24 Hour Library

A Library Blog by Abby Hargreaves

Month: January 2017

Abby Reads: The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016, 352 pages
YA Fantasy

In a return to the world of faerie in The Darkest Part of the Forest, Holly Black introduces readers to brother and sister, Ben and Hazel. Both have fallen for the faerie prince encased in a glass coffin in the forest. Though his origins have long been forgotten, the prince remains a big part of Ben and Hazel’s unique hometown, where tourists come from all over to experience the magic inherent. Despite efforts – genuine and otherwise – to free the prince from his casket, no one yet has had success. When the prince is discovered missing, Hazel strikes out on a mission to discover why and how, all the while dealing with keeping her own secrets both from others and herself.

A brief disclaimer – Holly Black got me into faerie way back when with Tithe. I wrote the woman a two-page letter in which I asked ridiculous and unnecessary questions such as if she liked baseball (she lived in Amherst, MA, at the time, and the idea that someone living in New England wasn’t at minimum a baseball fan and, really, as required, a Red Sox fan kind of messed with me). A few weeks letter, she responded with a hand-written letter herself and some stickers, some of which were signed. She’d responded to every single one of my questions. Stellar. I later met her at the National Book Festival in DC and told her about the letter and how much it meant to me. I saw her again this past spring at the NOVA Teen Book Festival. I declined to get in her signing line – it was by far the longest of any authors there.

So, what does this have to do with The Darkest Part of the Forest? Black had taken a break from faerie world (at least for young adults) and had gone with vampires for a while among other fantasy folk. I came to The Darkest Part of the Forest thrilled for more faerie. But the faerie in this novel felt somehow significantly and profoundly different from her earlier work. With much of the earlier prose, Black seemed heavily influenced by standard faerie lore, making the novels seem somehow more legitimate. Though Darkest Part employs elements from the tradition, the break from it overall left me feeling like the concept was being sold me to me and perhaps sold to me as a generic brand. You’d think a break from tradition (and therefore an inherently new perspective) would make it more of a name brand kind of deal, but really, I felt like Darkest Part was just a cheap version of what I’d read before with a different plot.

I also want to go back to my story about Black a few paragraphs ago and point out that I was twelve or thirteen when I got into her work. I have since reread some of the material (especially Tithe and later Ironside) and, at the time, it stood up. But I haven’t read it within the past handful of years. Does this mean I’m idealizing those given the world it opened for me and the significance it has had in my life as a writer and reader? Maybe. But I still can’t help but feel Darkest Part was a letdown.

At the same time, there were uncomfortable parallels with Tithe. I like my heroines to have a bit of pluck now and then, but Kaye of Tithe and Hazel of Darkest Part weren’t both just plucky – there were so many other traits that stood out to me as similar that it felt like Black had taken Kaye and repackaged her as Hazel – perhaps, again, the generic version. The boys closest to the girls in both books (Corny for Kaye and Ben for Hazel) are gay. Okay, but they’re also both nerdy and outcasts and have inferiority complexes and…need I go on? Parents in both books ring as irresponsible. Too much of this felt like a poor duplicate.

That’s not to say there weren’t great moments. Some turns of phrase and other bits momentarily brought the story and its characters to sparkling life, but it didn’t hold out overall. I closed the book feeling as if Black’s publishing house had requested a new faerie manuscript so she cranked something out and turned it in. They shrugged, said “Okay,” and set it out on the market. (*I don’t think this is actually what happened – just how it felt.) It felt manufactured and insincere. The power of women in Black’s previous work was severely diminished with a general lack of women on both sides, but more severely felt on the side of faerie. The antagonist in the book read as out-of-place and incomplete in its form.

Black has better in here, and I know it. I’m confident of it. I had felt a similar sense of insincerity when I first read the earlier pieces of the Curseworker series way back when (I never finished that series). Perhaps, like I said, I’m remembering Tithe too fondly and shouldn’t be comparing them to begin with. But I’m still left with what feels like the ashes and bones of a book that could have been.

