And the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge is here again! There’s 24 prompts to encourage you to read harder, and I urge you to check it out if you want to get outside your comfort zone. 🙂

(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 superhero comic with a female lead.

strong-female-protag

Strong Female Protagonist; Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag

Allison Green was a superhero, and other superheroes appear.

It’s not your average superhero comic. You see Allison Green as Mega Girl only in flashbacks, though she still demonstrates her powers–super strength and invulnerability–as she tries to navigate her everyday life as a college student. When she was a teenager, she fought crime with a group, but then she learned that the world was a lot more complicated than simply hitting things could solve, so she quit and tried to find a new way to make the world better.

And that’s what makes Allison so likable, despite having powers that make her very inhuman, she is still trying to be human–and a good person. And that’s pretty difficult. People don’t trust her, and others try to make her follow their ideals. But she goes to class, stands up for her beliefs, and keeps searching for the way she can make a difference. It’s pretty funny in some places–snappy one liners–and tragic in others–accidents and self-sacrifice–and all quite engaging and compelling. Highly recommended.

This book is a web comic,too,  and is at strongfemaleprotagonist.com, still ongoing.

  • Read a classic by an author of color.

their-eyes-were-watching-god

Their Eyes Were Watching God; Zora Neale Hurston.

It’s a classic, I’d say, and the author is a POC.

Janie Crawford returns home after three marriages and a great deal of trials and some joy, and tells her story to her friend, Phoeby — who can then pass it all on to the gossips around town, or not. It’s difficult to say much without giving things away, though the book is practically a spoiler in its introduction. After all, Janie is alone, so you know those three marriages didn’t end so well. But she learns something from each, growing from a scared young woman into a much more self-assured, independent person, tempered by her struggles and loss, and willing to look for the happiness she can find next.

Overall, this book was well written, lyrical, with the dialogue especially quite a thing–at times a little confusing, but a strong voice throughout. My problem was that it was sad, and I knew it was going to be sad, and that made it a little harder to feel happy for Janie in the times when she was happy. I have to respect Janie, because she grows into herself wonderfully. At the end of it, though it’s hopeful, I wonder what’s going to happen to her, since she still ought to have a lot of life to live, but she’s surrounded by people who don’t really want her to be content with life.

  • Read a book by an immigrant, or with a central immigration narrative.

behold-the-dreamers

Behold the Dreamers; Imbolo Mbue.

This is about a Cameroonian family living in New York, and the author is from Cameroon, living in New York.

Jende and Neni Jonga are trying to achieve the American Dream–they’ve traveled from Cameroon to Harlem, and now they are doing everything they can to make money, and become permanent residents. When Jende gets a job as a chauffer for Clark Edwards, a senior executive at Lehman Brothers, he thinks he has it made, but then the business collapses, and the Jongas discover just how far they’re willing to go to keep a hold of those dreams.

This one was a mixed bag for me. I enjoyed the first half, but several decisions the characters made at the end really ruined it for me–with the end result sort of balancing out to an okay story. The characters are flawed, complex, and interesting–I just didn’t always agree with what they did. The contrast between the world they came from and the world they want to live in is woven throughout the story. They are, as the title says, dreamers. But what is the real dream? What do they really want to achieve? That’s a little more complicated, and that is the core of the story. Home and happiness isn’t as simple as moving to the US and having money. While I wasn’t so fond of this one, it was well written, and, I think, a good picture of an immigrant life, so I’d still recommend it.

 

 

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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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