If you've ever wanted to read every book in the library, maybe you should rethink that.

Tag Archives: reading challenges


Grandma secretly hates me. I just read (well, “read”) a book for this post that came highly recommended by her. Either she hates me or she’s the kind of troll who lights fire to things and runs away without staying to watch the world burn. But I digress.

A wise person would probably not do this reading challenge, At the Mercy of My Library, knowing that following through with the entire challenge would bring nothing but pain and suffering.

I am apparently not wise; after pursuing both selections from this post’s D- authors, both of which appear to be Romance novels in their own way, I will continue to finish this challenge if it’s the last thing I do. At least I never promised to finish every book.

Let’s get this over with. Here’s a reminder of my rating system:

0/4 In the words of Homer Simpson, “AAH! Burn it! Send it to Hell!”
1/4 It was bad, but I’d still recommend it to people who don’t like books.
2/4 It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to finish it.
3/4 It was good. I finished it.
4/4 It was fantastic!

Spellbound
author: Day, Sylvia
title: Spellbound
year: 2013
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Ooh, my first smut book!
pre-read impression: Well, I’m glad it’s a short one.

LAST impression: I’m not even sure how far I got into this novel. As soon as I decided to stop reading it, I succeeded in putting all of it out of my mind. A few plot points stayed with me, but I’m probably wrong about all of them. Forgive me (I’m being sarcastic).

Even if this book was around 100 pages, it didn’t seem to be worth the read. One character basically says to the other in the first chapter, “We’re going to have all sorts of dangerous sex because I’m the boss of everything.” See, that’s just unappealing to me. I like to be–dare I say–teased. (And when you read the next book’s review, you’ll wonder if I even know what I want.) And while the descriptions of people and sexual tension were probably well written (honestly, I didn’t even get that far), they still made me question why this book was in existence. A cheap thrill? Let someone else have it.

STARS: 0.5/4. I give this book a extra .5 because (a) it cuts to the chase, (b) it doesn’t try to advertise itself as anything else, and (c) at least the heroine isn’t, you know, uninteresting. You know what I mean.

Would I suggest this author and/or book? Okay, fine, I would suggest it to certain people. Look, it got bumped up to 1/4 stars! You win!

A Knight in Shining Armor (Montgomery Saga, #16)
author: Deveraux, Jude
title: A Knight in Shining Armor
year: 1989
guess the genre: Romance?
pre-read impression: My grandmother gave me this book one or two years ago. She’d just finished it, and the way she described the plot made this book seem like something I’d enjoy. I never say no to a free book.

LAST impression: It’s time I started saying no to free books. It’s probably also time I started doubting my grandmother’s taste in everything.

The first chapter introduces Dougless, your typical push-over who is in love with someone imperfect and cries every time she turns a corner. (Seriously, so much crying. More on that later.) She anxiously awaits a marriage proposal by Robert. Robert doesn’t tell her until they reach the airport that his daughter from a previous marriage will be joining them on their romantic getaway to England. In a random churchyard on this vacation, Dougless finally loses her temper and gives the child a smack. The child then steals Dougless’s purse and Robert drives off with his daughter. Um, what? This guy left this woman WHO SHARES A HOUSE WITH HIM stranded in a foreign country without money or identification.

Dougless starts to cry. This is the only time I can believe her tears are justified, but at this point I’ve gone from, “Robert is a trope of a character, but at least he has some personality” to “Oh my fuck, no person would ever do that.”

If the first chapter was an insult to my intelligence as a reader, following chapters were jokes. Robert doesn’t return for any reason (until the second-to last chapter). Instead, he cancels reservations to all the hotels they were supposed to stay at in England. So Dougless is going to be murdered and no one will be able to identify her body because the one person who shares her mailing address left her stranded in a foreign country without identificaton so Jude Deveraux could write a story. Kidding. (Okay, the last part is true. Seriously, that’s the worst plot device I ever saw.) As soon as we meet Nicholas, that doesn’t matter because we learn the novel’s theme is “Our souls will forever be tied because you look at me from under your lashes.” (More on lashes later.)

