lyrics in the title – Comfort & Joy, Kristin Hannah
29) A book about or set on Halloween – Hallowe’en Party, Agatha Christie
30) A book with twins – Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare
31) A book mentioned in another book – The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
32) A book from a celebrity book club – The Power, Naomi Alderman
33) A childhood classic you never read – The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
34) A book that’s published in 2018 – The Cruel Prince, Holly Black
35) A past Goodreads Choice Awards winner – A Dance with Dragons, George R.R. Martin
36) A book set the decade you were born – 1984, George Orwell
37) A book you meant to read in 2017 but didn’t get to
38) A book with an ugly cover – Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff
39) A book that involves a bookstore/library – You, Caroline Kepnes
40) Your favorite prompt from a past PopSugar challenge (blue cover) – A Game of Thrones, George R.R. Martin
41) A bestseller from the year you graduated high school – A Feast for Crows, George R.R. Martin
42) A cyberpunk book – Catharsis, Travis Bagwell
43) A book that was being read by a stranger in a public place –
44) A book tied to your ancestry –
45) A book with a fruit or vegetable in the title – Bitter Greens, Kate Forsyth
46) An allegory – The Crucible, Arthur Miller
47) A book by an author with the same first or last name as you – The Scapegoat, Sophia Nikolaidou
48) A microhistory – Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark, Bill Dedman
49) A book about a problem facing society today – White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, Carol Anderson
50) A book recommended by someone else taking the PopSugar challenge – Dear Fahrenheit 451, Annie Spence

Read Harder 2019 – January

My first month of Read Harder is finished! And I managed to stick to my guns and read no more than eight books. I am proud that all eight books are from my Amazon TBR lists, and that only four of those were audiobooks. None of the books stood out as absolutely amazing, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Kiss Quotient and Tempest.

Tentative books for February: The Underground Girls of Kabul (#5), An Unkindness of Ghosts (#6) [ended up not reading this in January when I realized that Her Body and Other Parties fit the bill for #3], The Queue (#10), Wotakoi, vol 1 (#11), Maisy Dobbs (#14), The Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe (#18), Rafe (#23), and one as yet undetermined book.

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris
#2 – Alternative history
This was very different in tone and feel than the Sookie Stackhouse books. It didn’t grab me as much as the the early books in that series did, but An Easy Death is still a solid read. Gunnie Rose has no time for nonsense, and can back up what she says and does. The world is gritty and filled with death, but still feels realistic.

her bodyHer Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado
#3 – Woman/AOC who won a literature award in 2018 (Lambda Literary Award)
I found this collection of short stories to be hit or miss. There were several that I absolutely loved – “The Husband Stitch,” “Inventory,” and “Difficult at Parties.” They hit the right amount of tension, and each felt complete. Other stories, such as “Mothers” and “Heinous,” made absolutely no sense. I started tuning out after a while on “Heinous” because I couldn’t find the thread.

Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow by Jennifer Lee Rossman
#9 – Published before 2019, less than 100 reviews on Goodreads
I started out being annoyed by this book because I couldn’t articulate what about the writing bothered me so much. By the time I was half way through, it had turned into a hate read – I was going to finish the damn thing if it killed me. There was almost zero world building or character development, with most of the text dedicated to either the characters talking or Jack’s inner thoughts and opinions. The writing itself was all over the place, expecting readers to accept gaps in both time and logic, and random personality changes without providing any solid basis for such changes. Towards the end, I thankfully figured out what this book was – tweemo; a weird mash up of emo and misplaced optimism with an overly cloying sweetness.

mort(e)Mort(e) by Robert Repino
#12 – Animal/inanimate object POV
This book has been on my TBR for more than five years, but I’ve never managed to actually read it. The pros: I loved the concept, the idea of religious belief versus logic, and how as much as things change they stay the same. The cons: well…the story didn’t grab me. I wouldn’t say that it was boring necessarily, but I never got wrapped up in the characters and their paths.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
#13 – By/about someone who identifies as neurodiverse
This is a book that I should have written about right after I finished listening to it because other than a general sense of “I enjoyed this book and would definitely read it again”, I don’t really remember my specific thoughts. I loved the dynamic between Stella and Michael. I loved how he was respectful of her boundaries, and how both made an effort with themselves and each other.

