2019 TBR Pile Challenge

August Checkpoint! #TBR2019RBR

Greetings, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Y’all! We have more than 230 posts linked-up for this challenge! How incredible is that?

I hear summer is coming to a close; students and teachers are returning to school, and many are eagerly awaiting the autumn season. Count me in as one of those many! It’s still very much summer in my part of the world, with temperatures hitting 105+ degrees every day (for at least a few more weeks). I’m more than ready for September to get here (or October…or November…) 

Last month’s checkpoint came with the third of four planned mini-challenges. I hope you’ll all take the opportunity to return to last month’s post and look at the few book title poems that people submitted — they were fantastic! Thanks to those who did participate, it was a lot of fun reading your poems. You made the choice very difficult. Mini-challenge #4 will be coming soon. 

Progress: 7 of 12 Completed / 7 of 12 Reviewed

Well, after a pretty good stretch of progress through June, I hit a bit of a wall this last month. There’s a reason, though! I decided to focus my reading entirely on POETRY in July but, unfortunately, I didn’t have any poetry on my TBR List. I’ll have to be sure to include even more genre diversity next year! I had done a themed reading month for June, too (LGBTQ+), but I had two titles that worked within that category.

Oh well, there’s plenty of time to catch up! If I get even one book from my list read in the month of August, that will put me back on track with 8 books in the 8th month, right? Since I’ve turned my attention heavily toward writing, I might try to make my two “on writing” books (Reading Like A Writer and Light the Dark) the next two to read and cross off my challenge list. HOW ARE YOU DOING!?

Books read:

How are you doing?

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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 #3 Winner:

Constance from Staircase Wit! Constance will receive a book of her choice from The Book Depository ($20USD or less). I look forward to sharing her selection with everyone, once she has made her decision. Congratulations, Constance! 

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge

July Checkpoint! #TBR2019RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

I hope your summer is going well. We are now in the second-half of our annual challenge, and I’ve seen and read a lot of awesome updates and reviews for challenge books. Thank you for sharing!

As promised in June, this month’s checkpoint comes with the third of four planned mini-challenges. I hope you’ll all take the opportunity to play the game and have a little fun. It doesn’t matter how far you are into your challenge, this time! Anyone who pre-registered for our challenge and linked up their list on time, way back in January, can enjoy this one. See below for details. 

Progress: 7 of 12 Completed / 7 of 12 Reviewed

I made a lot of progress in June, but none in July so far. That’s largely due to the fact that I decided to work on my own writing this summer and, in July specifically, I’m “avoiding” fiction in order to read poetry instead. I’m also starting a project on Buddhism, so I’m reading a lot of that as well. I find that reading poetry while writing my own fiction is helpful in keeping my creative juices flowing without unduly influencing my own work. That said, I’m technically on pace, having read 7 books in 7 months. I hope to sneak in a few more challenge reads before summer ends, to give myself a head start before fall term begins, when I know I’ll struggle to keep up. How are you doing!? 

Books read:

How are you doing?

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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 #3: Book poetry! Can you create a poem using the titles of the books on your TBR Pile Challenge list (finished or unfinished?) Give it a shot! The “best” poem entry, left in the comments of this checkpoint post, will win a book of choice, $20USD or less, to be shipped from The Book Depository! So get creative, and good luck! (P.S. Best is entirely subjective. I’m picking whichever one I happen to like most.) 

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge, coming out, Coming-of-Age, Lesbian Lit, LGBT, Poetry, pride month, Sarah Henstra, Young Adult

A Lesbian Classic & Walt Whitman

I wrap-up my Pride Month reading with two final pieces of fiction, one a classic adult novel of lesbian literature, the other a young adult novel inspired by Walt Whitman. Please feel free to check out the rest of my pride month reads. I had planned to read 5 LGBTQ books this month but managed to read 7, and I wasn’t disappointed at all!

Don Juan in the Village

Jane DeLynn’s novel, Don Juan in the Village (1990), is a classic of lesbian fiction. It follows the escapades and sexual conquests of its female protagonist, a lady Don Juan, as she travels the world and sleeps with as many women as she can. The narrative spans the course of 20 years, beginning sometime in the 1970s and ending sometime in the 1990s. There is a clear and stark, sometimes painful, contrast between the freedom of the post-1960s sexual revolution and the advent of what the narrator labels, “the plague.”

