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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February Recap and Looking Ahead

So, with the end of another month, time to milk another post out of the ongoing process of monitoring my progress on all these reading challenges. (One, two, three.) As with January, I’m going to do a small snapshot report on where I stand in regards to my initial reading plan, and where there’s been changes.

And, in light of the new diagnosis and research project I have going on, I’m also going to be putting some thought into a change of direction for the rest of 2019.

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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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The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

  • PopSugar #5: 1Mil+ ratings on Goodreads

I hope these challenge creators quit their obsession with the number of ratings books have on Goodreads. It seems like I have had one of these “more than 1 million ratings” categories every darn year, and based on this Goodreads list, most of what fits this criterion falls into one of two categories:

  1. Books I’ve already read (e.g., LOTR, Harry Potter, various classics)*
  2. Books I have no earthly desire to ever read (e.g., Twilight, 50 Shades)

Luckily for me this year, there are still a very few exceptions to that pattern, including one I was able to crosswalk over to the infamous bucket list. And that is how I came to check The Kite Runner out of the library.

The book has been vaguely on my radar since back when it was a book club phenomenon in the early-to-mid aughts. However, I’m enough of a contrarian that I often stay away from the big popular books like that.** Now, I’m not so much of a contrarian that I’ll let my latent snobbery and non-conformity keep me from reading something I’m legitimately interested in—I was more than happy, for example, to devour the final few Harry Potter books as soon as they were released, just like the rest of the world. But if there’s nothing else about a book that catches my interest aside from it being super-popular, I’m more likely than not to bypass that title in favor of something calling to me in a more personal and authentic fashion.

As such, I never got around to reading this book, until it became a way to check of a challenge category and a scratch-off square.

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100 Books Bucket List

Somewhere in that series of posts setting the context for my 2019 reading challenges, I mentioned an extra twist I was using to “level up” the complexity of my reading plans: a crosswalk with my “Bucket List Poster” to see if I could check off a few of those boxes along the way.

The poster is actually one of a set of three posters I purchased last spring: one for books, one for movies, one for music albums. I’m not entirely sure about the methodology of choosing what made the list—okay, I don’t have any idea what the methodology was. Some mix of legit Anglo-American classics, with some other titles tossed in to represent different genres (e.g., non-fiction, fantasy epic, kids lit, murder mystery), international perspectives, and titles that represent their zeitgeist.

My guess is that the company making these posters is British, both because of some of the inclusions (Dodie Smith? Kenneth Grahame?) and, more importantly, because of the absolute erasure of African-American and post-colonial titles. All of which is to say I wouldn’t want this to be the only source of new titles for me to choose and read,  but I’m happy enough to include it as a piece of a broader landscape.

Besides, having these hanging above my desk at home is a decor choice that is just so me, and I can’t deny the fun of scratching off a new title once I’ve read/viewed/listened to it.

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