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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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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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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