I’m doing the 2016 Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, and you should, too! (Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

book riot

To quote the article: “We encourage you to push yourself, to take advantage of this challenge as a way to explore topics or formats or genres that you otherwise wouldn’t try. But this isn’t a test. […] We like books because they allow us to see the world from a new perspective, and sometimes we all need help to even know which perspectives to try out.”

  • Read a book that is set in the Middle East: Written in the Stars; Aisha Saaed.

written stars

The story starts in the USA, and then moves to Pakistan, where the main character, Naila’s parents are from. Naila’s parents are very conservative, and when they catch her dating, they whisk her back to her family and roots, because they know what’s best.

This one seemed interesting enough, especially when I read a note from the author saying her parents had arranged her marriage–and she was perfectly happy, even years later. But I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought it might. The big problem for me was Naila. She talks about how her parents allow so many freedoms, but it quickly became apparent to me that this wasn’t true. So all her hopeful burbling about change and understanding grated–I could see the iceberg headed for the ship of her life, but she came across as almost willfully ignorant. No matter how much I reminded myself that she was young and sheltered, I wanted to shake her a few times.

Still, it made me think about about the different ways people approach family and marriage and honor.

  • Read a horror book: The Haunting of Hill House; Shirley Jackson.

haunting hill house

I am terribly cowardly when it comes to horror, but this book is highly rated. So despite Shirley Jackson traumatizing me a bit before, I decided to give the book a shot.

Jackson does the creeping kind of horror, that you’re never quite sure what’s real or what’s not–the sort of horror that might be mostly inside people’s heads and hearts. And that can be more terrifying than a monster. Four people–two possibly ‘sensitive’ guests, a doctor, and a member of the family who owns the house–spend some time in a potentially haunted house. The narrator, Eleanor, starts out dreamy, and you soon realize she’s a liar, too. Is she lying to the reader? Hard to say. Some phenomena she experiences with other people, but the house seems to have a skill for isolating its unwanted intruders, so the events she alone is aware of still could be happening.

The ending on this one is heart-breaking, final, and clipped. A bit like someone slamming shut a door on a tragedy.


One book gave me something to think about, and the other will be nightmare fuel. So far, so good, though I want to finish this challenge early if I can, so I’ll try to do 3 books for February. Read harder, my friends!


About Caitlin Stern

I have a MA in English, and have so many fantasy/urban fantasy WIPs it's not even funny. I'm an avid reader of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, romance, biography, fiction, and anything else that catches my interest. I collect books, and bookmarks I find that are visually appealing and useful.

What are your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.