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2021 christmas reading challenge banner

A Christmas Reading Challenge

I’m putting together a new reading challenge for myself, a Christmas themed one…well, more a holiday themed one since it includes a few Hanukkah themed books and a Solstice story. But it’s mostly Christmas themed.

It’s only September, so it feels way too early to be thinking about the holidays. But if I want to finish a holiday challenge by Christmas, I have to give myself time to actually read the books. Which means starting about now. I’ve done this sort of thing before, though on a smaller scale.

I picked out the books with the super scientific method of scrolling through my TBR on Goodreads and picking out all that had obvious holiday themed covers or titles. I’m sure I missed some, but it still added up to a not insignificant number.

snowball-Image by StockSnap from PixabayWhat tends to happen over time is that I pick a few Christmasy titles up every year, thinking I’ll bask in the season. But, if I don’t read them immediately, they get dropped onto my TBR and forgotten about until the next Christmas. When I might or might not remember them. Then I pick up a few more, repeating the cycle. Thus, the pile of unread Christmas books snowballs, getting bigger every year.

The oldest on this list has been on my TBR since 2013! It will be especially satisfying to mark some of those titles that have been hanging around for while as ‘read.’

This year, I found 62 Christmas stories languishing on my shelves. Well, 58 Christmas, 3 Hanukkah ones, and 1 set during the Solstice. I don’t have enough to make a Hanukkah or Solstice challenge of their own. So, I’m including them here. Luckily, most of these 62 ‘books’ are pretty short (stories more than books, honestly). When I first thought to do this challenge the plan was to read all my holiday themed books. But then I saw how many there actually are. So, my revised goal is to read and review as many of them as I can by Dec. 25th.

I’ve broken them into batches, by length (Under 100 pages, 100-200, 200+). Let’s see what we have. (I know some have newer covers, but these are the editions I have.)

Under 100 pages:

2021 less than 100 pages christmas

Haunted by the Holidays, by Kathryn Blanche
A Private Miscellany, by K.J. Charles
Careened: Winter Solstice in Madierus, by Bey Deckard
Illicit Activity, by J.R. Gray
Christmas at the Wellands, by Liz Jacobs
Chasing Christmas Past, by Melanie Karsak
A Wizard for Christmas, by Dorothy McFalls
The Christmas Prince, by Liv Rancourt
God Rest Ye Merry Vampires, by Liv Rancourt
The Santa Drag, by Liv Rancourt
The Ugliest Sweater, by Gillian St. Kevern
Fred and Ginger, by Isobel Starling
The Greatest Gift, by Felice Stevens
Family, by Brigham Vaughn
Winter Spirit, by Indra Vaughn
Twist of the Magi, by Caren J. Werlinger
63 Days Later, by Adrienne Wilder

Plus, The Eighth Night, by Jenna Kendrick, as a bonus

100-200 page

2021 christmas 100-200 pages
Gingerbread Mistletoe, by Amy Aislin
In Case of Emergency, by Keira Andrews
A Wedding in Twinkle Falls, by Freda Ann
Will & Patrick Do the Holidays, by Leta Blake & Alice Griffiths
Charley’s Christmas Wolf, by C.D. Gorri
Mischief & Mistletoe, by Tanya Anne Crosby
Holiday Haunts, Wendy Dalrymple & Imogen Markwell-Tweed
Christmas Lites anthology, by Amy Eye and others
His Christmas Bride, by Merry Farmer
To Linzer & to Cherish, by Jen FitzGerald
A Christmas Gone Perfectly Wrong, by Cecilia Grant
Second Chances, by Kiska Gray
Cabin Love, by Hayden Hunt
Winter Blom, by D.J. Jamison
Bittersweets Christmas, by Suzanne Jenkins
Christmasly Obedient, by Julia Kent
Cold Feet, by Jay Northcote
Mine to Five, by Tara September
From out in the Cold, by L.A. Witt

Plus Solstice Surrender by Tracy Cooper-Posey and Highland Stranger by Kerrigan Byrne as Solstice bonuses.

200+ pages

christmas 2021 200+ pages

A Hopeful Christmas, by Anneka R. Walker, Sian Ann Bessey, Carla Kelly & Krista Lynne Jensen
The Problem With Mistletoe, Bring Me Edeweiss & Mistletoe in the Marigny, by Kyle Baxter
Mr. Frosty Pants & Mr. Naughty List, by Leta Blake
Merry Elf-ing Christmas, by Beth Bolden
The Christmas Lights Battle, by Skylar M. Cates
Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop, by Jenny Colgan
Fighting for Us, by Bella Emy
Sleigh Spells, Bella Falls
A Wolf is not Just for Christmas, J.F. Holland
A Christmas Date, by Camilla Isley
Frosting Her Christmas Cookies, by Alina Jacobs
Naughty & Nice, by D.J. Jamison
Where We Begin, by Janey King
Last Blue Christmas, by Rose Prendeville
Smokin’ Hot Cowboy Christmas, by Kim Redford
Dreaming of a White Wolf Christmas, by Terry Spears
The Plight Before Christmas, by KateStewart
Shrewd Angel, by Anyta Sunday
A Christmas Promise, by K.C. Wells

Plus, Eight Kinky Nights by Xan West and The Remaking of Corbin Wale by Roan Parrish as Hanukkah bonuses.