Anyway, Dougless’s magical tears bring an earl (Nicholas, who has a statue in the church. Isn’t that convenient?) to life from the depths of history. Nicholas believes Dougless is the key to sending him back to his own time, yadda yadda yadda, she goes back in time for some reason.

yadda

But you yadda yadd’ed over the best part!

I got four chapters in. Seventy pages. (That’s over my fifty-page “I’ll read whatever” rule.) After that, I flipped through to see what I would be missing when I stopped reading. Yes, they go back to Nicholas’s time.  This was why Grandma thought I’d like the book. Because a knight/earl shows up in present-day England and there’s some mystery surrounding his destiny. She’s right in that I do love historical fiction. However, I wasn’t going to put up with shoddy writing for a historical thrill.

Check out this steaming pile of gems:

She started to speak again but he told her to be quiet and she was.

That sentence is its own paragraph. That sentence must be the most unneeded paragraph in the history of all books.

Here’s another riveting one:

He looked at her but said nothing and Dougless quit smiling.

Can someone tell me what’s wrong with using mid-sentence punctuation?

So Dougless commits herself to someone who both threatened her with a sword and won’t stop following her around. Never mind the vicar, who was at the church the whole time. He could help both Nicholas with his time travel conundrum and Dougless’s identity theft. The general population (i.e. writers of all things books, movies, and TV shows) doesn’t seem to remember church employees are good for fictional people other than spiritual guidance. (That’s something I have to work on, too.) But no, Dougless has to skip around town doing errands for someone she never met even though she promised herself never to take on another needy man. And why? Because the heroine in these kinds of romance novels are required to be idiots in order for true love to do its thing.

Don’t get me started on the self-imposed misogyny. About half of Dougless’s thoughts are on her own appearance, including that fact that it’s perfectly normal to spend someone else’s money on makeup because she thinks he’s cute whenever it’s convenient.

While these two go around playing Wow Look At This Thing That Didn’t Exist In My Time, the heroine becomes attached to him even as she continues convincing herself this is a person she just met yesterday, who she believes has suffered either amnesia, a mental breakdown, or has never been in his right mind in the first place.

She woke before dawn, smiling before she woke to feel Nicholas’s warm, big body next to hers.

Something about that doesn’t seem right, and it isn’t just because she snuggled next to a naked man she believes to be clinically insane. Is it me or did she wake up twice in the same sentence?

So, what about the ending? Surely the payoff is worth it.

Dougless figures out how not to be a doormat, leaves Nicholas back in his own time, tells off Robert in an unsatisfying way, and meets an incarnation of Nicholas. I skipped everything but the last chapter, where there were more entire paragraphs made only to insult me:

She looked at him then, really looked at him. He glanced down at the portrait, then up at her, and when he did so he looked at her through his lashes, just as Nicholas used to do. “What do you do for a living?” she whispered.

I see three problems with this.

  1. She’s really looking at him and we don’t receive much feedback. What is it about him besides basic movement that enamors you? The Nicholas comparison? We already received comparisons. We know by now in the story they’re spiritually related. Just stop.

The other two problems are common in Romance novels (as far as I know).

2. The whispering. I guarantee you no one does that much actual whispering in the author’s mind. No one walks around whispering! Readers, what authors are actually trying to portray here is a softness in the speech that becomes redundant when described as “said softly.” How many times in romance films and soap operas do you hear people whispering to each other in public? None that I’ve seen.

3. Lashes! Everyone in romance novels every look at each other through or from under lashes.

Dear Lash Looker Haters,

This isn’t a new descriptive concept. Dashiell Hammet did this in The Maltese Falcon, but just because it worked for him doesn’t mean it’s going to work somewhere else. That was film noir he was writing for. It worked for the style. Go on hating it when it’s used in terrible novels, but don’t you touch my beautiful noir!