tempestTempest by Beverly Jenkins
#16 – AOC, historical romance
I’ve only read two of Beverly Jenkins’ books (Tempest and Destiny’s Captive), but she has become one of my favorite romance authors. Her stories and characters are well-crafted, and are not melodramatic. Regan is strong, independent, and level-headed. I love the dynamic she has with her step-daughter, Anna. And I love how Regan, Anna, and Colton grow as individuals and as a family unit.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, Vol 1: The Crucible by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa & Robert Hack
#21 – LGBTQ comic author
As a genre, horror does not really appeal to me. I will read it if the story sounds interesting, or if there are fantastical or comedic elements. Bearing this in mind, while I’m not a fan of the artwork (again – this is a me problem because horror isn’t my jam), it was well-done and helped move the story forward. The story itself feels like a set up – getting the characters introduced and put into play – but it still had a self-contained plot. Love Madam Death, and want to see how she progresses. Absolutely love the ending.

the witch doesn’t burn in this one by Amanda Lovelace
#24 – Poetry published after 2014
Another raw and angry collection of poems by Amanda Lovelace, this time focusing on misogyny, violence against women, and self-image. It felt more bleak than the princess saves herself in this one, and because of that I did not enjoy it as much. I do like how she uses formatting, and how she adds quips at the end of each poem that act as closures or counterpoints.

2019 Reading Challenges

It’s a new year, which means new reading challenges! Well…really they’re the same reading challenges I do every year, but with new tasks and book lists. After last year’s crazy strong start by completing Read Harder in less than one month (which I do not plan to do again as it detracted from the fun of it – thank you grad school!), I managed to end the year without completing PopSugar. I have two books remaining (#27 – A book you borrowed/was gifted to you, and Adv #2 – Cyberpunk). The lack of completion is all on me and my obsession with reading down my Amazon TBR lists.

Like last year, I want to use audiobooks for no more than half the categories, and I am going to try to comb through my Amazon TBR lists for as many books as possible. I am also going to force myself to read no more than 8 books per month each for Read Harder and PopSugar – but it has to be an even number. My hope is that this will prevent (or at least delay) burnout, and give me time to work down both my Amazon and Audible TBRs. The Hub Challenge is exempt from an arbitrary monthly reading limit because it only lasts from approximately March until late June.

Book Riot’s 2019 Read Harder Challenge
When I saw the tasks for this, my first thought was, holy cow, this is a really diverse and specific set of tasks! My second thought was, I wonder how many of these tasks I can complete using Amazon TBR books? I’m going to have to dig for some of these! Digging has worked as I’m at 18 out of 24 books and counting that have been pulled from my Amazon TBR lists.

The two categories that are going to give me grief are #7 – #ownvoices set in Mexico/Central America, and #17 – Business book. I’m someone surprised by the #ownvoices task because I assumed I would have trouble with #8 – #ownvoices set in Oceania, but that one turned out to be relatively easy (Terra Nullius).

Tentative books for January: An Easy Death (#2), Jack Jetstark’s Intergalactic Freakshow (#9), An Unkindness of Ghosts (#6), Morte (#12), The Kiss Quotient (#13), Tempest (#16), Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (#21), and the witch doesn’t burn in this one (#24).

Every book listed above is from one of my Amazon TBR lists. Three are audiobooks (Morte, The Kiss Quotient, and Tempest).

2019 PopSugar Reading Challenge
I was two tasks short of completion for 2018, so my plan is to force myself to limit my monthly reading to prevent that from happening for a third year in a row. I’ve already found books for most of the categories, though as always, there are some tasks that will be a pain (#14 – See someone reading on a movie/tv show, and #28 – recommended by a celebrity you admire). At least there are no Oprah/celebrity book club tasks this year.

