May Check-in #TBRYear10

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Welcome to the FIFTH checkpoint for our TENTH ANNUAL TBR Pile Challenge! I hope you are all making good progress and enjoying yourselves (and your reading selections!) 

We have more than 100 reviews/check-in posts linked up already, with 7 months to go, and I think that’s beyond awesome! Way to go, you all! 

I’m pleased to report that, in this 5th month of the challenge, I have read four of my twelve books and am currently reading number five. That puts me just slightly behind schedule with summer freedom (ha!) coming up. I hope to get a little bit ahead during the summer months and while I’m on sabbatical in the Fall.

My Progress: 4 of 12 Completed

Although I’ve managed to read/review one more book for this challenge, I’m now technically “behind” for the first time this year. Of course, if I can get another list book read and reviewed this month, then I’ll be back on track. I’m two books behind where I was at this point last year, which is annoying, but I also have a lot of free time coming soon, so I’m confident that I’ll win my challenge this year! My most recent read was Hesse’s Steppenwolf, which I’ve linked below. I’ve also just begun reading my next challenge book, Elisabeth Gaskell’s North and South. It’s good so far, but I doubt I’ll be able to finish it by end of the month.

Books Read:

  1. The Poppy War (2018) by R.F. Kuang (Chinese Historical Fantasy) (Completed 1/10/23)
  2. Pachinko (2017) by Min Jin Lee (Korean-American Fiction) (Completed 2/12/23)
  3. Look (2016) by Solmaz Sharif (Poetry/Iranian-American) (Completed 3/10/23)
  4. Steppenwolf (1927) by Hermann Hesse (Philosophical Novel) (Completed 4/22/23)

How are you doing?


Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!


As we celebrate this milestone for 2023, I introduce you to our second Mini-Challenge. Here’s all you need to do: Comment on this post with a book review WRITTEN BY ANOTHER CHALLENGER that you would recommend we read. So, yes, spend a little time visiting our fellow readers, maybe even say hello while you’re on their blog, but then come back here and comment with a review you really enjoyed or appreciated in some way. If you can tell us why (briefly), all the better! Winner will receive a book of choice, up to $15 USD.

You can find a list of everyone who has linked-up reviews so far by clicking on the “LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS” text below. Remember, you should also be posting your progress links there, too, so that you’re collecting entries toward the big $50 grand prize at the end of the year. Good luck to you all! Happy reading and happy blog hopping!


Dark Matter by Blake Crouch

Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)

Dark Matter by Blake Crouch is an electrifying and mind-bending science fiction thriller. From the first page to the last, Crouch takes readers on a thrilling roller coaster ride through the multiverse, filled with suspense, philosophical musings, and heart-stopping moments.

The story revolves around Jason Dessen, a brilliant physicist who finds himself caught in a nightmarish world of parallel universes after a mysterious abduction. As he desperately seeks to find his way back to his own reality, he embarks on a journey that challenges everything he knows about himself, his life, and the choices he’s made.

What makes Dark Matter really fun is Crouch’s ability to blend complex scientific concepts with deeply human emotions. The exploration of quantum mechanics and the multiverse theory is fascinating, and Crouch presents these ideas in a way that is accessible to casual readers without compromising their complexity. (I’ve read Neil deGrasse Tyson and Stephen Hawking, but all anyone really needs to follow the plot is a basic understanding they could probably get from watching The Big Bang Theory.) The scientific backdrop is not just a tool for plot development but an integral part of the story, driving the narrative forward and raising profound philosophical questions about identity, free will, and the paths we take in life.

Crouch’s writing is gripping and fast-paced, with short chapters that keep you turning the pages. The narrative is infused with a sense of urgency and an ever-present tension that keeps you on edge, as Jason’s desperate quest becomes increasingly perilous. The plot twists and turns with unpredictable outcomes, leaving you guessing and constantly reevaluating what you think you know. Personally, I would have appreciated a bit of a slower pace at times. There are moments where an awful lot happens in a very short space of narrative time, or where we jump rapidly through dozens of multiverses. That said, this is a thriller novel, and the fast pace is important to building tension and intrigue.