Dear Lash Looker Lovers,

All your characters look like they’re giving each other the stink-eye. Does anyone look each other in the eye any more? Put down your phones and have a real conversation, damn it, that doesn’t require the heroine to recount all her previous fifty steps while we have to read about it!

This is something Jenny Trout complained about when reviewing Fifty Shades of Grey (love ya, JT). After reading this A Knight in Shining Armor, I’m starting to believe all romance novels are terribly written on purpose and ‘Grey isn’t all that special or especially bad after all. It uses many of the same over-explored devices:

irritatingly innocent heroines;
men who treat women like shit;
annoying women/girls who adore the men who treat the heroine like shit;
men who show up for the sole purpose to save the heroine;
poor writing;
poor descriptions of gestures, habits, and appearances on top of other poor writing;
the list goes on!

If this is what the entire genre of Romance is like, count me out forever.

 

STARS: 0/4. Maybe I’m being harsh. Other books by Deveraux are, I’m sure, better. This one was her first, after all. My version was also published before her fabled rewrite that may or may not have fixed everything. I don’t care.

MercyChallenge

I wrote this post with the most calming music in the background, cuddled up in my warm, comfy chair, and I’m still stewing in anger!

This challenge has a long way to go before I find anything worth writing home about. Next time, I’ll read an Amish Romance. That will be new and exciting. (keyboard breaks due to sarcasm overload)

Living in Harmony (New Beginnings, #1)  The Walk (The Walk, #1)



A part of me doesn’t want to continue this At The Mercy Of My Library reading challenge because something fantastic happened: I moved across the country. This means I no longer have that library. Does this mean I should still be at its mercy?

Moving is more stressful in the preparation of it than it is in the actual act of putting of boxes inside a new place. (Was that sentence even grammatically correct?) That’s why I flaked out for months. Months! I brought Michael Crichton’s novel (which I own) with me, intending to breeze through it when I wanted to feel more at home (which was and still is all the time). In between these two months came NaNoWriMo, which always messes up my reading.

I will most likely continue this challenge because it helps me feel better connected to home. Before leaving my home state, I copied down all the books I might have taken were continuing this challenge at my old library. (Yeah, I’m crazy like that.)

Enough ado. On to the challenge!

The rating system:
0/4 In the words of Homer Simpson, “AAH! Burn it! Send it to Hell!”
1/4 It was bad, but I’d still recommend it to people who don’t like books.
2/4 It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to finish it.
3/4 It was good. I finished it.
4/4 It was fantastic!

 

The Mysteries of Pittsburgh

author: Chabon, Michael
title: The Mysteries of Pittsburgh
year: 1988
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Dudes, I don’t even care! I’ve read Gentlemen of the Road twice (one time it was a comfort story while I had the flu) and loved it both times. I’m biased for this author based on only one of his books, but I have to tell you I’m exciiiiited!
pre-read impression: Hmm, there’s no summary. When there are only quotes of praise on the back AND inside of a novel, in my experience, it’s probably a crap novel. But we’ll find out when I read it.

LAST impression: It started out well, despite how I loathe stories about depressed grad students. (He was a grad student, right? English Lit, right? It really doesn’t matter.) I also loathe stories about depressed people whose sole purpose is to meet sparkly, unique people who get the main character into trouble. The protagonist goes along for the ride and doesn’t seem to have a say in his life, and we all know it’s because the protagonist is only a representation of the author himself and the only way the author COULD introduce the sparkly pixies was if he put himself in the book because he had no idea how to write for other characters without making himself the focus. (Phew!)

Sorry about the rant. I still like Michael Chabon and hope to read another of his books someday. It’s just… I’m pretty sure The Mysteries of Pittsburgh is the literary version of Garden State.