❤❤❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Abby Reads: Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009, 320 pages
YA Fiction

Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler had been on my radar for a while. It was published in 2009 and ever since, it’s floated around the various book blogs as the cover is intriguing and the title compelling. But what’s promised as either a cutesy summer read by the cover and title – and what’s promised as a serious and heartfelt look via the power of literature at the themes of love and loss aren’t fulfilled.

Quick summary – teenage Anna lives next door to her best friend, Frankie. Frankie’s family might as well be Anna’s family, except for Frankie’s brother Matt. At a birthday party for Anna, Anna and Matt come clean with their feelings for each other. Everything is going great, though Matt wants to wait to tell his sister about their relationship – until Matt dies. A year later, Anna and Frankie are still trying to heal and still keeping secrets from each other. The pair go to California in an attempt to renormalize Frankie’s family with their annual vacation with a mission to meet twenty boys in the time they have there.

It’s become the norm for me to read fiction with a feminist lens. It’s kind of impossible not to at this point. This was no different for Twenty Boy Summer which, as it turns out, has a plot that revolves largely around self-worth coming from the attention of boys and slut-shaming. There’s also this weird obsession with the value of virginity and I think it could be argued that the book leans toward old-fashioned and, frankly, oppressive ideas. Given that the primary, if superficial in various senses of the word, plot of the story is Frankie and Anna’s pursuit to have sex with (and then just kiss, and then just meet) twenty boys in a summer, it ends up feeling like the moral of the story is abstinence. Make of that what you will.

Though the story mostly revolves around Anna and her healing, Frankie and her parents make for far more interesting characters. Sadly, they’re underutilized. In brief moments, the parents’ pain over the loss of their son plays out in fascinating ways, flipping between giving Frankie free reign to do as she likes because life is short and holding Frankie to strict rules and conditions of family time because life is dangerous. A few tense passages show conflict between and within the parents, too – I wonder if this might have gone over better as a novel which focused on them. Frankie’s grief, too, plays out in engaging ways, but with Anna as the focal point, it’s impossible to tease out the intricacies and details of her methods of coping. Perhaps it’s the removal from and mystery of her grief that makes it so interesting, though I can’t help but wish it had been a greater piece of Twenty Boy Summer.

In general, setting tends to be a non-issue for me in that I don’t notice it all that much unless it’s specifically relevant to the plot. I did find Ockler’s choice of Northern California to be thought-provoking. While the themes of excess and promiscuity lend themselves better, in my mind, to Southern California (and I doubt many of you disagree), the more family-oriented Bay Area throws up a contrast to Anna and Frankie’s behavior. Perhaps take this with a grain of sea salt – my impressions of California and its culture are limited to a two-week visit a few summers ago and plenty of movies.

Twenty Boy Summer is just okay. It’s what comes to mind when I think of beach reads, though that may be because a good deal of it takes place on a beach. It’s less light-hearted than the cover suggests, less dark than the summary and blurbs suggest. My main concern comes from the “lesson” Ockler inserts, but for readers who can look past that, this might not be the worst way to spend a few hours.

 

❤❤💔 out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Show Off: Fall Is All Around

In addition to book displays, I also have the privilege of decorating the door to a storage closet in the teen area. It’s partially blocked by a bookshelf which can make attractive designs challenging, but I’ve managed a few strategies to make it look a bit less lop-sided. One of these strategies is to use small elements that are scattered about to imitate the appearance of randomness and whimsy. When fall came about, my love of puns pushed me to create this “bulletin board” with the social media handles of several authors, books in the library with fall in the title, and an invitation for teens to add their own social media handles on blank leaves left for that purpose.

No one ended up sharing any of their handles, but the simple display hit on a handful of information needs and was an opportunity for passive programming.

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What author Twitters do you love?

Show Off: Historical Fiction

I’ve never been really big on historical fiction unless there’s a fantasy element. If I learned anything from this book display, the readers of young adult fiction in Alexandria are basically in agreement with me. Book displays aren’t just a good way to up circulation, but a good way to assess from a general standpoint, what types and genres of books and other materials in which patrons or customers have an interest.

Unlike the Retellings display, the books for this display did not exactly fly off the shelves.  This is a library I’m only at for four hours once a week, so it’s difficult to say from that glimpse what types of books teens are checking out with fervor. There are circulation statistics available, of course, but those stats don’t come with a gauge of the level of excitement with which the book was checked out. I think, to degree, that matters. But let’s say I did know historical fiction circulated poorly in the YA fiction. If one of our goals is to increase circulation for under-circulating materials, then I might’ve made this display anyway, just to see if highlighting it made a difference.

I marketed this display with the idea of holiday giving — give yourself the gift of time travel. And some of the books did have a time travel element, but most were simply historical fiction. The images below give a sample of the titles I used in the display. You’ll also find a complete list of what else I might have pulled at the bottom of the post.

Do you have a favorite historical fiction?

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Come August, Come Freedom Amateau, Gigi
This Vast Land Ambrose, Stephen
The Diviners Bray, Libba
Caminar Brown, Skila
Born of Illusion Brown, Teri
Goddess of Yesterday Cooney, Caroline B.
Audacity Crowder, Melanie
The Year We Were Famous Dagg, Carole Etsby
The Road of Bones Fine, Anne
Spirit’s Chosen Friesner, Esther
Untimed Gavin, Andy
Silver in the Blood George, Jessica Day
Luxe Godbersen, Anna
The Wild Golden, Christopher
Blythewood Goodman, Carol
Changeling Gregory, Philippa
Wicked Girls Hemphill, Stephanie
The Falconer’s Knot Hoffman, Mary
Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy Kiem, Elizabeth
Mortal Heart LaFevers, Robin
Manor of Secrets Longshore, Katherine
Pateince, Princess Catherine Meyer, Carolyn
Miss Spitfire Miller, Sarah Elizabeth
All We Have Left Mills, Wendy
The Beautiful and the Cursed Morgan, Page
Venom Paul, Fiona
Dodger Pratchett, Terry
Sandell, Lisa Ann
The Hired Girl Schlitz, Laura Amy
The Enchantress Scott, Michael
The Ghosts of Heaven Sedgwick, Marcus
The Cup and the Crown Stanley, Diane
The Perilous Journey of the Not-So-Innocuous Girl Statham, Leigh
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry Taylor, Mildred D.
Father of Lies Turner, Ann Warren
My Name Is Not Friday Walter, Jon
Countdown Wiles, Deborah
Palace of Spies Zettel, Sarah

Abby Reads: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Random House, 2011, 374 pages
Science Fiction

You know that cliche about old men yelling at everything that displeases them? I’m basically going to embody that for this review of Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This book — this book — took me seven months to read. I say this not at all to shame people who prefer a more leisurely reading pace than myself, but to point out that even books that I just kind of dislike I finish in a week or two at most. It’s not unheard of for me to read a book in a day and, in my proudest moment, I read three books in one day (and, no, they weren’t picture books). The point is, I had a really hard time getting through Ready Player One, but everyone who had read it that I knew insisted it was great and the end had a great pay-off, so I read on.

Ready Player One is the story of Wade, also known as Parzival in the online virtual reality society is pretty much addicted to in the somewhat-near future. After the creator of this virtual reality dies, he leaves behind clues that promises riches and such if a user can successfully navigate those clues and arrive at the end of the puzzle. As a semi-casual seeker of these clues, Parzival stumbles upon the secrets that professionals have been searching for for years, but he’s not without competition in the form of a cute girl, known as Art3mis, his best friend, Aech, and two Japanese brothers known as Shoto and and Daito. Plus, there’s the evil corporation working as a giant team to not only win the prize, but take Parzival and his friends down.