Each chapter is titled with the name of a different place to which the protagonist travels. Within, she describes not just the place she is visiting, but the women—and types of women—she meets there and makes love to. These experiences range from the soft and sensual to the nearly sadistic, but in any case, the narrator is almost always “very wet.” Yes, indeed, the story is that bold, that graphic, that open about sexuality, and female sexuality in particular. As a gay male, these experiences are about as far removed from my own as is possible, and yet the importance of this kind of text, particularly in the cannon of LGBTQ+ fiction, particularly in the canon of women’s literature, and particularly at a time when AIDS was devastating the gay community, is not lost on me.
So, while the writing style did not particularly appeal to me (rather dry, like a kind of Gertrude Stein meeting Ernest Hemingway at the middle of an intersection), it also makes sense: what better way to share taboo experiences to the widest range of readers as possible than in a clinically modernist way, as if “these are the facts, and if you can’t handle them, you’re the problem.” So, upon consideration, it’s an incredibly smart approach by an obviously talented writer. I think many readers will respond to this one, though it wasn’t right for me. That said, readers of LGBTQ fiction and those interested in LGBT literary history, as I am, should not pass it up.

This book is also one of my TBR Pile Challenge reads for 2019.

We Contain Multitudes

Sarah Henstra’s We Contain Multitudes (2019) is one of those rare novels that catches my attention right away, keeps it word-for-word, line-for-line, and page-by-page, and then upends everything just as I’m wondering if I could possibly love a book more. Somewhere about 75% into the novel (no, let’s be honest, I counted the pages and it was exactly 75% of the way in), the story takes an unexpected turn, one that I was not prepared for and one that I did not appreciate. It felt like my world was shattering. I understand how hyperbolic that must sound. IT’S JUST A BOOK, MAN, you’re probably thinking. Except that’s just it. This wasn’t just a book. This novel, these two young Whitman lovers, these two young Walt Whitmans, indeed, are much bigger than a story.

The novel is told in epistolary form, as a series of letters written between two high school boys, a sophomore and a senior. They are given an assignment to write to each other, typically with some kind of prompt from their English teacher. As they are in different classes, of different ages, and in wildly different social circles, they had never spoken to each other before, though they each knew who the other one is. This is because, in their own way, they are both wildly inconspicuous. What begins as a series of assigned letters, though, quickly drifts away from a mandatory task and into true, good old-fashioned letter-writing. Henstra adroitly creates two different styles and voices that match the two different teenage protagonists.

One struggle is that, given the design, the boys must re-tell each other the events to which they were both a party (otherwise, how would the reader know about them?) That said, even the author recognizes this complication and manages to address it through the characters’ letters as well. This is perhaps the only place where the author’s identity (or narrator’s, if we want to be more academic) can be felt. That said, a benefit to this is that the boys recount their shared experiences from their own perspectives, which turns out to be revealing to the reader, but also to the other person involved. A significant question that comes about, then, is how much can we really know another person?

I won’t reveal what happens at that three-quarter mark, except to say that it crushed me. The book resolves in a mostly satisfactory way, in my opinion, but I personally had been so distraught over the major conflict, that I was—I still am—left reeling. In a way, this speaks to the brilliance of Whitman, first of all, and to the brilliance of this novel and its characters, too. Upon reflection, I realize that Adam Kurlansky is deeper and more complex than he is given credit, and far crueler than I am or could ever be. I realize that Jonathan Hopkirk is stronger and more flawed than he seems, and far more forgiving than I am ore ever could be. And so, in this way, the point is proven: they do contain multitudes. We all do. The poetry is the point, and the poetry is in us all.

I haven’t felt this connected to Whitman or to myself since, well, since reading Whitman. It is not without its pains, nor without its fearsome joys. When I finished reading, I could only think of Whitman’s poem, “To You,” which, unless I’m mistaken, does not make an appearance in this novel. And yet…

Whoever you are, now I place my hand upon you, that you be my poem,

I whisper with my lips close to your ear,

I have loved many women and men, but I love none better than you. O I have been dilatory and dumb,

I should have made my way straight to you long ago,

I should have blabb’d nothing but you, I should have chanted nothing but you.

-Excerpt, “To You” (Walt Whitman)

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge

June Checkpoint! #TBR2019RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Welcome to the MID-WAY POINT for our 2019 TBR Pile Challenge! I don’t know about you, but the time seems to be flying for me. I’m already too many weeks into my summer “break” and feel like far too many months in the year have passed. 

That said, I have somehow, someway managed to keep pace with this challenge (sort of.) I’ve read and reviewed exactly 6 of my 12 required books. Since I hope to read all 14 on my list, this does put me a bit behind schedule, technically, but “to win,” one only needs to hit 12 of 12, so I’m counting it as pretty good performance thus far, even if my reviews have gotten rather brief.

Progress: 6 of 12 Completed / 6 of 12 Reviewed

As you can see, the more recent reviews are pretty short in comparison to what I usually write, but that’s partly because “book blogging” or “reviewing,” anyway, is becoming less of a priority for me. I still plan to keep up with this blog and sharing my thoughts on the books that I’m reading, but it will likely not be in the form of full-on reviews. I think the next book on my list I want to try will be either The Ascent of Woman or Light the Dark: Writers On Creativity, Inspiration, and the Artistic Process. 

Books read:

How are you doing?