STARS: 2/4. I ended up skimming the last third to see how it ended. Once I learned how it ended, I was excited and still couldn’t bring myself to care.

 

Joe Victim (Cleaner, #2)

author: Cleave, Paul
title: Joe Victim
year: 2013
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Murder thriller.
pre-read impression: Psychological detective something, I don’t know, for some reason I want to hurry up and read this.

LAST impression: I couldn’t consume this fast enough. Cleave’s crisp writing, combined with the unreliable narrator, made me sit up. Physically, literally sit up. This isn’t a lazy story. The main character is a murderer who doesn’t believe he’s a murderer. Other character’s stories are told, as well, and they’re far more interesting, sometimes, than the protagonist. This is another book that’s split between first person and third person, which appears to be a wonderful device. I’m a fan of Paul Cleave now.

Although I’m not supposed to read sequels for this challenge, this book is actually a sequel to The Cleaner and I couldn’t tell sometimes. In the end, it didn’t matter; Joe Victim was pretty good on its own. I’m excited to read another of Cleave’s novels. It might not be The Cleaner, either. I need to see what he does with other characters, but I’m also intrigued to see how little Joe Victim got into this predicament.

STARS: 3/4. We have a 3! Glory be, we have a 3!

 

The Andromeda Strain

author: Crichton, Michael
title: Andromeda Strain
year: 1969
special sticker: none
guess the genre: The genre is Michael Crichton, LOL.
pre-read impression: We all love this guy, don’t we? I’ve never read anything by him, sadly. It’s about time I do this!

LAST impression: This novel took a while for me to love, unfortunately. The beginning promised a good book, and the end promised me that I’d just read a good book, but it took me two months to read this, damn it! It wasn’t because I was savoring the story or the writing. No. It was because all the cool graphs couldn’t quite spice up all the scientific- and government-speak. I find these languages dry and drying.

It seems tragic I don’t have much to say about this story. In fact, I’m wondering whether I want to read another Crichton novel at all. I might like the movie better. Or the mini-series.

STARS: 3/4. In the end, I think this was a good book. The thought of some minor bacteria on a spacecraft having huge mortal repercussions should be frightening for everyone. Also, the subject matter in comparison to the book’s publishing date is intriguing. I can see how Crichton carved himself a nice place in modern fiction.

 

MercyChallenge

Yeah, I think I’ll keep going with this challenge. I’m dreading the amount of disagreeable books I’ll have to work through, but what’s a challenge if you don’t, dur, challenge yourself?

I’m not even going to write my impressions of these two books. I have no hope. No hope at all! We’ll all be eaten alive by bacteria anyway!

Spellbound A Knight in Shining Armor



I love novels, but I hate their beginnings. The beginning of anything, actually, is tedious. When you learn a certain skill, or begin a project, there’s so much prep work, so much basic training you have to suffer before getting to the good stuff. This is why I hate the beginnings of novels; I have to wade through the sticky sludge of exposition and world-building before the plot shows itself, and before I feel I know the characters. I’m sure this is why editors also hate the beginnings of novels. Oftentimes, editors (and readers) don’t manage to get through them.

This is one of the key reasons why writing a novel is hard. I feel every novelist’s pain. If the first chapter is crucial, the following three chapters are more crucial. Over the past two years, I’ve been rewriting no fewer than four novel beginnings. Yes, the novels themselves are getting better, thanks for asking. No, the process of rewriting isn’t getting any easier, damn it.

For the sanctity of fiction, I must put out a NOTE TO ALL AUTHORS: I couldn’t care less about the social reject’s problems. Not at first. What I care about is how he feels when his head is in a toilet while he’s getting a swirly.

I have an odd aversion to reading any novel when it comes home fresh from the library. Writers, take pity on your readers. We have to stick our heads in your writing and swirl it around until we’re drowning. Make that flush so strong you knock off our glasses with your writing-metaphor-toilet-water, or so articulate the water picks up our glasses and folds them for us.