While ‘read all your holiday themed books and short stories’ sounds deceptively easy, the challenge isn’t without it’s…well, challenges. First, very few of these happen to conveniently be the beginnings of series. The short stories especially tend to be bonuses for existing series. Mostly series I’ve read at least some of, otherwise I wouldn’t have picked up the short. But few in series I’m caught up with or have read recently. Most are contemporary romances and, frankly, I’ve not been reading much contemporary anything lately. So, many are outside my current reading preferences.  At least one of these I picked up on an Amazon free day because I thought the blurb sounded so problematic I wondered how the author would rescue it (if she could rescue it). One or two I’m not 100% are actually holiday themed, as opposed to just being set during late Winter. And there are just so many more than I expected when I thought up this challenge. Plus, I fully expect I’ll add a few more books to the list before I call the challenge finished on Christmas day. Either because I find them in my TBR between now and then or because I pick them up new this holiday season. Regardless, I’m going to do the best I can.  **ganbatte**

Other than knowing that I’ll review all of the short stories in a single post and that I’m going to prioritize physical books over ebooks, I’ve not entirely decided how I’ll be running the rest of this particular challenge—if I want to post reviews individually, in batches, one a day over a set time, all at once on Christmas day, etc. But I have time to figure that out. Regardless, I’ve got enough holiday cheer to keep me busy for a while. How about you? Anyone else have an unreasonable number of holiday themed books sitting around and want to join me getting them read this year?

Note: I’ve edited this post since first publishing it to add a few books and keep the tally up to date. I found some that I owned but had missed in Calibre and (because I have no self control), I picked up a few freebies this year.

santa-claus-Image by Igor Link from Pixabay

Just because he made me laugh

Awakening Challenge

Awakening: A New Mini Challenge

I haven’t done one in a while, but there have been several times over the years that I’ve noticed I have a bucket of books with the same title. Off the top of my head, I remember finding that I had 5 called Bound By Blood, 7 that included the phrase Blood Moon, 4 called Blood Lust…Geez, I don’t think I realized they’re all blood related. And because I enjoy finding unexpected patterns and reveling in them, I set these titles aside as reading challenges and read them all together.

I even did the same thing for a character model once, because I kept passing covers on my Goodreads shelves with the same face on them. I called it the Annoying Close-Up Guy Challenge.

‘Annoying close-up guy’ reading challenge wrap-up

I seem to remember not liking many of the books, but the challenge itself, all with essentially the same cover, was extra amusing.

Well, today, I’m setting a new reading challenge for myself. I recently read and reviewed Jennifer Leigh Pezzano’s Awakening. And while I was hunting it up on Goodreads to cross-post my review, I noticed that I have a lot of book with the word Awakening in the title.

Book Review: Awakening, by Jennifer Leigh Pezzano

Between titles and series names I have 25 books that include the word Awakening. And that’s just Awakening, not awakened, or awakens, or just awake. Now, some of these books I’ve read, one of them is on the Did Not Finish shelf, and I’m not prepared to commit to 25 books. (Here they are for reference though.)

books with awakening in the title

So, I’m going to whittle this challenge down to just titles that read Awakening and then stretch it a little to include the two called The Awakening (since they would be shelved as Awakening, The anyway.) That reduces us to 8 books, one of which is an audio book and one I’ve already recently read and reviewed, but I’m counting since it’s what started this challenge in the first place. I actually feel really lucky that these are all either stand-alone or first books in series. How blessed is that?

So, that gives us (in alphabetical order by author’s last name):


The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
Awakening (Talentborn, #1) by C.S. Churton
Awakening (Triorion, #1), by L.J. Hachmeister
The Awakening (Guardian of Spirits, #1), by Kaylee Johnston
Awakening (Covenant College, #1), by Amanda M. Lee
Awakening (The Luriel Cycle, #1), by Melanie Nilles
Awakening (The Shard Cycle, #)1, by Ono Northey
Awakening, by Jennifer Leigh Pezzano

I’ll come back and link the reviews as I finish the books. I am not, however, going to force myself to read them back-to-backwhich is what I usually dobecause I already promised myself to spend March reading books from my physical bookshelves.

So, I’ll start with the audio book (the Amanda M. Lee Awakening) since I need to fold laundry anyway. Then I’ll start hitting the rest of these between physical books. That way I’m not breaking my March promise to myself completely…just bending it a bit when a new, shiny idea came along.

Am I the only one who does this? I know accidentally having multiple books with the same title can only really happen once your library gets past a certain point. I have literally thousands of ebooks, so it’s less surprising to see this sort of thing happen that it would be if I owned 200 books. But still, anyone else set little mini-challenges for themselves?

