Category Archives: Challenges

Creating Some Shelf Space

I am creating a new reading challenge for myself, a two-part one. I have several long-term ones running at the moment. So, what I obviously need is one more. But I’ve been meaning to do this for a while, and it’s time.

My physical book shelves are out of control; completely overflowing their bounds, and this is entirely my own fault. I am really bad about putting a book on the self and then—out of sight, out of mind—totally forgetting about it. I end up reading almost entirely from newer books that are fresher in mind and older books sit around getting older.

So, what I did this morning was pick out five of the oldest books I’ve won over the years (be it from Goodreads, author websites, twitter, whatever). Some of them I’ve owned long enough to have packed and shipped them to England AND BACK with our international moves. It’s time to get them read and reviewed.

This turned out to be:

five oldest won books

  • Nikolai 2, by Roxie Rivera (I reviewed book 1 here)
  • A Weak American in Russia & Ukraine, by Walter Parchomenko (which seems especially timely given the state of Russia and the Ukraine right now)
  • Broken Point, by Donna K. Childree & Mike L. Hopper
  • Noughts & Crosses, by Malorie Blackman
  • The Angel of History, by Rabih Alameddine

Then, since physical shelf space is what is lacking, I grabbed the longest, most epic of epic books on the shelf. I accomplished this with the super scientific method of looking at the shelves and pulling out the fattest ones.


For the epic stack I pulled out six books. (I suppose, technically, Nikolai could cross over and fit either stack.) But the six I’m counting here are:

  • The Black Prism, by Brent Weeks
  • Dragon Mage, by M.L. Spencer
  • The Icewind Dale Trilogy, by R.A. Salvator
  • Macbeth, by Jo Nesbø
  • The Empire of Gold, by S.A. Chakraborty
  • The Newcomer, by Mary Kay Andrews

And of course, The Empire of Gold is actually 3rd in its series. So, I’ll need to read the previous books first.

This is obviously a challenge that will take a while. I can’t even dive into it right away. I’ve committed myself to several reviews with deadlines that I have to get done first. But I’ve pulled the books from the anonymity of the general book shelf, which means I’ll hopefully remember to grab them when looking for my next read.

Plus, I’ve been reading a lot of short stories lately. Which Goodreads just counts as a book. So, I feel like my Goodreads Challenge numbers are inflated. Reading some epics will balance the scales a little. Right?

I figure this aught to keep me busy for a while and free up a collective 2-foot, or so, of space. Success!

Edit: I’ve decided to simply add links to the reviews as I finish these books, rather than do a separate wrap-up post.

christmas 2021 reading challenge wrapup

Wrapping up 2021’s Christmas Reading Challenge

Oh man, this Christmas Reading Challenge turned out to be huge and I hadn’t really realized that it would when I came up with the idea. I just blithely thought, “Oh, I’ll read all those Christmas books that have been hanging out on my TBR for several years.” What I didn’t consider is that the list of Holiday books hanging out on my TBR has been growing every year for several years, as I randomly add one here or there, then one more, and then just one more.

The result was that I had close to fifty (including the short stories). So, I reassessed and said, “Well, I’ll aim to post one review a day between December 1 and Christmas Day and just try and read an many of them as I can.” That felt more manageable and would still put a dent in the list of Holiday books I have apparently been hoarding.

If you need a reminder, here is a link to my initial Challenge post where I set out my goals.

A Christmas Reading Challenge

Here’s the thing about reading challenges. Once you set one, you tend to subconsciously be on the lookout for books that match it (or at least I do). I told myself not to add anymore Christmas books to the list (no more Hanukkah or Yule or Solstice books either). I had enough. But I have so little self control in the book department. So, I ended up adding to the list this year too. I rationalized this mostly by telling myself that the majority of the books I’d had for a while were contemporary romances, from back when I used to read more of that genre (which I don’t now-a-days). I wanted some variety, so I picked up some historicals and some paranormals.

By the time Christmas (today) rolled around, I had 62 stories or books to read. No way could I read all of them, even if I did start way back in something like September! Not even once I removed the five I opted to not read. christmas stories removed (I removed A Wedding in Twinkle Falls, Careened, Illicit Activity, The Greatest Gift, and Family because they are all latter books in series and I’ve not reached the point where they fit in those series yet. I would have needed to read multiple books before getting to them. I didn’t have the time to do that. So, I set them aside. That left me 57 stories/books—still a mighty challenge.)

Here’s the thing though, I got close . I got SO close. Much, much, much closer than I thought I would. As of today, I have 14 books left on the list. That’s still a decent number. But only having 14 left, out of 57, is impressive, if I don’t say so myself (which I do).

I feel like this is so close to actual completion that if I hadn’t added any this year (like I said I wouldn’t) I would have managed to read them all. I considered extending the challenge to New Years Eve and finishing it off. In fact, I did. I told myself it was OK to do that. But then I decided to clean off my short story shelf instead. So, there will be 14 Christmas books on the list for next year’s Holiday Reading Challenge.


Outside of just my absurd tendency to collect more books than is reasonable, the challenge was also just a lot of fun. When you sit down and read 44 Holiday stories almost in a row (mostly Christmas) you start to see similarities and differences. Of course, how an author depicts a holiday isn’t necessarily indicative of their own traditions. But it was fun to see so the holidays celebrated in many different ways. Different foods eaten, different times to open presents, different ways to acquire and exchange them, different ways to decorate and times to do so, different levels of formality, different prayers (or none), different customs, attire, costumes (or not), and amusements. Characters traveled, stayed home, and went to events. Characters visited family or found new ones, went to the beach or built sled courses, found new love or clung to old.  There was such a variety, even when ostensibly reading about the same thing. I appreciated the heck out of that.