I’ll work on my own writing. No one is perfect, but the beginning of any novel should be worth a try. …Right?

On to the Mercy Challenge, authors A!  (The 26-letter alphabet will be divided into 20 posts, give or take some letters.)

My one law of reviewing during the Mercy Challenge:

Be nice. I understand the work that goes into a novel. I also understand I only write good reviews when I’m bashing someone over the head with it. Every “review” I write for this challenge will be short, sweet, and—I hope—somewhat positive. To your benefit, I don’t stop reading a novel until I find out what, exactly I don’t like about it. This helps me grow as both a reader and a writer!

My star ratings:
0/4 In the words of Homer Simpson, “AAH! Burn it! Send it to Hell!”
1/4 It was bad, but I’d still recommend it to people who don’t like books.
2/4 It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good enough for me to want to finish it.
3/4 It was good enough for me to finish but it wasn’t fantastic.
4/4 It was fantastic!

 

Cold Glory (Nick Journey #1) Five Star Billionaire 

 

author: Anderson, B. Kent

title: Cold Glory

published: 2011
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Modern day history drama!
pre-read impression: Old objects, suspense, and cops? I’m in.

LAST impression: …Or not. I gave up exactly on page 128. The plot was really starting to rev up, but there  were a few things I couldn’t get past. First, I wasn’t too invested in the characters. Anderson didn’t spend as much time personally getting to know these people than he did coming up with plot points to get them moving. It wasn’t enough for me to feel as if I, the reader, personally knew these people. Then again, I’m someone who spends way too much time getting to know her characters than she does coming up with things for them to do.

There was one character in particular who was trying to hard to be this Strong Female Character everyone is searching for these days (as well they should). She was good enough until two things happened. I’ve just finished reading a different novel in which the female protagonist goes out of her job description to risk her life solving a case because, for some weak reason, she makes it personal. I saw smatterings of that plot device here. On page 128, to be exact. I’d normally let that slide, but it happened soon after I was confused by one of her actions: she went to a meeting without her shoes. Erm…uh… women don’t do that. No matter how “strong,” self-possessed, or confident she is, a woman simply doesn’t step outside, get into a car with her supervisor, and lead a meeting in which she has to convince other people to work with her just because her feet hurt. I give Anderson some slack because he isn’t female. Sometimes writing the opposite gender is difficult. I get that. Of all the objects she left behind because this character was frustrated or in a hurry, I don’t understand why it had to be the shoes.

Lastly, there were one too many mentions of “Perry Mason.” This is a minor offence, and a stupid reason for me not to like something, but I have a deep loathing for that show strictly for personal reasons.

Despite the above events that turned me off, the writing was exciting enough.

stars: 2/4. That’s not bad! Although I didn’t care to finish this book, I would recommend it to anyone over fifty years old or anyone who loves government conspiracy novels.

 

 

author: Aw, Tash

title: Five Star Billionaire

published: 2013
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Soap opera set in Shanghai? I’ve seen a few action films from China that were pretty good, so I’m a little excited for this.
pre-read impression: A small cast of characters might be puppets to a billionaire.

LAST impression: Let’s start with the good points. Like the movies I mentioned above, it was cool to hear/see a language different from what I’m used to. (That’s right, I don’t read many books set in China. I don’t know why.) I had to look up a few locations and words, but I’m not complaining. Aw did a wonderful job putting me in another setting with food, descriptions of strangers, and unfamiliar Asian vocabulary, but it’s where he also lost me; every single one of his characters appeared to be depressed for one reason or another that the most stunning parts of the book weren’t any of the main characters. Every protagonist was a depressed body surveying the landscape. I can’t sink my teeth into a book like that. Why is it general/literary fiction tries to be depressing all the time? This shouldn’t be a breakthrough concept in fiction anymore. 100 pages in, it was evident I wouldn’t finish this novel, just like the last one. I spent 147 pages wondering when the story would begin, and once it did begin I still wasn’t intrigued.

stars: 2.5/4. Even though this rating is about the same as above novel’s, this one was still better. The writing was better and that counts for something. I would suggest this book to nearly everyone; my experience with it shouldn’t force others to be down about it.