Edit: Here is a link to the wrap-up post. I ended up reading 12, instead of 8, books called Awakening during the actual challenge. Then another three after the fact because it made me laugh to do so.

Closing out 2019 and looking into 2020

Technically, the blog is still on hiatus, since I’m currently in England (and will be going to China at the end of the week). But I didn’t want to miss the chance to recap the insanity that was 2019 and look forward to 2020. Though the post will likely be on the brief side this year.

I’ll start with the basics. I read 208 books in 2019. This is down from past years, but still a satisfying number. 208 books means that I completed my Goodreads challenge, in which I set a goal of 200 books. No complaints on that front.

And this is just Audible!

I do have to be honest though. I wouldn’t have made that goal if it weren’t for audiobooks. Last year, I really started listening to book in bulk for the first time and I continued into this year.

What I like to do is listen to an audio book while working on diamond paintings. (This is my newest obsession.) I find it really relaxing and I have been flying through both audiobooks and diamond paintings.

I didn’t set a lot of other challenges for 2019. As always, I did an alphabet challenge. This means I wanted to read a book by an author who’s last name starts with every letter of the alphabet. This challenge almost manages itself, except for I, Q, X and Z. These I usually have to make a special effort to find and read. In fact, my X book was the absolute last book I read this year. I did complete it again this year. So, success.

The last two challenges are ones I actually set in 2018 and have been working on…largely failing at…in 2019. First, I set aside a stack of smallish books to read. However, I keep adding to the stack. So, it never actually seems to diminish. In my head, this one eventually just changed to ‘try and read more physical books.’

For too long my book shelves were double lined and still overflowing. However, this year we rearranged the house. My office became a child’s room and the finished basement (which the children had been sharing as a bedroom) became my office. This means I got a lot more shelf space. So, while I wasn’t all that successful in reading them down, I was successful in finally making my bookshelves manageable.

Lastly, in 2018 it came to my attention (as well as most everyone in my corner of twitter) how rarely characters of color are seen on book covers, even when the character themselves is a person of color in the book. So, while I couldn’t afford to buy all the books I can find with non-white characters on the cover, I did go through those that I own and set a goal to read and review them, supporting the authors in this manner. I wrote myself a blog post with all the titles, planning to chip away at the list throughout the year.

I later somewhat regretted doing this, because I decided it was performative. But I also felt like deleting the post would be giving up and maybe hiding a misstep. I still have really mixed feelings about it, especially since I have largely failed…and failed in multiple layers. First, I simply failed to check my list and choose books from it, instead of what was currently on my kindle. And when I did I often didn’t find anything of interest. (I picked up so many freebie YA books and I’m so burned on YA books. Though that’s not the only reason, of course.)

I was a bit better about choose books with characters of color on the cover while at the library and I briefly added them to the list. But that was too much like, “look what I’ve done.” So, I quickly stopped adding and decided (again) to try and whittle down the initial list. But that too simply fell by the wayside as time went by.

At this point, I have no option but to admit that, despite my best intention, I have failed at this challenge. I’ll carry it over into 2020 and hope to do better.

Now, for the hardest part of this post (even harder than admitting failure), choosing my best of 2019. I almost decided to skip it this year, using the I’m on vacation excuse. But I’m going to suffer through the decision making. Of the 208 books I read this year, I most enjoyed (in no order) The Last Sun, The Ballad of Black Tom, The Bones Beneath My Skin, Girl Waits With Gun, Anatomy of a Miracle, and The Haunting of Tram Car 015. Yes, 6 is an odd number to choose. But I couldn’t make myself decide which one to drop to make ‘top five’ and I didn’t have enough notable winners to make a ‘top ten.’

The interesting thing about this list is that it is made up exclusively of books I expected to love or expected not to and was surprised that I did; no middle ground. Anything published by Tor (The ballad of Black Tom and The Haunting of Tram Car 015) or written by TJ Klune (The Bones Beneath My Skin) I know I’ll love. But The Last Sun I read after several DNF books and a couple two-star reads. So, it was a welcome relief to hit a winner. I didn’t expect much from it initially though, since I’d never read anything by K.D. Edwards before. And both Girl Waits With Gun and Anatomy of a Miracle were books I won and picked up in my attempt to read more of my physical books. I didn’t really expect to like them too much, but ended up loving them.

I also find it interesting that 5 our of 6 are written by men, considering I read far more female authors and tend to like their writing more. It just goes to show you never can guess on January 1st what the year might bring.

Looking forward to 2020, I think I’ll continue the theme of fewer challenges than in the past. In fact, I think I’ll do the same as 2019. I always enjoy the alphabet challenge, the Goodreads Challenge is how I keep track of what I read in general (and I think I’ll stick with 200 books), and I still want to read more of the physical books that I already own and I still want to cross off the books I initially listed in my Characters of Color challenge.

That just leaves one last thing to say.