I also got the chance to read several books that had been featured on Sadie’s Spotlight, which is something I make an effort to do. Both because “Ah, back-links are so satisfying” and because it’s a little something I can do for those who have been on the blog. I don’t offer reviews over on Sadie’s Spotlight. But that doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention to what’s there to review here.

Do you want to see what I actually read? I read and reviewed 14 short stories (which is what I categorized as anything under 100 pages) and 30 books, which I’m linking in the order I read them. Here they are in the order I posted the reviews, which is largely the order I read them.

2021 Reading challenge: Short Stories (<100 pages)


Book Review: Holiday Haunts, by Imogen Markwell-Tweed & Wendy Dalrymple

Book Review: Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, by Jenny Colgan

Book Review: Smokin’ Hot Cowboy Christmas, by Kim Redford

Book Review: Where We Begin, by Janey King

Book Review: The Remaking of Corbin Wale, by Roan Parrish

Book Review: Second Chances, by Kiska Gray

Book Review: Sleigh Spells, by Bella Falls

Book Review: A Christmas Date, by Camilla Isley

Book Review: Mine To Five, by Tara September

Book Review: In Case Of Emergency, by Keira Andrews

Book Review: A Christmas Promise, by K. C. Wells

Book Review: A Wolf Is Not Just For Christmas, by J.F. Holland

Book Review: A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, by Cecilia Grant

Book Review & Giveaway: Last Blue Christmas, by Rose Prendeville

Book Review: Christmas Lites II, edited by Amy Eye

Book Review: Merry Elf-ing Christmas, by Beth Bolden

Book Review: The Plight Before Christmas, by Kate Stewart

Book Review: A Hopeful Christmas, by Walker, Bessey, Kelly & Jensen

Book Review: Mr. Frosty Pants, by Leta Blake

Book Review: The Christmas Lights Battle, by Skylar M. Cates

Book Review: Dreaming Of a White Wolf Christmas, by Terry Spear

Book Review: Solstice Surrender, by Tracy Cooper-Posey

Book Review: Charley’s Christmas Wolf, by C.D. Gorri

Book Review: The Problem With Mistletoe, by Kyle Baxter

Book Review: Fighting For Us, by Bella Emy

Book Review: To Linzer & to Cherish, by Jen Fitzgerald

Book Review: Frosting Her Christmas Cookies, by Alina Jacobs

Book Review – Bittersweets Christmas: Arvin & Tina, by Suzanne Jenkins

Book Review: Christmasly Obedient, by Julia Kent

Book Review: Highland Stranger, by Kerrigan Byrne




13 best fantasy romance books banner

The 13 Best Fantasy Romance Books of All Time Challenge

Dear Imaginary Book Recommenders,

Earlier today I stumbled across the 13 Best Fantasy Romance Books of All Time post (even updated for 2021, apparently). Now, this wasn’t a random blogger’s opinion of what qualifies as the best fantasy romance books. Instead, Most Recommended Books took a survey of other best-of lists and condensed them into one. (I think this is they’re shtick, what they do, essentially. And I’m not taking issue with it.)

13 Best Fantasy Romance Books of All Time according to Most reccommended booksHere’s their method in their words:

Our goal was to create the best list of Fantasy Romance books on the internet.

To remain objective and unbiased, we looked at the 5 most popular “best Fantasy Romance books” articles online (we chose 5 because anything more than that diluted our quality).

Our rationale was simple: If a book only appears in one article, it’s probably just the journalist’s opinion, but if it appears in two or more, it’s probably worth checking out!

And all of that would have been fine, except that of the 13 (what an odd number of choices, btw), I’d read 4 (and own one more that I’ve not read yet). 4! I’m a 200-300 books a year reader, mostly in the Fantasy/fantasy romance genres and I’d read 4 of what they deemed he best of fantasy romance. What’s more, of those 4, 1 I basically hated and the other 3 were passable, in my opinion. Not rave-about-them bad, but not best-of material either.  So, I was a bit shook by this list.

I realize that my tastes don’t always align with other readers’. And many of the books on the list have been quite popular. I also acknowledge that several of them are Young Adult and I’ve become increasingly picky in which YA books I read because, at 44, I’ve outgrown enjoying a lot of the angst many of them center on. But still, I was intrigued in a horrified sort of way; wondering what the rest of the books might be like if my opinion of the 4 I’ve read so was vastly different from others’.

If you’re curious, here are my reviews of the 4 I’ve read.

Book Review of A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1), by Amanda Bouchet

Book Review: The Awakening, by Nora Roberts

Book Review of Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

Book Review: A Curse So Dark and Lonely, by Brigid Kemmerer

What makes this a challenge, instead just a generalized post, is that I’m going to make a concerted effort to read the other 9 books on the list. It’s too late in the year to think I’ll finish this challenge before the new year. So, I’m not putting any sort of time frame on this. It’s pretty open. But I’m going to prioritize reading these whenever I’m not focusing on something else. We’ll see if I agree any more once I’ve read the rest of the list.


Mystified in Missouri