Here’s the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge for 2019! There’s 24 prompts to encourage you to read harder (you can combine them, too), and I urge you to check it out if you want to get outside your comfort zone. It’s always great to see the new suggestions, and finding the perfect title is fun.

(Click the link to see the challenge, and to download a PDF of the challenge list.)

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.

I got horribly behind on blogging about these, so here’s a combo before I fall farther behind!

January

#11) Read a manga.

I Hear the Sunspot; Yuki Fumino.

Nice and easy. This is a manga. 🙂

A cute, slow romance, where two college students gradually realize they have feelings for each other. One is hard of hearing, and it deals with that disability, and communication problems. Much of the struggle is how people treat him once they know. Not much happens, relationship wise, but though this was originally a one shot, they added a sequel. I recommend getting both.

#12) Read a book with an animal or inanimate object POV character.

Fox 8; George Saunders.

Narrated by a fox.

A very short story/letter, narrated by a fox. His spelling is a bit off, but for a fox, it’s pretty impressive. And it’s readable, with cute illustrations scattered around. The story itself is a bit sad, as animals who run into humans tend to be. But there’s some humor and lightness to balance it out.

#9) Read a book published prior to 1/1/2019, with less than 100 reviews on Goodreads.

The Fourth R; George O. Smith

This book had 67 ratings, and 12 reviews when I read it.

I liked the start and the end, but it got a bit preachy towards the climax. James Holden is the possessor of information that holds a great deal of power and potential–but he’s five years old, and in the power of his parents’ killer. The deck is stacked against him, but he’s a very educated boy, and watching him plot his way around his obstacles is entertaining.

He’s not terribly likable, and I wish justice had been served, but this is overall an interesting exercise on the power of learning in all its forms.

February

#14) Read a cozy mystery.

Books Can Be Deceiving; Jenn McKinlay.

276 Goodreads people labeled this a cozy, and it downplays violence and takes place in a small tight-knit community, as cozies are defined as doing.

A quick read, along familiar cozy lines. A friend is suspected of murder, so Lindsey Norris needs to find proof to save her. There’s some fun characters (though there are also some stereotypes that defy logic), plenty of bookish references, and crafting, too. A sweet start to a series, and a fun read. A pretty setting, and set up for some romance, too. You get exactly what you expect from the description, which is nice.

#23) Read a self-published book.

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo; Zen Cho.

Published by the author

Short, told diary style. Humorous, telling about a stretch of life of a woman, with plenty of disasters–but also plenty of good moments. Snarky. I wished there was more.

#1) Read an epistolary novel/ collection of letters.

84, Charing Cross Road: Helene Hanff.

This is a collection of letters by Helene Hanff to a bookseller (and a few related people.)

This book serves best as an introduction to Duchess of Bloomsbury Street. It’s a collection of letters between a book buyer and a book shop, and full of affection over that shared love of literature.

It’s a fun read for book lovers, with plenty of humor, and book references. It’s quite short, as it’s a collection of letters. And the end is a bit sad–as the description says, they never meet. But Duchess has the author actually traveling to England.

#2) Read an alternate history novel.

Making History; Stephen Fry.

This book describes a world in which Hitler was not born.

I liked the concept–what if you made sure Hitler was never born? Not by murder, but by contraception. How would it change the world?
Of course, wars, for all their horrors, also come with social and technological changes for the good. And they hinge on such large issues, the real question becomes what really changes?
My big issue is that I didn’t like the protagonist. He was flat and whiny, and the start was slow. Other povs were more interesting, and the interjection of play script sections lightened the dull moments, but not enough for me to really enjoy it overall.

#5) Read a book by a journalist/ about journalism.

Abbott; Saladin Ahmed.

The main character is a journalist, the story focuses on her efforts to report stories others would like covered up.

Abbott is a reporter, one who doesn’t let racism get swept under the rug. And she’s constantly being attacked for it, her job in jeopardy. Even her allies don’t stand with her very well. But she’s focused and determined–which doesn’t always help against the dark magic attacking the city, which seems to be focused on POC victims, which the police don’t care as much about.

I was hoping for a more positive solution, and the overall tone was quite dark. Still, there’s some kind of hope. This is a gritty sort of mystery, realistic despite the magic involved.

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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