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This one's for you, Chuck.

As part of a self-imposed challenge focused on personal growth, I decided to set myself in front of a (at the time) gigantic task with the sheer determination of seeing it through, which meant ditching my previous mindset of "seeing how far I can make it" (which, I now realize, was always setting me up for failure).

The challenge was fairly simple: finishing every unread book in my shelf, which honestly sounds silly in theory but necessitated some serious motivation for me to actually do... I have always been the easily-distracted kind and I had left all those books unread for a reason.

I will now tell you which books I picked, as well as some "mini-reviews" explaining my final thoughts on them. Don't take any of what I say too seriously, though, as I was basically starting them one after another with no breaks in between and that could have both increased and decreased the overall impact they all had. I stand for whatever I'm gonna say, though, because my feelings on any of these books haven't changed even months after the fact.

#17 "If These Wings Could Fly" by Kyrie McCauley.

Some books on this list annoyed me, other I didn't care for... this one honestly pissed me off. Why? Because it starts off firing on all cylinders by making an EXCELLENT case on why domestic violence is such a horrible thing that has no place in our modern world and why we are all accomplices by choosing to stay silent whenever we DO witness it, but then the book goes out of its way to undermine itself by introducing MAGIC as both the "fix all, explain all" method and also as the thing that solves the book in the end. Without spoiling anything, you know how all of this gets solved? Not by speaking up about it (which the characters actually do... somewhat), but by having the Hitchcock rejects sweep down and deliver some feathery justice. This left a gigantic bad taste in my mouth and if I had been an actual victim of domestic violence, I'd be pretty offended by it.

Oh and the book goes out of its way to address racism, too... by showing us Liam, the sole black kid on a mainly white community. But Liam is this extremely athletic, extremely well-liked, extremely accomplished individual that everyone likes! WTH? Oh and his mother holds a position of power in the city. Such a racist town, man.

#16 "How I Became A Teenage Survivalist - Ice Queen" by Julie Casey.

Nothing super wrong with this one, I just thought it was unintentionally hilarious... the book literally treats the end of all civilization (and the countless deaths that have come with it) as a very minor annoyance that gets people more pissed than worried. Millions have died, yet the main concern the characters seem to have is giving in to the temporary relief of drugs, alcohol and sex. It is a actually a pretty nice portrayal of the mindset of those who have given up, but the problem is that that's about every character on the book. It felt very strange throughout, but I still enjoyed it.

#15 "Go Ask Alice" - Anonymous.

"Go Ask Alice" was a difficult read for me because it tried to sell me on the idea that I was reading the personal diary of a drug addict, runaway teenager who somehow managed to keep her notes all throughout her substance-fueled journey. And it ALMOST managed to convince me, but at some point it just dawns of you how unlikely the whole thing is and you are start seeing the wires... the book is a bit too well-written to have been authored by someone who was abusing many mind-altering, or mind-destroying substances and it is otherwise too artificially chaotic to have been polished by someone else. it's this weird in-between phase that overall just hurts the book more than helps painting it.

#14 "Black is for Beginnings" by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

The final entry on the "Blue is for Nightmares" series scores low for me not because it is a bad book, but because it is super misleading with its name and intentions. When I first read the book (which was also the only one written as a graphic novel, and I thought it was cool) I thought that I was getting some new information on little Maura's assassination (which is the event that kicks off the entire story) or maybe some background information on Stacey, our luckless yet lovely protagonist... but no, what I got was the beginning of everything else, the things that will happen off screen and we won't get to read or experience ourselves. It disappointed me pretty hard and felt like those little "clip shows" that TV producers seem to put out whenever the budget or the ideas are not coming in fast enough. It wasn't even a good recap, since neither Chad nor Clara appeared anywhere on the pages... two major characters sidelined when the recap was happening. Amazing.

#13 "Red is for Remembrance" by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

I liked this one quite a bit, but it lost some points because it was the first book on the entire series that I was able to figure out after maybe twenty pages. The entire driving force behind the series (and the reason that made me keep coming back for more) was that I could never quite figure out the twists before they had actually taken place. Figuring out what the twist was with hundreds of pages left to go hurt the overall impact the book had.

#12 "White is for Magic" by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

Yeah, another one of those. I liked this one a lot more than the previous two, but I honestly felt that the wheels were starting to come off a little on this one. There's nothing super wrong with it and the twist got me good, so I have no major complains that would sink it deeper, but I also can't produce any sort of praise that would bump it higher. A really competent book with some small annoyances along the way, I'd say.