I read Ready Player One on my Kindle, so I relied on the percentage icon to let me know how deep I was into the book. For months, I was stuck around 33%, feeling like no matter how much I read, I was never going to progress any further. The book had to end sometime, right?! After slogging through the prose for the first 33%, I finally realized what was making the book so slow: Cline is a lister. Ready Player One is like a Buzzfeed listicle on Eighties pop culture nostalgia that is about 373 pages too long. I love War Games as much as the next reader, but Cline spends 98% of the novel name-dropping every possible artifact from the collective consciousness of Eighties pop culture and, while it’s cute for a while, it quickly becomes a chore to read through. The problem is that the nature of the book sort of requires you to read through all those lengthy explanations of movies you only-just remember the premise of or obscure arcade video games you’ve never heard of and don’t care about beyond the confines of the book. If you want to solve the puzzle along with our hero, Wade/Parzival, you’re stuck reading every bit. You could argue that this puts you in an interesting position — it essentially gives you first-person perspective on the book, which is almost like a video game if you’re playing along. Cool effect, but maybe better suited for a novella or short story.

But even beyond the tell-heavy prose style, I had a hard time getting on Wade’s side. Maybe Cline is just pulling from teenage boy stereotypes (some of which may be accurate, given that Cline was once a teenage boy — I wouldn’t know), but Wade is kind of unlikable. He’s arrogant, first and foremost. He’s also something of a bigot, which plays a huge role of the twist of the end, which I felt was a major point of exploitation. I’m all for unlikable characters so long as there’s something for me to latch on to that will make me care about them anyway (and that doesn’t necessarily have to be some kind of redeeming personality quirk). Sure, Wade’s poor — but who isn’t in this universe? And does it really matter when he spends 90% of his waking hours in this virtual reality where his poverty has little impact on how he lives there? He has enough to sustain himself and he uses the virtual reality as an escape, but it’s pretty evident that the virtual reality isn’t an antagonistic feature in his life, other than the fact that it makes him lazy (or, it enables it, anyway). I wasn’t cheering for him to lose, I don’t think, but I didn’t particularly care if he won, either.

Speaking of Wade’s poverty, I never got a true sense of what the world outside the virtual reality was like. Wade’s immediate community is painted pretty well with stacks upon stacks of living quarters piled around each other to create super-vertical communities, but beyond that…nothing. If Cline wants to project his idea of what the world will look like in fifty years, I’d hope he’d spend more time developing what that world is like. The politics of the world’s future are brushed aside in favorite of rolling about in the throes of Eighties nostalgia. Writers should write for themselves and their own entertainment, I agree, but Ready Player One was just a long underdeveloped plot in which Cline indulges himself again and again.

I get why people love the whole pop culture thing. It’s fun to reminisce about old favorites and imagine a world in which their importance is greater than we imagine. But at what cost? Ready Player One didn’t do it for me but it’s gotten an impressive rating on Goodreads and is generally favored throughout the reading community. Give it a shot, if you like, but be prepared for a novel listicle.

❤ out of ❤❤❤❤❤

Reading Challenges: Book Riot’s 2017 Read Harder Challenge

If you’re entrenched in the world of books, you’ve probably heard of Book Riot’s annual Read Harder challenge. When I reminded friends on Facebook that the challenge was available, we had a discussion about the appropriateness of the title. Because this challenge focuses several times on people of color and other underprivileged groups and we can pretty easily assume that much of Book Riot’s audience are white, cis-gender, heterosexual folks, there’s an implication that books by and about POC and other underprivileged groups are inherently “harder.”

I think in this case “harder” probably means with more enthusiasm, but the ambiguity alone is troubling. Of course, the challenge doesn’t solely focus on underprivileged groups (the first category refers to reading about sports, for example), so it’s likely this is entirely innocent. If you have thoughts on this, I encourage you to add them in the comments. It’s an important discussion to continue regardless of Book Riot’s intent, and now that we’ve touched on it, I’ll move on to the actual list, what books I’ve selected to fulfill the categories, and the strategy I used to find the books. I hope this will get you started in your own 2017 reading challenge, whether you choose to follow Book Riot’s to a T, to adapt Book Riot’s, to try another challenge, or to make one of your own.