Needless to say they didn’t knock the glasses off my face. But that’s OK. I’m glad I found out what they were about. You should read them yourself! Tell me what you think.

 

MercyChallenge

 

My brain will reboot for the next batch of randomly selected books. On to the B authors!

Barney, James The Genesis Key

title: The Genesis Key
published: 2011
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Thriller about biology?
pre-read impression: Archaeology! Genetics! Intrigue! Washington DC!

Brackston, Paula The Winter Witch

title: The Winter Witch
published: 2013
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Historical romance.
pre-read impression: Well, it’s about a witch. It’s about a witch with powers. It’s about a witch who can’t control her powers and falls in love. Should be interesting.

Burton, Mary You're Not Safe (Texas Rangers, #3)

title: You’re Not Safe
published: 2014
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Looks like it might be a thriller/horror.
pre-read impression: This is technically a third book in a series that seems to feature different protagonists per novel but… Okay. Wow. Murder thriller. Will break the rules for this one.



When you work at a library, you see a surprising lot of crappy books. They’re not all bad. At least, I shouldn’t think they are.

I could be an incredible book snob if I wanted to. You may or may not have seen examples of that on this very blog. Especially when one works at a library, one becomes used to judging a book by its cover or jacket summary. We have to skim loads of information in order to help others. Only once in a while do we get to pour ourselves into the very items we recommend.

MercyChallengeRather than turn my nose up on authors who might actually be decent, I should see what they’re about so I can help patrons find books they would actually like! This is why I’m proud to announce my super-challenge:

At the Mercy of My Library (A.K.A. the Mercy Challenge)!

To make sure my choice is completely random, I have a system. (And what good library employee wouldn’t have a system for everything?) Ideally, every row of books would be equally long. In a busy library, this isn’t always the case. The book I choose will be the second from the right on the longest row of each bay. Allow me to demonstrate with this, ahem, professionally illustrated image.

librarybays

There are currently three rows of general adult fiction equalling forty-five of these bays. I’ll choose one book at random from each bay. This means fourty-five random books! (Yes. I, too, can do math!)

This challenge will start in April and last at least through August.

Exceptions to the rules:
If I end up picking a book that’s not the first in a series, I’ll find the first book on the day I choose these selections. If the first book isn’t in the library, I’ll give myself a break and choose something from the same shelf that interests me.

Because data rocks my socks, here are the data I’ll present for each novel:

Before reading
author:
title:
published: Year of first printing.
special sticker: Most books have no special sticker. Some, however, indicate Romance, Short Stories, Classic, etc. The following genres you won’t see in this challenge because they’re shelved separate from General Fiction: African American Fiction; Fantasy; Horror; Mysteries; Science Fiction; Westerns.
guess the genre: This will be fun.
pre-read impression: A simple sentence judging the cover and the book’s summary.

After reading
Last impression: Who knows?
STARS: My personal four-star system, which is a -1 star rating I use on Goodreads. (To be explained.)

Have a taste of authors I’ve selected so far, last names beginning with A.

 

 
Anderson, B. Kent Cold Glory (Nick Journey #1)

year: 2011
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Modern day history drama!
pre-read impression: Old objects, suspense, and cops? I’m in.

Aw, Tash Five Star Billionaire

year: 2013
special sticker: none
guess the genre: Soap opera set in Shanghai? I’ve seen a few actiony films from China that were pretty good, so I’m a little excited for this.
pre-read impression: A small cast of characters might be puppets to a billionaire.

 

 

This is going to be an adventure. Here’s to making it through the whole alphabet without needing alcohol!



%d bloggers like this: