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 story collection by a woman.

Ex Libris; Anne Fadiman.

This story collection is by a woman.

I am the target audience for this book, with Fadiman’s interests aligning so near perfectly with mine, that this book is the equivalent of a cup of tea and warm blanket on a cold, rainy day. Perfect and cozy. (I disagree with her on the use of ‘they’ as a singular pronoun–I find it acceptable, she does not.) Fadiman loves the sight and smell and feel of books. She loves immersing herself in stories, talking about books, marking life events with books, hunting for treasures in used bookstores. The whole family is guilty of hunting out grammar and punctuation mistakes, of loving books to pieces, of strange and esoteric shelving organization. She includes plenty of personal stories to anchor her topics. This isn’t vague or philosophically generalized, these are concrete examples–phrases written in beloved copies of books, quotes from favorite stories, and funny family anecdotes.  The end even has recommended reading on more books with similar subjects.

This is a book about books, readers, and writers, and I love those kinds of books.

If you do, too, you should love this book as well.


  • Read a book set within 100 miles of you.

The Devil Went Down to Austin; Rick Riordan

This is set in Austin, which is within 100 miles of where I live.

Though fourth in a series, I picked it up and read it as a stand-alone, and that worked fine. Backstory is mentioned in passing with enough detail that you get the idea.

A pretty straightforward mystery, aimed at entertainment. It’s a story about a tense relationship between brothers, as well as a murder. Tres Navarre is a P.I. and a teacher, and he teaches while trying to figure out whodunit. He has a seriously personal motive–his brother is implicated in the crime, but Tres knows that Garrett didn’t do it. As the evidence piles up, it’s clear someone is framing Garrett, though, so Tres has to be quick and clever. Mostly, he succeeds in that, picking apart the threads of lies and secrets, though sometimes he–and the plot–stall a bit.

What shone the most for me was the setting. Riordan knows the area, and it shows. These lines caught my eye and made me smile:

“San Antonio and Austin are like estranged siblings. San Antonio would be the sister who stayed home, took care of the elderly parents, made tortillas by hand in the kitchen […] Austin is the sister who went away to college, discovered rock ‘n’ roll, and dyed her hair purple.” –Rick Riordan

I know both these cities pretty well, and I have to say it’s fairly accurate. I enjoyed the read, but I won’t be bothering to pick up any more of the series.



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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