Close-up on the book cover of The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

So although it’s a day later than initially planned, I did finish the big tome I’ve been working through for the last month. And, of course, this post is a day later still.(1)

Considering how far off-schedule I am for these reading challenges, it almost seems futile to list what categories different books cover. Almost.

I’m not gonna beat myself up for how far off the mark I end up being come December 31, and I’m not gonna try crazy book bingo stuff to check off more categories. Despite that new “lazy gal’s” approach to reading challenges, I still want to be able to go back at the end of the year and see which categories I covered and which I didn’t.

So, in that spirit:

  • Around the Year #14: Title, cover, or subtitle related to an astronomical term.
  • PopSugar #33: With a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title.

I’m also amused to note that this is the second Booker prize-winner I’ve read in a row. Aren’t I so very cultured?

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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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You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar

I was a little strategic (and/or sneaky) in choosing the first entry in my HAES/prediabetes/whatever-the-fuck-I-have reading list. I chose something short, something I could read quickly. Something in the memoir/manifesto vein that wouldn’t demand much of me. Either in the sense of nutritional guidance I expect from future books, or in the sense of digesting lots of footnotes—which I also expect from future books.

And this slim volume fit the bill.

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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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Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

I mentioned last night that I have some hefty books coming up in my March and April challenge schedule. However, my first March book is a wee one, so I’m trying to knock out a couple more non-Around the Year titles in this liminal time when February turns to March. This novel by Rainbow Rowell is one of those quick reads I’ve squeezed into here.

As a fan and frequent-enough reader of YA, I’d heard Rowell’s name along the way, some years ago. I’d even heard of her debut novel, Eleanor & Park, and how incredibly well-loved (and critically well-received) it is. But I never got around to reading any of Rowell’s work until last year,* when an ampersand challenge category led me to pick up the famed debut.

Alas, I ended up being a bit of a contrarian with Eleanor & Park. I really enjoyed Rowell’s authorial voice and her references to 1980’s pop culture. But there was a lot in the core characterizations and plot motions that rang a bit too false for me. Still, I enjoyed Rowell’s authorial voice enough that I was perfectly happy to select her second novel to fill one of 2019’s categories.

Turns out I like the slightly less popular book more than the super-popular one.

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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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