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.

  • Read a debut novel

When Dimple Met Rishi; Sandhya Menon.

This is Sandhya Menon’s debut novel.

Dimple Shah and Rishi Patel’s parents want them to marry. Rishi is happy with this idea, and is pleased to meet Dimple at a summer program she wants to attend. The big problem–Dimple has no idea Rishi exists, and has told her parents repeatedly that she has no interest in an arranged marriage. So their first meeting is explosive! Dimple is invested in doing well at the program, so she ends up wanting Rishi to help, and the more time they spend together, the more they find in common.

I admire Dimple’s drive, her commitment to her dreams, and her willingness to speak her mind. But I didn’t quite buy the romance. They are quite young, and the differences in their life goals don’t seem simple to resolve–but since they’re young, they can perhaps work it out. The romance is cute, regardless, with plenty of sparks, and back and forth bantering.

  • Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.

Here Comes the Sun; Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn.

I remember 3 POV characters, and all of them are POC.

This is a much darker book than I was expecting. The characters are suffering, all letting each other down, all betrayed or given to betraying each other. This leads to some terrible pain–and a general sense of hopelessness. There’s also much more rape and sexual exploitation than I expected–so be warned.

Margot works at a beautiful resort–a tourist paradise–but lives in one of the makeshift shacks nearby with her mother Deborah and sister Thandi. She’s constantly scrapping for just a little more money, and her life is difficult, full of soul-eating compromises, but she’s determined that Thandi will have a future. Again and again, Margot gives up parts of herself, saying it will all be worth it, that Thandi will pay her back–but Thandi is crumpling under the pressure, and uncertain that this future she’s being pushed towards is what she wants. And then things really begin to fall apart. A new hotel is being built, and the landowner has sold the area they live in–drastic changes will come, whether they’re ready or not. Deborah, Margot, and Thandi, all trapped by their pasts, have to find their own ways forward, and decide what they value most.

I had a serious issue not just with all the violence against women, but also with the way the characters expressed love. In many ways, they hurt the people they claimed to love–family, especially. There’s a lot of excuses made, an an ugly treatment of Margot’s sexuality (she’s in love with another woman who is ostracized for being known as a lesbian.) Love is judged often in this story–of who is worthy, and who is not. This judgment is only skin deep, and often the ‘worthy’ ones prove to be horrible people. It’s just a tough read.

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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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