Beyond its thrilling plot, Dark Matter also delves into the depths of human emotions. Jason’s love for his wife and son is palpable, and as he encounters different versions of the people he holds dear, the novel explores the nature of relationships, regret, and the sacrifices we make for those we love. The characters are well-developed and relatable, adding an emotional weight to the story that resonates long after the final page. The questions being asked are unique, took, despite the themes being old as time. What would we do for love? Would we kill ourselves for love? Would we kill ourselves hundreds of times?

Blake Crouch has created a piece of speculative fiction that lingers in the mind and challenges conventional notions of reality. Dark Matter is gripping and thought-provoking, and I think it will captivate both science fiction enthusiasts and general readers alike. Crouch’s storytelling prowess is aided by his ability to blend science, philosophy, and heart-pounding suspense into an unforgettable reading experience.

Dark Matter is the third book I’ve read from my Friends Recommending Reads list. It was recommended by Darlene O.

Steppenwolf by Hermann Hesse

Hermann Hesse’s Steppenwolf is a haunting and profound exploration of the human condition, touching on themes of spirituality, sexuality, despair, and hope. At its core, the novel is a deeply introspective examination of the self, and the ways in which we construct and deconstruct our identities in response to the world around us.

One of the key concepts explored in the novel is the idea of non-self, or the notion that our sense of self is an illusion constructed by our minds. This idea is closely related to the Buddhist concept of anatta, or no-self, and is a central theme in the novel. Through the character of Harry Haller, Hesse portrays the struggle to reconcile the self with the world, and the deep sense of isolation and despair that can arise when this reconciliation is not possible. In Harry’s case, he has created an alter-ego, “the Steppenwolf” to separate himself into two pieces, the human and the animal, and part of his journey is learning that, as Whitman wrote, we all “contain multitudes.”

The novel also touches on the concept of interbeing, or the idea that all things are interconnected and interdependent. This idea is explored through the character of Hermine, who teaches Harry to embrace his own sexuality and to connect with others in a more meaningful way. Through this exploration of interbeing, Hesse suggests that true happiness and fulfillment can only be found through meaningful connections with others, and a deep sense of empathy and understanding for the world around us.

Spirituality is another central theme in Steppenwolf, and Hesse explores the ways in which our beliefs and values can shape our identities and our place in the world. Harry’s struggles with his own sense of spirituality and his relationship with others are a reflection of the broader existential questions that the novel grapples with, and the deep sense of meaning and purpose that we all seek.

According to Hesse’s introduction to later editions, many readers have left the novel sensing only hopelessness and assuming that Harry’s journey is a failed one, but on the contrary, I found the final moments of the novel to be hinting that Harry, while not having “succeeded” in the traditional sense, has learned a lot about himself and his place in the world; perhaps most importantly, he has learned to hope. It is this changed perspective that points to a new life for Harry when everything before it had foreshadowed only doom.

Ultimately, Steppenwolf is a deeply moving and thought-provoking novel that speaks to the very heart of what it means to be human. Through its exploration of non-self, interbeing, spirituality, sexuality, despair, and hope, Hesse presents a profound meditation on the human condition, and the struggle to find meaning and purpose in a complex and often confusing world. In many ways, this one reminded me of Melville’s Garden of Eden, and I may some day need to put the two in conversation.

Steppenwolf is Book 4 completed for my #TBRYear10 Challenge.

April #TBRYear10 Check-In!

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

We have made it through the First Quarter of this year’s TBR Pile Challenge! We already have more than 90 reviews/checkpoints linked up on our Mr. Linky, which is pretty great! How are you all doing with your selections? Any major successes (or total DNFs?)

You may have heard that The Book Depository has announced they are closing, so that’s no longer an option for the mini-challenge prizes or annual grand prize. I’m going to have to rethink the prize options, as I’d prefer not to do much ordering through you-know-who. Perhaps a gift card to a local bookstore of choice? Let me know if you have any ideas!

Progress: 3 of 12 Completed

Things have really slowed down on the reading front, over here. This teaching semester has been extremely busy, and I’m involved in some service projects that are time consuming as well. We’ve also spent the last two weeks with my parents, who were in from out of town, so there has been absolutely no time for reading this month. With about 6 weeks of work left this term, I doubt I’ll have too much accomplished even before next month’s check-in, but after that, I’m going to have plenty of time for the rest of the year, and wow, am I looking forward to it! That said, I am currently reading my fourth book (Hesse’s Steppenwolf) and did get all of my completed reads’ thoughts posted, so technically I’m still on track as long as I can post thoughts for Steppenwolf sometime this month.

Books read:

How are you doing?


Below, you’re going to find the infamous Mr. Linky widget. If you read and review any challenge books this month, please link-up on the widget below. This Mr. Linky will be re-posted every month so that we can compile a large list of all that we’re reading and reviewing together this year. Each review that is linked-up on this widget throughout the year may also earn you entries into future related giveaways, so don’t forget to keep this updated!

Mini-Challenge Two is Coming in May! 


The Folio Society’s Book Illustration Award 2023

The Folio Society announces the opening of the second edition of the international Illustration Award at Bologna’s 60th Book Fair. Deadline April 20th!

● Entrants will illustrate a single scene of their choice from Ursula K. Le Guin’s short story ‘The Fliers of Gy’

The Folio Society, London publisher of award-winning, beautifully produced illustrated hardback books, launches the international Folio Book Illustration Award 2023 on 6th March at Bologna Book Fair. This is the second edition of the annual free-to-enter competition, launched in 2022 to mark The Folio Society’s 75th anniversary.

The Award is open to illustrators, student or professional, who have not previously been commissioned by The Folio Society, with the aim of finding, platforming and supporting new illustration talent from around the world. Selected from a shortlist of six, the winning entrant will receive a £2,000 cash prize plus a £500 Folio Gift Voucher, and the five runners-up will receive a £500 Folio Gift Voucher.

Tom Walker, Publishing Director, The Folio Society says: “Folio has been nurturing illustration for 75 years, and we were delighted to inaugurate the Folio Book Illustration Award in 2022 to continue this tradition. The standard of entries was superb, and I can’t wait to see what 2023 has in store.”

This year’s competition calls for submissions illustrating Ursula K. Le Guin’s ‘The Fliers of Gy’. The short story tells of a society of feathered people among whom a select few grow wings, a feature that gives them the ability to fly but that also carries great risk and leaves them shunned from society.

Winner of Folio Book Illustration Award 2022 © Evangeline Gallagher
Winner of Folio Book Illustration Award 2022 © Evangeline Gallagher

Sheri Gee, Art Director, The Folio Society says: “There was such a terrific amount of talent in last year’s entries for the FBIA. I’m really looking forward to seeing how illustrators worldwide will tackle ‘The Fliers of Gy’. It’s always so interesting how different illustrators work, which scenes stand out for them, and see how they decide to interpret a story, some similarly, some entirely differently.”

This year’s judging panel includes Evangeline Gallagher, winner of the Folio Book Illustration Award 2022, the inaugural edition of the competition launched to mark The Folio Society’s 75th anniversary. Evangeline Gallagher was selected from over 680 illustrators from 56 countries for their illustration of a scene from Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Masque of the Red Death, and they have since gone on to work on illustrations for clients like Peachtree Publishing, Possum Creek Games, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Evangeline Gallagher says: ‘’I am beyond thrilled to be asked to help judge this year’s competition! Winning the FBIA last year was such an honor and I’m so excited to take a look at some exciting work from this year’s group of talented illustrators.”

Gallagher will be judging this year’s Award alongside Tom Walker, Folio Publishing Director; Sheri Gee, Folio Art Director; and Raquel Leis Allion, Folio Art Director. Raquel Leis Allion, Art Director, The Folio Society says: “Last year I had the pleasure of looking through nearly 700 entries for our FBIA competition. There was an astounding amount of talent. This year I am looking forward to seeing how artists and illustrators approach the new text, and discovering even more talent.”

