Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Okay, obviously I have a little explaining to do on that first category match, since wolves are not actually one of the animals associated with the Chinese Zodiac.(1) In all honesty, this was perhaps my least favorite of all the Around the Year categories, given my suspicions of colonialist baggage. around it all. So initially, I wasn’t sure whether to play along or break away entirely.

As I was mulling over that decision, I was also pondering the extreme degree of difficulty that would be invoked if I tried to find a book connected to the animal from my birth year—the rooster. Then, in a Goodreads discussion board about that exact conundrum, someone shared information about a Tournament of Books that’s affectionately known as “the Rooster.” There’s even a list collecting the titles of the books that have won the Rooster since the contest began.(2)

And there on that winners list was a title I’d already slotted into PopSugar’s category for books I’d meant to read in 2018 but hadn’t. (I originally had it slotted for 2018’s “animal name in title” category, but I decided to read Six of Crows instead.) Since I’m always looking for twofers, I threw Mantel into the rooster category and called it a win.

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Midstream Report

So, I’ve been playing hooky from JALC for the weekend.

In large part because I’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones before the final season premieres a few short weeks from now. This weekend got me to the end of season 6, so I should be able to knock out season 7 between now and April 14. But between all that screen time Friday night and yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t in any sort of mood to be typing on my computer last night.

Instead, I curled up in bed and read a chunk of Wolf Hall. Yes, even in a mode where I’m supposedly lightening up on my reading challenge goals, watch me tackle yet another tome of a book.

I’ve decided I want to hold off on any sort of “review” of GoT till after I’m all the way caught up, and I always wait till a book is finished before making a post here.

Given that I’m very much midstream on all the things, what is there to say here? Join me behind the jump as I figure that out…

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My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton & Jodi Meadows

This is one of the challenge books I’d already gotten from the library before I realized I was going to need to focus on HAES/fat activist reading for a while. It’s sad enough to know I’m likely to “fail” these reading challenges in 2019: it would have been exponentially sadder to return unread books to the library. So I vowed to complete this book.*

I did not know how personally challenging it would be to keep that vow. Almost every night as I finished some section of reading and set the book down, the same thought played through my head as is playing now that I’ve completed all the book:

What the fuck did I just read?!?

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Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

  • Around the Year #9: from one of the top 5 money-making genres
  • Book Riot #6: by an author of color and set in or about space

For the record, the five popular genres I could have chosen from were:

  1. romance/erotica
  2. crime/mystery
  3. religious/inspirational
  4. sci-fi/fantasy
  5. horror

Most of these choices are not my bag, though if there’s ever a future year where I have to take on both these “big 5” genres and the 1 Mil+ Goodreads thing again, I may finally just put a clothespin on my nose and read 50 Shades. But for this year, sci-fi was definitely the best choice for me. I don’t follow the genre nearly as well as I did back in high school, but I have more of an interest in sci-fi than in the other 4 types of book.

As, in fact, evidenced by the way I’ve collected a wee small collection of sci-fi books along the way through my addiction to Kindle daily deals. I purchased Binti because it was listed as a big award winner in sci-fi—like Hugo and Nebula awards, which are legitimately a Big Deal. I was also looking to widen my understanding of contemporary sci-fi by grabbing a title written by an African-American woman.* And I am very glad to have been introduced to Okorafor’s body of work.

Still, I have so many mixed feelings about this book.

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Spell or High Water by Scott Meyer

After a couple of thematically challenging reads, I will freely admit that it was nice to spend a few days back in the land of Kindle popcorn.

I know it may not be the most usual approach to deliberately spread out the books in a series like I’m doing with Meyer’s Magic 2.0—I imagine the more intuitive choice for most readers would be to read the series all in a clump together. But this approach is working for me. In part because it allows for the occasional popcorn palate cleanser when I need one. In part because I remain sufficiently lukewarm on the series that I wouldn’t want to read only these books for any particular length of time.

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Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

I do what I can to fill out my reading categories using books I already have, whether they’re on Kindle or physically on the bookshelves. But there’s always a few categories that don’t readily lend themselves to that approach. PopSugar’s call-out to ghost stories this year is definitely one of those outlier categories, so I did what I usually do to make a selection: crawl the challenge discussion boards on Goodreads to get some ideas.

Between the good reviews (both on the boards and in the press), the National Book Award, and the resonance with my ongoing desire to keep reading more books by African-American authors, this seemed a book well worth the choosing.

And indeed it was.

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Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

(So far as my Around the Year plan goes, this book was read a tiny bit out of sequence: I jumped to it while waiting to get off the libe waitlist for category #6. Considering how sick I was this past week, it’s probably just as well that I had a non-taxing title like this one to be working through.)

Based on my experience with the PopSugar challenges over the past few years, I would postulate that the staffers over there* are kinda obsessed with the notion of literary genre.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t say that as a slam in the tiniest bit. After all, I spent all my grad school years being obsessed with literary genres, their categorization schema, their overlaps, and so on. But the notion of genre–especially obscure and unusual genres–has definitely been a recurring theme in their construction of topics. I found it most challenging last year when we were asked to read a book in a genre we’d never heard of before: several google searches on the topic only uncovered genres I had heard of before. Too bad I didn’t know about this year’s list while making my 2018 strategy, because 2019 PopSugar names not 1, but 2, different genres I had never heard of till looking at the categories list.

Including “LitRPG.”

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