#11 "Silver is for Secrets" by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

This one is not my favorite book on the entire series, but it is definitely the most proper sequel to the original story. Something really clicks on this one and you can almost feel the tension as the pieces from the previous book start to fall into place in this one. I honestly thought we would see the end of all major, named characters and the school atmosphere was done well enough that you could actually feel it complicating everything for no reason at all, as any school full of teenagers should.

#10 "Bait and Witch" by Angela M Sanders.

This was the first book I picked for the challenge and I still think very highly of it, despite its rather mediocre placement on the list.

"Bait and Witch" wastes no time setting up its story and characters and never once lets go of you as you are thrown in the middle of a town in which none of the characters are what they seem and there's no limit to how far they'd go to pursue their goals. It was a very solid read that honestly felt refreshing in ways that would only become clear to those who have finished it.

#9 "The Subtle Art Of Not Giving A ****" by Mark Manson.

This was not a fictional book, but a self-help-like one that mixed the author's personal experiences with examples of famous people from the past to drive home the message that, most of the time, we end up taking losing propositions without ever actually stopping to think about it. It also warns against the dangers of comparing yourself to others and many other valuable lessons that aren't heard or preached nearly enough as they should be. Really solid read.

#8 "Blue is for Nightmares" by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

The book that set everything up! "Blue" is a very interesting read and it actually works pretty well as a double or even triple mystery that should leave you hungry for me once you are done with it (hell, I read the whole series!). It can be a little disgusting, though, and that's a topic the author never shied away from. Be mindful of that and enjoy a really solid story about Wiccan magic, assassination plots and high school drama!

#7 "Boys, Girls & Other Hazardous Materials" by Rosalind Wiseman.

For some reason, whenever I think about this challenge, this is the book that comes to mind first. It left a really good impression on me and I'm amazed by how brave and sincere it could be, despite being rather juvenile and not meant to be taken too seriously. I don't know exactly what, but the author just nailed something with the characters and they all felt real to me in ways that more serious works on this same list failed to achieve.

#6 "Donuts And Other Proclamations Of Love" by Jared Reck.

This was a very sweet book with a ton of interesting things to say... but I don't think that it's gonna age too well and that definitely cost it some points. Part of the problem is that is kind of "Woke" and at some point it tries to make you feel bad for having an opinion other than the one it is portraying. Thankfully, that's not what the book centers on and it is really solid otherwise, Mario Kart obsession and all. I really liked these characters!

#5 "Jane Anonymous" by Laurie Faria Stolarz.

This was one the best books I have ever read. Period.

"Jane Anonymous" treats us to the story of the title character, as she describes not only her seven-month-long nightmare after having been abducted and kept by a crazy guy who was absolutely in love with her, but the miserable time she had trying to reinsert herself back into a society that saw her more as an object to analyze rather than a person who had been through hell. Very poignant, very well-written. This is the author at her absolutely best.

#4 "Retro" by Sofia LaPuente & Jarrod Shusterman.

"Retro" was the only co-authored book on the entire challenge and you couldn't tell that by reading it, as both styles mix and match very well and neither of them gets in the way in any sort of way.

The elements inspected between its covers are very interesting and do a great job at showing us how absolutely dependant we are on tech and the ability to be anonymous to build and wreck as we please. There is a dark side to this story, too, but I will leave you all to finding it yourselves. Highly recommended.

#3 "Sisters In Sanity" by Gayle Forman.

What would happen if you mixed a WW2 POW camp movie with a bunch of teenage drama? "Sisters In Sanity" is the unlikely result of such a mixture and it owns it the whole way through.

I can't tell much more without spoiling the whole thing, but it was a joy to read.

#2 "Before, After & Somebody In Between" by Jeannine Garsee.

For the longest time I thought this was going to be the number one book on the challenge and it really looked as thought it might just manage that, as it became the first book EVER to get me to re-read it as soon as I was done with it the first time... the story of Martha Kowalski is THAT compelling.

But the sheer amount of violence and suffering (necessary on this setting) made me a little wary of it the second time through and I realized that maybe it was overplayed a little. Also, the teenage relationship drama that got sandwiched in between the important parts of the book felt forced and alien.

Still, as a book on domestic abuse it does a WHOLE better job than the previous one I talked about that tried to cover that incredibly sensitive subject matter and did it justice by showing us that options are limited, but some people truly, deeply care about it.

#1 "Cut" by Patricia McCormick.

"Cut" was the unexpected winner of this challenge, a newcomer to the list that entered it when it was pretty much decided and took it by storm.

The book tells the story of Callie, a teenage girl who self-harms as a way to cope with her broken home environment and gets shipped off to a mental hospital as a result.