The Award opens on 6th March 2023 at the Bologna Book Fair Illustrators Café, where Sheri Gee, Raquel Leis Allion and Tom Walker will announce the set story, entry requirements, judging panel and what they will be looking for in the submitted artwork. On 7th March, The Folio Society will host two additional talks that cover the collaborative process of working with Folio on illustrations for their editions of iconic texts, including an appearance from longtime Folio collaborator and illustrator Neil Packer.

The Award closes on 20th April 2023. A longlist of 20 entries, selected by the judging panel, will be exhibited on The Folio Society website from 23rd May 2023 with the five runners-up and one winner announced online on 29th June 2023.

About The Folio Society
The Folio Society, based in London, publishes beautifully produced books – available worldwide exclusively at Proudly independent for its 75 year history, in 2021, under the leadership of its CEO, Joanna Reynolds, The Folio Society was sold to its employees and is now an Employee Owned Trust. The accessible, diverse and inclusive values of The Folio Society are reflected in its new ownership that is committed to a progressive sharing of power and profit in publishing.

The Folio Society publishes some of the best names in publishing past and present, across the globe in beautiful, high specification, collector editions. Notable publications include Frank Herbert’s Dune, Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Andrew Chaikin’s A Man on the Moon and Alice Walker’s The Color Purple among many other contemporary and classic titles including a publishing partnership with Marvel delivering the world-recognised, iconic brand’s luxury editions.

Instagram: @foliosociety
Facebook: @thefoliosociety
Twitter: @foliosociety
Youtube: @thefoliosociety

Folioat75 #FolioBIA

About the Folio Book Illustration Award
The Folio Book Illustration Award aims to encourage and discover new and diverse talent from artists not previously commissioned by Folio and is open to artists from across the globe.

Key information:
● No entry fee
● First prize: £2,000 cash, £500 Folio Gift Voucher plus portfolio review with the Folio
Society Art Directors
● Five shortlisted runners-up: £500 Folio Gift Voucher plus portfolio review with the Folio
Society Art Directors

About the Folio Book Illustration Award judging panel

Evangeline Gallagher (they/them)
Evangeline Gallagher is a freelance illustrator based in Baltimore, Maryland. They received their BFA in Illustration from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2018. Evangeline was the inaugural winner of the Folio Book Illustration Award in 2022. Since winning the Folio award, they have gone on to work on illustrations for clients like Peachtree Publishing, Possum Creek Games, and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. When they aren’t drawing they’re hanging out with their dog, Charlie, or playing Dungeons and Dragons (but they’re probably drawing).

Sheri Gee (she/her)
Sheri Gee is an award-winning Art Director with 25 years’ experience in book publishing and design. Shortly after graduating with a degree in Illustration, Sheri became Production Assistant at The Folio Society. She went on to learn about all aspects of fine book production and was made Art Director in 2010. Many of her commissions and art directed projects for Folio have won awards in renowned illustration and design competitions. Sheri is passionate about good drawing skills, which underpin everything that is excellent in

Raquel Leis Allion (she/her)
Raquel Leis Allion is an award-winning Art Director and book designer. She has many years’ experience commissioning a diverse range of artists, illustrators and designers. After receiving a BA (Hons) in graphic arts and illustration from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, Raquel worked both in-house and freelance for Cartoon Network, Scholastic, Headline, Little, Brown and Company, Orion Publishing Group, and Penguin Random House before joining The Folio Society in 2016. Raquel’s interests range from craft, art to film but especially books; all of which inspire her professional practice.

Tom Walker (he/him)
Tom Walker has been Publishing Director at The Folio Society for seven years, working to transform an incredible heritage publisher into a joyful and desirable destination for book lovers around the world. Tom leads Folio’s publishing strategy and programme, curating a beautiful list of books and directing Folio’s world class editorial, art and production teams. Tom loves books of all sorts, design, illustration, realising the creative potential in people and projects, and all forms of storytelling.