Tentative books for January: An Elderly Lady is Up to No Good (#23), And Only to Deceive (#30),  Sour Heart (Adv #3), Every Dog Has Its Day (Adv #4), and Fly Girls (Adv #7 and #8).

Five of the books listed above are from one of my Amazon TBR lists (one of the Fly Girls is the exception). Three are audiobooks (And Only to Deceive, Sour Heart, and one of the Fly Girls).

YALSA’s The Hub Reading Challenge
I’m assuming that this won’t be out until sometime after the ALA Midwinter conference at the end of January. The challenged started on March 1st last year, so I’m going to bank on it starting around then this year as well. I’m looking forward to seeing what books will be included.

Emma’s Amazon TBR
On January 1, 2018, I had 1067 books on my lists. I added an additional 1031 books throughout the year (I’m sure a handful are duplicates), and I read or DNF’d 269 books. This puts me at a whopping 1829 books waiting to be read as of January 1, 2019. I need to make a concerted effort to make a dent in this. I really need a nice several week vacation sequestered in a hotel room (three kids at home makes it hard to binge read if I want to get any sleep).

The Hub – June

I know a lot of time has passed since this challenge ended, but I’ve been sitting on this and have finally written my thoughts out for the last few titles.

I did not get all of the books read that I wanted to in June for Hub. In part because the latter half of the month was spent with packing for and going on a trip to Florida. And because I was down to the wire, I didn’t attempt to finish two of the books I found only marginally interesting (Noteworthy) or were too selfishly-whiney-emo (Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers).

long way downLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds (audiobook)
I read this book in May, and listened to it in June. Both formats work for the story, but the author does a wonderful narration, capturing the tension and ambiguity of Will’s situation.

 

 

Miles Morales by Jason Reynolds
I had a hard time following the thread of the story, and after finishing the book, I still don’t exactly know what was going on. I get the big picture – that Miles’ spidey sense was messed up, his history teacher was harassing him, and he had a crush on Alicia – but there was no explanation as to who the villain was, or what his motivation was, or how he found and controlled his henchmen. There were too many unanswered questions. There was also no closure on the people who disappeared from Miles’ neighborhood. There was too much filler and not enough action. I did like that the story dealt with Miles trying to learn that he was worthy of being Spider-man.

La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman
This book was boring. I was ambivalent the entire time, and didn’t really care about the characters or the plot. Pullman was too heavy handed, and was bogged down by metaphysics and anti-Christianity sentiment to the point that it detracted from the story. The story also felt like two stories in one. The post-flood warp into a version of The Odyssey was out of step with the previous portion of the book. It didn’t make sense, and didn’t really have a connection to the theocracy.

 

dear martinDear Martin by Nic Stone
Not an easy read, but a necessary one, especially since so many people believe the US to be color-blind when in fact there is still too much racially charged aggression.

 

 

dreadnoughtDreadnought by April Daniels
I like the balance between Danny’s personal and professional struggles, and how both are handled. I couldn’t begin to imagine living in the wrong body, and then when finally having the right body, dealing with your family’s reactions, and those of the superhero community who felt that you were going to ruin Dreadnought’s name and reputation. Danny was an incredibly strong character. The only real negative I have is Calamity. Not necessarily in this book, but I can sort of see where her arc will go in the next book, and I don’t know how I feel about it.

epic failThe Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora by Pablo Cartaya
This book was alright. The concept was interesting and I loved Arturo’s family’s dynamic, but the ending didn’t make much sense when thinking about it logically, and the villain was flat as a paper doll.

 

 

language of thornsThe Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo
Before I get into the actual fairy tales, I loved the illustrations and how they grew and flowed with each story. Seeing how they changed page by page was almost as fun as reading the stories themselves. As for the stories, they were clever, dark, and lush with sharp edges (they way a fairy tale should be). It’s hard to pick favorites, but “Amaya and the Thorn Wood” and “The Witch of Duva” were the two that stood out the most.

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.