The genius of this book is that it pairs Callie with a lot of other girls, each of them there for a reason (some are anorexics, some shut themselves out from the world...) and they all judge each other, but the book never does. In fact, the book is so against making any sort of negative judgement that it goes as far as to introduce another cutter, a girl who doesn't actually want to get better and believes that she's just expressing herself through cutting. She also believes that she's been punished unfairly for just being herself and is very vocal about all of those topics... but guess what? The book never makes her out to be the villain, but a confused kid with a long way to go. And that's precisely why it became my favorite one of the bunch.

This book presents all of these issues with maximum care and respect and never casts judgement on its characters for choosing to cope this way. In an era in which books are infamous for judging everything, this one limits itself to observe the world around it and paint it quite fairly. And for that, it won the whole thing.
Well, it sounds like these books were a real mixed bag :P . I guess they can't all be hidden gems... but, I'm glad you did discover a couple of those!

Thanks for sharing - and, maybe it'll motivate some of us to do something similar :lol: .
None of those I even heard of.
I love the idea of this challenge! I have so many unread books sitting on my shelf - perhaps I'll have to get one out and give it a read off the back of your accomplishments.

Which of the books took you the longest to get through? And are you planning to reorganise your bookshelf and get more off the back of this?
(05-23-2023, 04:24 PM)JHG Wrote: [ -> ]None of those I even heard of.

Not surprised. #4 and #9 are supposed to be pretty famous, but others I couldn't even get ChatGPT to give an opinion on.

(05-23-2023, 04:27 PM)Pyrite Wrote: [ -> ]I love the idea of this challenge! I have so many unread books sitting on my shelf - perhaps I'll have to get one out and give it a read off the back of your accomplishments.

Which of the books took you the longest to get through? And are you planning to reorganise your bookshelf and get more off the back of this?

The one that took me the longest was... #15 "Go Ask Alice", followed by #16 "How I Became A Teenage Survivalist - Ice Queen" and #17 "If These Wings Could Fly". Just a bad batch, man.

Yeah, I am. There are four or five books that nearly missed making it into the challenge and that I would like to explore further... off the top of my head those are "Girl, Divided", "A Theory Of Small Earthquakes", "A Short Story Of The Girl Next Door", "One Of Us Is Lying" and "Up All Night".
I somehow forgot to mention this, but there was one part on "If These Wings Could Fly" that almost killed the challenge on its own, because I didn't wanna continue reading after that... the part where Liam (you know, the somehow discriminated but still universally loved black kid) says that "there are finally superhero characters that look like me".

Are you kidding me? Has this guy never heard of Milestone Comics? They were all about black superheros. Static Shock? He was a huge deal. Storm from X-Men? Cloak from Cloak & Dagger? Cyborg and Bumblebee from Teen Titans? And I realize that this is after the fact, but Moon Girl, too... and those are just the ones off the top of my head. I'm sure there are a dozens more.

That was inexcusably lame and a poor attempt at shoehorning in an issue that simply did not exist, at least not the way they meant it.
(06-14-2023, 09:39 PM)Moonshroom Wrote: [ -> ]I somehow forgot to mention this, but there was one part on "If These Wings Could Fly" that almost killed the challenge on its own, because I didn't wanna continue reading after that... the part where Liam (you know, the somehow discriminated but still universally loved black kid) says that "there are finally superhero characters that look like me".

Are you kidding me? Has this guy never heard of Milestone Comics? They were all about black superheros. Static Shock? He was a huge deal. Storm from X-Men? Cloak from Cloak & Dagger? Cyborg and Bumblebee from Teen Titans? And I realize that this is after the fact, but Moon Girl, too... and those are just the ones off the top of my head. I'm sure there are a dozens more.

That was inexcusably lame and a poor attempt at shoehorning in an issue that simply did not exist, at least not the way they meant it.

Well, I don't think that would've killed the challenge :P .

If you stopped partway through because you decided you had no interest in finishing it, it'd still be removed from your backlog of books to read one day. So, at the end of the challenge, you'd still have ended up with no books that you intend to finish at some point :lol: .
So... the 17-Book-Challenge has turned into the INFINITE-book-challenge, because I just couldn't stop myself.

I'm already seven chapters into book #23 and digging it, with dozens more lined up for my picking. I intend to go through as many as possible.
(08-05-2023, 02:21 PM)Moonshroom Wrote: [ -> ]So... the 17-Book-Challenge has turned into the INFINITE-book-challenge, because I just couldn't stop myself.

I'm already seven chapters into book #23 and digging it, with dozens more lined up for my picking. I intend to go through as many as possible.

Congrats :D !

What were books 18 through 22, and what did you think of them?
For now I'll just say that if the challenge was still going on, the number 1 spot would have a different book in it.
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