If you’re going to follow the original list, Book Riot has some great resources within the article in the form of embedded links. Many of them redirect to other articles by Book Riot, though you’ll also find some Goodreads lists among others. Otherwise, feel free to use any of the books I’ve listed below or ask me for a recommendation. Meanwhile, check back for reviews of each of the books throughout the year.

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  1. Read a book about sports. Shoeless Joe by W. P. Kinsella – For this category, I knew right away which book I wanted to read. While Shoeless Joe has never officially made it onto my to-be-read (TBR) list, it’s always been in the back of my mind. I grew up watching Field of Dreams (and visited the filming location when I was a toddler) with my dad, so of course I have to get around to this one. I’m glad to finally have an excuse to officially get it on my list and cross it off. 
  2.  Read a debut novel. 

    If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio – This was another I knew I wanted to do right away. I can’t tell you too much about how I know about it (suffice to say an anonymous book blogger wrote a book and, using my handy librarian skills, I found out their identity and thus the title — update, April 2017: I can now tell you that blogger is DukeofBookingham). This novel is soaked in Shakespeare and murder, so what more could you ask for? It’s supposed to come out in April, but the release is still a bit up in the air. I’ve got a Barnes & Noble card saved especially for this one, though, so I can’t wait! Review.

  3. Read a book about books. 

    The Year of Reading Dangerously by Andy Miller – This one was not on my TBR, though like Shoeless Joe, I was aware of it and it was a mental TBR. Goodreads has a few lists of books about books, so it wasn’t too hard to find something that interested me. I’m always interested in the reading lives of others, so I’m looking forward to this one with hopes that it won’t give me too many more books to add to my TBR.

  4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author. 

    Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez – The funny thing about being a librarian is that customers think you’ve either (a) read every classic work, (b) read every book in the library, and/or (c) read every book in the world. As much as I wish I had the time for that, the sad truth is, I don’t. So I’ve not yet gotten around to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that would fit this category (shame, shame). There’s a reason his books are so beloved, I imagine, so I hope I’ll get an idea why when I dive into this one.

  5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative. 

    In the Country We Love by Diane Guerrero – If you’ve watched Orange Is the New Black or Jane the Virgin, you’re familiar with Diane Guerrero. In the Country We Love discusses her life in America as her family deals with immigration laws. I’ve been on something of a biography/memoir kick the last couple of years, and I have no doubt that Guerrero is just a brilliant writer as she is actress. This topic is somewhat unknown to me, and I know I’m going to learn a lot from this book.

  6. Read an all-ages comic. 

    El Deafo by Cece Bell – Back when I attended the Virginia Library Association conference in 2015, Cece Bell was one of the authors who spoke in a session. I wasn’t able to attend that one (too many good options!) but I was intrigued by her work, even though I’m not usually one to read graphic novels or comics. Friends with disabilities have pointed to El Deafo as a great piece on disabilities, so I’m definitely itching to check this one out.

  7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950. 

    Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf – Ah, yes, another classic I’ve never touched. It’s been on my TBR for a while now, though, and I’m happy to whittle down my list in the name of this challenge. (It also fulfills one of the books on the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge!)

  8. Read a travel memoir. 

    What I Was Doing while You Were Breeding by Kristin Newman – I had to use one of the Book Riot lists for this one. Though I haven’t yet touched Eat, Pray, Love, I wanted to do something I hadn’t heard about a million times over. This work is written by one of the writers of How I Met Your Mother, which I (mostly) loved. I’m sure this travel memoir will be filled with a lot of the same humor found in the show (though hopefully with a touch or more less misogyny) so it’ll be a fun read.

  9. Read a book you’ve read before. 

    Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery – I was on the fence about this one, because I’ve been meaning to reread The Bell Jar and other books, too, but since I have vague plans to visit Prince Edward Island in the nearish future, I thought this would be a fun way to get me extra excited about the trip. Plus, I kind of feel like I need a palate cleanser after seeing the latest film adaptation. Sorry, Ella Ballentine, you have nothing on Megan Follows.

  10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location. 

