Tag Archives: challenges

2017 Christmas Challenge

 

I enter a lot of giveaways for books. Honestly, it’s a bit of a compulsion. Though I always intend to read them, some of them end up sitting on my shelves for quite some time before I get to them. This tends to be especially true with holiday themed books. I’m just not likely to read a Thanksgiving themed book in May or a Christmas themed one in June.

This idea struck me the other day, when I noticed Beth Carpenter’s A gift for Santa on my shelf. Right behind that thought was, “well, it is the Christmas season. If not now, when?”

So, I searched and found three Christmas books and set out to read them all. Again, if not now, when? Later, I came across Take the Donut and, though not obviously Christmassy, the snowman and red, green and white sprinkles led me to think it might be (see cover below). So, I added it in after I’d started the challenge. In the end, I read four books either explicitly centered around the holiday or at least set during the season.

I would call this a mildly successful challenge. None of the books were big winners for me, two of them had disappointingly similar plot lines, and three of them were part of series I’ve not read. Of the four, I’d say A Gift for Santa was the best. It was pretty unoriginal (being one of the two almost identical plot lines) but I think the writing in it was better than the rest.

Having said all that, none of them were flat out bad. Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe was bottom of the pile, but even it wasn’t so bad I couldn’t finish it.

So, without further ado, here they are, reviews of my impromptu 2017 Christmas Challenge.


Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, by Melissa De La Cruz:

Two days before I started this book, I wrote a review about another book that stated, “There are two romances, where only one is needed. The first progresses only in that they clear up a misunderstanding from high school (one that was very obvious and persisted because they never spoke to one another again, despite being in the same class), but suddenly they’re all marriage and babies…Nope, I’ve neeevvvvveeerrr seen that used in a book before. Nope, it’s not trite and patriarchal. Nope, it doesn’t piss me off every time I see it. Oh wait, yes it does. ” I complained vehemently to my husband about how common and over used this storyline of the small town girl, who made it big in the city, finds herself unfulfilled by what she’s worked her whole life for and eventually returns to her roots only to discovers that all she really wants is a man and a baby. 

Then I picked up Pride Prejudice and Mistletoe up and, what do you know, it’s about a small town woman who moved to New York and made millions. Then returned home to Pemberly, Ohio, ran into her high school rival and fell instantly in love, eventually getting what every woman apparently truly wants as a happy ending: marriage and a baby. Like the last book, she had her best friend with her, who constituted a second romance in the book. Also like the last book, it was with the brother of the primary male romantic lead. Like the previous book one of the brothers was a carpenter and came from a lovely family while the main character was estranged from her family.

Sure the details of the two books differ, but they are essentially THE SAME STORY. These books are so similar I considered googling to see if the authors were actually two pen names of the same person. I’ve taken the time to lay this out to say this. I randomly picked these two books up. Both romances, but one a romantic mystery of sorts and one a Christmas themed book. Are there really so few storylines in the Romance genre that authors writing in totally different sub-genres can’t find something new? Do they really have to keep recycling the same old crap over and over, such that it’s unavoidable? *Sigh*

Outside of my frustration of reading the same storyline I’ve read a million times before, I never liked Darcy. I understood the point De La Cruz was making about self-esteem and self-worth, but the woman was just generally horrible. She was 29, but felt like a teenager. Luke was a caricature, as flat as cardboard. The romance was sudden and based on nothing the reader was given to understand. NOTHING. It just appeared out of no where. All the vacillating about Carl made no sense, since she didn’t even seem to like him. And the happily ever after was just tacked on at the end. Plus, the writing just isn’t very good.

The only thing I’ll give this book is that Luke moved to New York, instead of Darcy to Pemberly and she didn’t give up her career. That’s a lot more than most books using this storyline manage. But basically this is exactly the sort of book that convinced me I hated romance books for most of my adult life.

As a side note: There is a four-month-old baby stated to have been born “a year ago.” What’s up with that?


A Gift for Santa, by Beth Carpenter

I’m going to start out by saying this book is fine and it stands alone. I’d not read book one before reading this one and had no problems. The writing is readable and the editing seems fine too.

However, this is the third book I’ve read in a week in which the plot line was about a woman leaving home to pursue a career, then returning home to fall in love with a man from her past, and compromising her career to be a wife and mother. THE THIRD TIME IN A WEEK and I’m not trying to seek out similar books within the romance genre. One was romantic mystery, one a retelling of classic with a Christmas theme, and this one a Harlequin romance. You would think there was enough difference in the sub-genres to allow for differing storylines. Is there really no other plot line available in romance? Really? I will say that of the three, this was probably the best. And if you happen to like this plot line you’ll probably enjoy this book.

Outside of complaints about the apparently very frequently used plot, the characters were likable, the twist a little obvious, and the ending happy (as you would expect). Not bad, just also not original.


