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 with a main character that has a mental illness

All The Bright Places; Jennifer Niven.

all the bright places

Both Violet and Finch have suicidal thoughts/actions, and a possible diagnosis is suggested for one and never fully explored.

This book should come with a warning label–the ending will not just be sad, but wrench your heart out of your chest and stomp on it. It’s the kind of book I love and hate, with writing that pulls you in, and despite all the warnings, makes you hope…

At the surface, it’s a love story, but it’s more than that–exploration, and family, coping with loss, and finding the beauty in the mundane. It has an alternating narrator style that I enjoy, since it gives you a look inside the heads of each character, giving you insight that neither of them share. There’s a lot good in this book, if you can get past the gut-punch of an ending, and from the reviews, I’d say many people can. Certainly it’s worth a read.

  • Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the last three years.

Giant Days; John Allison.

giant days

The first comic came out in 2015, and it’s about college students–no superheroes.

Susan, Esther, and Daisy were assigned as roommates, and became fast friends, despite their differences. Likely to make you laugh, the comics explore the sort of usual college moments–reinventing yourself, romance, illness, and the battle of the sexes. There’s some slightly less likely moments in there, too. Nothing that wanders over into magic, or even magical realism, but there are a few funny coincidences and a little strangeness.

What really sold me on this were the characters–they’re well developed, and the friendships feel real. The art is nice too, colorful, and a good mix of realistic and simple enough.

  • Read a book over 500 pages long.

Black Wolves; Kate Elliot.

black wolves

Black Wolves is 780 pages long.

The story starts with the events that led to the death of a king, then skips over twenty-two years, where the kingdom is still dealing with the effects. Many people are contained within this story from kings, princes, and lords, all the way to rebels, criminals, and slaves–but there are a few who are especially important. Kellas was the captain of the Black Wolves, guards to the king, who lost his king and his honor, position, and the Wolves were disbanded. And then Reeve Marshal Dannarah, the dead king’s sister, comes to ask him to help the current king. Rejoining the kingdom’s politics will have sweeping consequences, as people scheme, steal, and murder to win power.

The storypacks a lot into its 700 pages. There are many characters, but a fair degree of pages are spent on the more important ones, so it feels crowded, but not confusing. Heavily into politics, this is a story of degrees of ‘good,’ with many people making poor decisions, doing terrible things with good intentions, or doing horrible things for indecipherable reasons. This is the first book in a series, so it’s a little grim–there’s background, setting up conflict, and more conflict–with a few little rays of hope for the future.

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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.

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