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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 #2 WINNER: Lindsay from Three Good Rats! Lindsay chose to receive a copy of OUTLANDER by Diana Gabaldon. Congratulations, Lindsay! Good luck to you all next month, when Mini-Challenge #3 comes around. 🙂 

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge, Books

April Checkpoint! #TBR2019RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

We have made it to the First Quarter mark of the TBR Pile Challenge! We already have more than 140 reviews/checkpoints linked up on our Mr. Linky, which is pretty great! Well done to all of you! 

As for me, I’ve made the tiniest bit of progress since last month, which is that I actually managed to read and review one more book. I’ve read another 3 books that were not on my list, so my actual reading consumption has been pretty good so far this year. I think I’m ahead of my Goodreads goal pace. 

Progress: 3 of 12 Completed / 3 of 12 Reviewed

So far, I’ve read and reviewed 3 of my required 12 books, which puts me just slightly behind schedule. I’m about to start reading book #4, LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET, so if I can get that review posted before end of April, that will allow me to hit 4 books in 4 months, which is right on pace! I’ve got summer break coming soon (6 weeks!), during which time I hope to read at a steadier clip and get myself ahead of the curve. My plan all along has been to read all 14 of the books on my list, and I’d like to do that by the December 15 final checkpoint so that I’ve got everything posted before the challenge ends. But, as always, this is T.B.D. 

Books read:

How are you doing?

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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 #2:

As we celebrate this 25% milestone for 2019, 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 on 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!

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 points 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!

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge, Books

March Checkpoint! #TBR2019RBR

Hello, TBR Pile Challengers! 

Welcome to our third checkpoint for this year’s TBR Pile Challenge! We already have more than 110 reviews/checkpoints linked up on our Mr. Linky, which is insane! Well done to all of you! I hope you continue to read and share and discuss all your favorites (or least favorites) from this challenge.

As for me, I’ve made the tiniest bit of progress since last month, which is that I actually managed to write my thoughts for Book #2, and those thoughts go live on March 17th. I’ve read another 5 books (and written reviews for most of them, too!) but, unfortunately, none of the selections were on my TBR Challenge list. Whoops. 

Progress: 2 of 12 Completed / 2 of 12 Reviewed

So far, I’ve read 2 of my 12 required books. I do plan to start Book 3 very soon, and I plan (really, I do!) to read all 14 of the books on my list this year, the main 12 plus my 2 alternates, so getting a jump-start on this list before spring semester began was important. I think I’ll read something non-fiction, next, since I’ve read two novels already. Perhaps Light the Dark, to help re-ignite my writing as well. Then again, I’ve really been eyeing Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet the last few days, and I also have found myself in a bit of a reading rut, comparatively speaking, so I’m thinking Vonnegut might be a good choice (he’s always a knockout for me.) What to do!? 

Books read:

How are you doing?

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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 #2 is coming next month! 

LINK UP YOUR REVIEWS! 

 

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2019 TBR Pile Challenge, George Sylvester Viereck, Gothic, LGBT, vampire, Victorian

The House of the Vampire by G.S. Viereck

George Sylvester Viereck published The House of the Vampire in 1907. It is one of the first “psychic vampire” novels ever written, but what makes it even more interesting is the romance at its center is a homosexual one (in fact, a homosexual love triangle, of sorts.)

I first encountered Viereck while working on my dissertation (which, side note, has been edited and revised, and is soon to be published as a book on Amazon; I’ll be posting about this soon), and I was surprised by the themes of his work, the stark clarity with which he wrote them, and the deep awareness he brought to issues of gender and sexuality in a time that always seems so deeply ignorant and puritan to our contemporary one. (Spoiler Alert: My book upends a lot of these misconceptions about the early-twentieth century!)

Perhaps the most compelling element of this novel, gay “romance” of the early-1900s aside, is the psychic aspect. It is not a straightforward, “the vampire will drink your blood” kind of horror. Instead, the antagonist feeds off of the creativity of those around him, specifically focusing on a slow devouring of one talented individual at a time. The vampire takes an apprentice under his wing, showers him (or her) with affection, and all the while drinks the life-source of that individual’s creative talents, until the writer, artist, or poet has nothing left to give. It’s in many ways more horrific than the simple vampire villain.

Despite being relatively unknown, it is safe to say that House of the Vampire is, or deserves to be, a classic of the Victorian Gothic genre. The writing is suitably Romantic, the blurring of lines between reality and the supernatural is present and effective, and the exploration of humanity through art and relationships, love and fear, is both interesting and touching. Although relatively short and fast-paced, much more akin to Jekyll than Udolpho, the questions at its core are what make House of the Vampire worth reading, and reading in particular for the honesty with which Viereck treats the possibilities of human love and action.

Overall: 3.5/5.0 This book was selected as part of my 2019 TBR Pile Challenge.

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