Away in a Manger, by Rhys Bowen:

Very sweet, but a little plebeian for my taste. I think it just wasn’t the right book for me. I found Molly too much of a pollyanna and her telling of the events of each day repetitive and unexciting. Further, I thought her solving of the mystery far too dependent on coincidence and luck to be believable and I wasn’t comfortable with some of her ideas on underaged criminals.

But again, that’s just my opinion. For those who like a sweet, uplifting mystery, I’m sure this will be a winner. The writing and editing seem fine and there is an appreciable amount of diversity in the cast (though I think a little of that was compromised by the final disclosure about the villain’s personality). Lastly, this is #15 in a series that I’ve not read, and though events from past books were mentioned, it successfully stands alone.


Take the Donut, by Annie Hansen

Not bad, though I was a bit apathetic about it. I’m not sure if that is a reflection of the book or just the effect of it being number three in a series that I’ve not read book one and two. All in all, I found the writing perfectly readable. Though the author does use names in dialogue too frequently to feel natural. The characters are distinct and mostly likable (though Kelly definitely has her TSTL moments). And the mystery isn’t super obvious. I’d read another Hansen book and that is generally my mark of being good enough.

Renamed: The Oddly Satisfying Exercise in Futility Challenge

Every now and again, out of boredom or necessity or pure whimsy I set myself odd little reading challenges. That’s part of the joy of having a book blog, I can do that. And I’ve done it again.

I have a book hoarding problem. I just do. Usually I can limit it to ebooks, so it’s not too disruptive. But at the moment, my physical book shelves are stacked two deep and literally overflowing. My office is becoming a bit of a death trap. So, I have to read some of them.

The problem is that my Kindle is so easy to schlep around. Plus, I’ve promised myself that once a book is read I won’t keep it unless it is signed or an absolute favorite. So, though I always want to read, I sometimes don’t want to do the thing that means I have to give the book away afterwards. I know, it’s weird. But I keep bringing books into the house, so now I have to set some free.

I mean, that was part of the point of building a Little Free Library in my front yard. Well, that and it’s just cool. I have no excuse to not be filling it with finished books.

This brings me to my challenge. I went through and pulled out all the itty-bitty books. I don’t usually pick up novellas, but I have several. And I know reading them won’t clear as much space as reading some bigger books. But I figure each of them should only take a couple hours to read, so it’s a good way to do a bit of a clear-out without committing weeks to the task. (Nope, I’m not rationalizing this at all.)

There are 18 little books there. Most, though not all I won and it’s a pretty diverse pile. There’s some bizzaro in there, as well as some inspirational stuff, a memoir, some non-fiction, humor, short story collections, horror, poetry, lit fict, political satire, even a freakin’ play. I figure I can finish one a day for the next few weeks, along with my normal reading and feel like I’ve accomplished something significant. (Hush, that’s what I’m going with.)

In case you can’t read all the titles, the stack includes:

Anyhow, between these, the book bundle I’m currently reading (Carole Cumming’s Wolf’s-Own), the bundle I’m listening to (Sarah Noffke’s Vagabond Circus) and the Netgalley books I’ve committed to for the next couple months, not to mention I need to read review request book, I aught to be kept busy in the near future.

I think I’ll start with B. R. Sanders book, because I’ve loved everything I’ve read by them so far. But beyond that, I’m open for suggestions on what I should move up or down the pile.


Not pictured, but added to the challenge after the fact (because I keep getting more books):


Edit May 5, 2018: I set this challenge and then it quickly fell off my radar. If anything, the stack has grown, as I’ve added to it. (See the 8 unpictured books.) So, I’m starting again, recommitting to finishing it. Below is the new stack (what’s left of the first and what I’ve added to it since, but not read before the second picture). The vertical ones, I’ve pulled out because it turns out that they’re all poetry.

I won’t re-list anything above and the few that I read before taking this second picture will have to do without visual evidence of their existence. But, here are the additions.

  • Kaleidoscope, by Chip R. Bell
  • The Slave, by Anand Dilvar
  • Morningstar, by Ann Hood
  • Tuesday With Morey, by Mitch Albom
  • Escape Routes, by Johann Christoph Arnold
  • Another Fine Mess, by Pope Brock
  • Consciousness Archaeology, by Maximus Freeman
  • Welcome to my Chair, by Lee Holland
  • Loving Violet, by Steven Lewis
  • You Can’t Kill the Dream, by And Yanks/Daniel Brannan
  • Bring Out the Dog, by Will Mackin
  • Undivided Lives, by Robert Lampros
  • Unmarked Trails, by Jane Flink
  • My Amazing Transformation of Love, Courage, and Wisdom, by Marty Cole
  • The Best Chronicles of Rubem Alves, by Rubem Alves/Glenn Alan Cheney
  • Sweet Justice, by Andrew Smith
  • My Diary, by Annan Jazz Von
  • Memory in Silhouette, by T. L. Cooper
  • Life in the Slow Lane, by Ruth Anderson
  • The Purity of Jazz…, by James R. Campbell
  • District and Circle, by Seamus Heaney
  • A Mother’s Love, by Mia Henry
  • The Corpses of the Future, by Lynn Crosbie
  • Dead Monochrome Doggerel, Dominique Cypres