    The Tyrant’s Daughter by J. C. Carleson – This category was a tough one. Most book descriptions don’t include the setting and it’s not often something listed in the subject headings in the library catalog. That’s not always the case, though, so I was lucky to find this one in my library’s catalog by just searching for “washington dc.” Of course, if you live in rural Montana, my guess is you’ll have a harder time finding something (I couldn’t even really pin down anything for Northern Virginia that wasn’t D.C. easily — I found one in Richmond, which is 105 miles away, according to Google Maps, and since I’m a perfectionist, well, that wasn’t going to cut it for me). This is one of the categories that is easier if you’re willing to reread something. Either way, this book looks pretty exciting and a little bit outside the realm of what I usually read. Win!

  11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location. 

    Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – Wide Sargasso Sea has been on my TBR for forever. If you don’t know, it’s an extension of Jane Eyre, telling the story of Rochester’s attic-dwelling wife prior to her imprisonment. It takes place in Jamaica (and the author is from Dominica), a cool 1,434 miles from Arlington, VA so I’m expecting to read of lots of unfamiliar cultural bits, both due to location and history. Review.

  12. Read a fantasy novel. 

    Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo – This book has been blowing up in the booklr (bookish Tumblr community) scene, especially since its sequel came out recently. It’s been on my TBR since I heard about it, so I’m thrilled to cross another off that list. This book is also rallied around for its diversity — as I understand it, it features multiple characters of color, characters with disabilities and mental illnesses, and characters of various social and economic classes. (Hopefully one day this won’t be something worth celebrating, but for now, yay!)

  13. Read a nonfiction book about technology. 

    The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution by Walter Isaacson – This was a tough category for me. Nonfiction on technology isn’t really my go-to for nonfiction (I’m more interested in soft sciences there, generally), so I asked a friend for suggestions. He didn’t have any off the top of his head, so I did a basic search for “technology” in my library’s catalog and limited the search to books published in 2016 and nonfiction. I came across this title in that list and, despite the missing Oxford comma, decided it sounded fairly interesting. Isaacson’s name was vaguely familiar to me and the book was listed on a few tech websites as a good read. I’ll let you know how it goes when I get to it.

    Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing Our Schools, Our Jobs, and Our Minds by Dale Dougherty – This came to me as a bit of professional development reading. Makerpsaces are fairly big in public libraries among other spaces at the moment, so I grabbed this work and realized it fit the technology category pretty well after I read it. Two birds: one stone.

  14. Read a book about war. 

    Catch-22 by Joseph Heller – Oh, war. I really wasn’t up for reading nonfiction for this category. With all of the wars going on right now, I read enough about it in the news on a daily basis. Catch-22 has been on my mental TBR for a while (since, oh, middle school), so this was another good opportunity to buy one, get one. I hear this one is full of just the type of humor that suits me, so I’m hoping it’ll be a good motivator to get me through the beginnings of the upcoming administration.

  15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+. 

    Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour – I used one of the Book Riot lists to find this one. It has an absolutely stunning cover and an interesting premise that, according to the ratings I’ve seen on Goodreads, is backed up with some great writing. It’s exciting to read a new-to-me author, as well — I could have gone with the old David Levithan or Alex Sánchez, but I’ve read so many of those that I’m ready for something new. Everything Leads to You seems like the perfect fit.

  16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country. 

    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood – I can’t tell you how long this has been on my TBR and sitting on my shelf. Now that a TV version is coming out on Hulu, I’ve got no excuses. Despite my twenty-five years, I haven’t yet encountered any spoilers for this one, so it’s now or never. I love this particular challenge because it’s a great reminder, outside of Banned Books Week in September, that challenging, banning, and censorship is still an issue we face today. Review.

  17. Read a classic by an author of color. 

    The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison – Remember what I said about librarians not reading every book in the world? Yeah, I haven’t gotten around to any Toni Morrison (nor Maya Angelou, nor Alice Walker, nor Zora Neale Hurston — truly my exposure to black women authors is abysmal). Beyond the very simple descriptions I’ve read of the plot, which I understand involves internalized racism, I really don’t know anything about The Bluest Eye — exciting! Review.

  18. Read a superhero comic with a female lead. 

    Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson – I’ve said before I’m not big on comics and graphic novels. Occasionally one will catch my interest (Paper Girls was great, for example), but overall, I find the hypermasculinity to be bland and I can’t follow the art well enough, so I focus on the text which causes me to miss a lot of context. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Ms. Marvel, so I’m hoping that it will be another good entry point for me and my journey to read more broadly in format.

  19. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey. 

    Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – This category was tough. It’s another that you can’t easily search for in a library catalog or otherwise, so I had to rely on other options. I found this one by using the Book Riot discussion board for the 2017 challenge, which has many recommendations and ideas for all categories. I’d seen the cover floating around social media and was intrigued but it hadn’t yet made it onto my TBR. This looks like a unique and exciting read so I can’t wait to dig in.

  20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel. 

    Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sanchez – So, I’ve mentioned I’ve read David Levithan or Alex Sánchez, so those were out for this category. Meanwhile, everyone has been raving about Aristotle and Dante, so I figured this was a good opportunity to cross it off my TBR. I hear Lin-Manuel Miranda’s reading of the audiobook is fantastic, so I’m torn as to whether or not I should give that a go or not (since I’m usually not one for fiction audiobooks). If you want to try to sway me toward it, I’ll see you in the comments!

  21. Read a book published by a micropress. 

    When I’m Old, and Other Stories by Gabrielle Bell – Like some of the other categories, this one was tough to search for in a library catalog. Books aren’t cataloged by whether or not they were published by a micropress, but the name of the publisher is always listed in the bibliographic record. I went in search of a list of micropresses, found ones that published material that looked interesting to me, and tried an advanced search in the catalog of books published by those presses. The Arlington Public Library in Virginia had several from Alternative Comics, so I ended up with When I’m Old, and Other Stories. The idea of short stories in a graphic novel format rather than a full-length piece in a graphic novel format is really interesting to me, plus I’ll get more exposure to graphic novels.

  22. Read a collection of stories by a woman. 

    Difficult Women by Roxane Gay – I’ve yet to read any of Roxane Gay’s work, and I suppose I should probably start with Bad Feminist, but Book Riot has been pushing this collection so much lately that I figured this might not be a bad place to start, either. While I love writing short stories, I’m usually less interested in reading them (especially contemporary ones). Who’s to say this collection won’t change my mind? Here’s to retrying new things.

  23. Read a collection of poetry in translation on a theme other than love. 

    The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer – I’ve read bits and pieces of The Canterbury Tales (don’t we all get introduced to the Wife of Bath in high school?), but I’ve never read it in full. I’ve always seen this (along with The Aeneid, The Odyssey, and The Iliad among others) to be a piece of literary canon that is capital-I Important and probably necessary to at least skim if you have any intent of writing literary fiction, though I’m sure there are plenty of examples to prove me wrong. Either way, I felt this was an interesting interpretation of the challenge. If you’ve ever tried to read The Canterbury Tales in their original Middle English, you’ve probably been surprised at how much our language has evolved. While I’d love to have the time to learn Middle English and read this set as it was written, life’s short, so I’ll stick with the translation.

  24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color. 

    The Wangs vs. the World by Jade Chang – This came as another recommendation from Book Riot. Jade Chang served as a co-host on Rita Meade’s Book Riot podcast, Dear Book Nerd (sadly no longer a podcast but still existing as a written column on their website). While, again, this is a category better filled with a book you’ve already read as books are not cataloged by the narrator’s (or narrators’) race, I was able to find some suggestions in comments of the Goodreads page for the Read Harder Challenge.

So there it is. I hope this provides you with some ideas if you’re planning on taking on the challenge this year or are just looking for something to read. If you’re stuck on a category and need some help searching, feel free to hit up your friendly neighborhood librarian or get in touch with me for a bit of guidance. Recommending books is my favorite, so don’t be shy. What are your reading goals this year? Let me know in the comments!

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