Let’s talk about: Reading challenges

So, we’re about two-thirds of the way through the year (already!) and it’s getting to be that time when I start thinking about my reading challenges.  Last year was a busy one for me and I was not very good about my reading challenges.  I ended up panic-reading the last ten or so prompts in December, so this year, I think I overcompensated.  I’m just about done with two of my three challenges and I’m well on my way to meeting my goal of 125 total books.  Maybe I’ll focus the last part of the year on powering through my TBR.

Anyway, I love reading challenges.  I’ve participated in Goodreads’ reading challenge for the last five years.  I did Popsugar’s reading challenge twice and this year, as you’ve probably noticed, I’m doing both the Modern Mrs. Darcy challenge and That Artsy Reader Girl’s Debut Author Challenge.  Both of these have been great at gently nudging me toward books I might not have otherwise read.  Another thing that I like about reading challenges is that they keep my mind active.  Without a goal of a certain number of books or list of prompts to check off, I just wouldn’t read as much.  Instead, I might spend my nights mindlessly scrolling through Netflix and Hulu.  Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but it doesn’t give me the same sense of accomplishment that reading does.

Although 2018 seems a long way off, it’ll be here before we know it.  Next year, I’m thinking of doing three reading challenges.  Which ones I’ll do are still up in the air, but I’ve found some great ideas floating around the book blogosphere:

📚 Diverse Books
📚 Monthly Motif
📚 Contemporary Romance
📚 Retellings
📚 Beat the Backlist
📚 Speculative Fiction
📚 A-to-Z (authors or titles)

They all sound so great!  How will I ever choose?  And then there are the challenges I already love – like Popsugar, Modern Mrs. Darcy, and the Debut Author Challenge.  If I had enough time, I’d do all of the challenges.

Do you participate in reading challenges? If so, which is your favorite? Are there any that you think I should try?

Book review: Beauty by Robin McKinley

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

In this classic young adult retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Beauty Huston is a plain, bookish teenage girl whose family falls on hard times.  Moving from their comfortable city life to a more modest life in the countryside, Beauty finds that she much prefers manual labor over fancy balls.

Long after the family has adjusted to their new lifestyle, Beauty’s father becomes lost in the woods during a blizzard and stumbles upon a seemingly abandoned castle.  He stays for the night and finds himself well taken care of by invisible servants.  It’s only when he picks a rose to take home to Beauty that he finally meets the terrifying Beast.

After all his hospitality, Beast roars, how could this man try to steal one of his beautiful flowers?  Beast demands a life companion within the month, either  Mr. Huston or one of his beloved daughters.  Back home, much to the dismay of her sisters and her father, Beauty insists that she be the one to accompany Beast.

Despite his outward appearance, Beast is a kind creature.  He keeps to himself and ensures that all of Beauty’s needs are attended to.  She has more books than she’s ever imagined, a variety of delicacies for dinner every night, and the wardrobe of a queen.  Still, Beauty cannot bring herself to return Beast’s affection.

First things first, I would not have read this book if not for my #mmdreading challenge.  The prompt was “a book published before you were born,” and I went back and forth for months trying to figure out an acceptable book.  Thanks to Book Riot for posting about Robin McKinley, because I doubt that I would have found this book otherwise.  First published in 1978, this book is definitely from before my time.

This book is, more or less, what I’d expect from classic YA.  It definitely feels old-fashioned, and it’s not just the historical setting.  Beauty is very much filled with the boring day-to-day stuff: Beauty wakes up, eats breakfast, feeds her horse, reads a book, rides her horse, eats lunch, walks in the gardens, watches the sunset, eats dinner, goes to bed, and constantly muses about her life while she does it.  In contrast, modern YA moves fast, skipping all of this introspective nonsense in favor of the action.  I prefer today’s YA, but that’s just my personal preference.

The first half of the book is painfully slow and painfully boring.  I had to force myself to keep reading, telling myself again and again that this book couldn’t have all of those glowing five-star ratings if not for some payoff in the end.  It does pick up speed in the middle, and the last twenty pages or so barrel toward an abrupt and rather unsatisfying ending.  And that’s another problem – the love story between Beauty and Beast really doesn’t begin until the last few pages.  Despite the hundreds of reviewers classifying it as such, this is hardly a romance – there’s slow burn, and then there’s this, where the romance is practically non-existent.

Fairytale retellings are one of my favorite genres, but Beauty didn’t quite do it for me.  McKinley doesn’t expand too much on the original story, and as I just said, the romance leaves a lot to be desired.  I’m giving this book three stars because the writing is nice, it’s a classic, and it definitely paved the way for today’s YA.  I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it – more than anything, I was kind of indifferent to it.  All in all, it’s not a bad book.  It’s just not the book for me.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆

#mmdreading: a book published before you were born

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten hidden gems in Kindle Unlimited

Happy Top Ten Tuesday! Today is all about hidden gems, and because I’m cheap, I decided to go with ten hidden gems in Kindle Unlimited.  Did you know that you don’t have to pay for KU to get the benefits?  Every Prime member gets one free KU book per month.  That’s twelve free books per year!

Without further ado, here are ten great books that are currently available on Kindle Unlimited.  (Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that they will always be available, as it’s up to each author/publisher.)

The Foxe & The Hound ⭐ More Than Music ⭐ Anything You Can Do

Truth or Beard ⭐ Slightly Stalky ⭐ Hooked ⭐ Kaleidoscope Hearts

My Best Friend’s Brother ⭐ Stiff ⭐ Roommates

Do you use Kindle Unlimited?  If so, what have been your favorite books?

Book review: Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Goodreads ⭐ Amazon ⭐

Brown Girl Dreaming is one of those books that’s been on and off my TBR for years.  I really, really tried to read it for last year’s reading challenge and it had an endless list of holds at my library.  It fell off my radar for a bit, but then popped back up with my current reading challenge.

I’m kind of disappointed in myself for not reading this sooner.

Honestly, I’m not the biggest fan of poetry or novels written in verse.  And, though I try my best to expand my horizons and read memoirs about interesting women, they so frequently fall short of my expectations.  Having just slogged my way through a pretty awful Pulitzer winner, my expectations for this Newbery winner were low.  Possibly non-existent, really.

But it was good.

Really good, in fact.

As I flew through the first fifty pages or so, all I could think was that the writing is absolutely beautiful.  I felt transported to Ohio, to South Carolina, to New York.  I was immersed in the time period.  In the current events.  In the political climate and Jacqueline’s home life.  As the book continued, I felt like I was growing up with her.

I never wanted to put this book down.  I never felt like I was reading a middle-grade book.  I can’t wait to explore this author’s other books.

Final rating: ★★★★☆

#mmdreading: a Newbery award winner or honor book

Giveaway Roundup

I used to win Goodreads giveaways all the time.  Back in the day, your chances to win were at least tangentially tied to your activity on the site, and I would win sometimes 3 or 4 books each week.  Things changed a couple years back and now I haven’t won anything in a good year or so.  I still religiously enter these giveaways, though, because someone has to win.

Books I’m interested in reading:

Books I can recommend:

  • Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer (3 copies available through 9/6/17)
  • Fairest (Lunar Chronicles #3.5) by Marissa Meyer (4 copies available through 9/6/17)
  • Heartless by Marissa Meyer (3 copies available through 9/6/17)
  • Ready Player One by Ernest Cline (10 copies available through 8/27/17)
  • Room by Emma Donoghue (30 copies available through 8/28/17)