Edit July 22, 2019: Don’t laugh, but in a marked departure from what I’d intended to do (and in fact have been doing), I’m updating this again. Several books I’ve bought or won, read and reviewed recently (such as Take a Chance on Me, Kill Me Now,  The 5th Gender, Silver Moon, Persepolis, Spring, The Nose from Jupiter, The Long Walk to Water, and Diamond Fire) would have fit this challenge and I could have added them. But after the third edit, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to add to the stack anymore, or it really would never ever get done. However, I ordered new bookshelves, which will be delivered today. 

This means that I’ll finally have more room for my books. The shelves, most of which are double lined, will finally be reduced to a single row. I’ll be able to actually see what I own. So, in preparation to the larger task of reorganizing my books (I have wanted to do this for SO LONG), I’ve started pulling and categorizing books. And in and amongst all of this, I decided I might as well grab all the new smallish books out and add them to the existing small-book stack (which may become a small-book shelf. (I mean, giving this challenge up might be easier, but I’m a stubborn cow when I want to be.)

So, here’s the new list of small books. The left-hand pile is the carryover, the middle is poetry, and the right-hand stack is what I just added.

As above, I won’t re-list anything that already is, and I can’t guarantee that once I really get into the meat of moving books, I won’t add more. But as of right now this is it. 

  • My Little Ikigai Journal, by Amanda Kudo
  • Good Body, by Eve Ensler
  • Only Dead on the Inside, by James Breakwell
  • You Can’t Kill the Dream, by And Yakstis & Daniel Brannan
  • Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa
  • Guesswork, by Martha Cooley
  • Hank, by Claudette A. Peck
  • My Journey Through War and Peace, by Melissa Burch
  • Twenty-First-Century Jim Crow Schools, by Sanders, Stovall & White
  • Zan-Gah, by A. R. Shickman
  • The Driftwood Diaries, by Ava Wilson
  • Queen Moxie, by Hank Quense
  • Upsize Woman in a Downsize World, by Deborah Lynn Darling
  • Bedside Book of Bad Girls, by Michael Rutter
  • There is a Generation III, by WH Buzzard
  • Stone Sisters, by Sarah Ward
  • Infinite Hope, by Anthony Graves
  • Not Quiet So Stories, by David S. Atkinson

Several of these are actually sequels in series. So, I imagine I’ll have to find and read first books before I get to them. But, as has been the case for about two years now, these are the lists of books I intend to read. If you remember, I initially set them aside because I thought I could get them read quickly. That had turned out to be a joke. But I’m committed now. Wish me luck

#ReadDiverse2017 Update

One of my challenges this year is #ReadDiverse2017, which is hosted by the Read Diverse Book blog. It’s fairly self explanatory, as far as challenges go. The idea is to read and review diverse books.

Eligibility being (and I’m quoting the RDB blog, here):

  1. Books written by people of color or Native/Indigenous Peoples
  2. Books about people with disabilities (physical, neurodiversity, etc.)
  3. Books with LGBTQIA protagonists or about LGBTQIA issues 
  4. Books with practicing Muslim, Jewish, Hindu (i.e. non-Christian) MCs
    • Please prioritize #ownvoices for this category

Marginalized authors take priority for #ReadDiverse2017. At all times, please consider reading books written by POC, Indigenous, LGBTQIA, and Disabled authors, #ownvoices whenever possible.These will always qualify, whether they are #ownvioces or not. If a straight, white, able-bodied author writes a book with a straight, able-bodied POC protagonist, the book will not qualify. UNLESS that book is intersectional. For example, if the protagonist is a POC and Queer or disabled, then the book will qualify. I make this distinction because books with Queer/disability representation are more rare than books with POC/Indigenous rep and there are some great books out there with Queer/disability rep by non-mariginalized authors. I also encourage you to seek out books with plus-sized/fat protagonists, especially if they have other marginalizations, such as plus-sized+POC/Queer/Disabiled.

Today’s little update is to say that I earned my 5 point badge. (See that shiny badge above?) Meaning I’ve submitted five eligible reviews of diverse books. I could maybe have submitted more, I read enough M/M romance after all. But I personally have a little trouble seeing ‘white boys kissing’ (that’s quoting someone, I just don’t know who) as qualifying. So many such books are written for a cis-gendered, white, straight female audience. So, in the spirit of the challenge, if not the explicit rules I haven’t submitted them.

These are the ones I did: