ContemporaryAThon, Tome Topple, and Nonfiction November Wrap Ups

Even though I basically didn’t read during the week of Thanksgiving, I somehow still managed to read 15 books this month. In case you missed it, I talked about a bunch of them in a wrap up halfway through November; this post is focusing on the reading I did for all of the readathons going on this month.

I was doing so well on my physical TBR this month despite wasting a weekend reading a bunch of books that I bought on my kindle and reading some borrowed books to finish up the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, but then Black Friday came.

I stayed strong and didn’t buy anything from Book Outlet, and I didn’t cave and order a whole cart full of books from my TBR when I saw that Barnes & Noble was doing 20 percent off. I did buy a bunch of books, but I mostly stuck to books that I’ve been meaning to buy a physical copy of for a while.

I allowed myself two new unread books, plus I’ve been meaning to finish buying all of the books with Old Kingdom short stories in them from Garth Nix, so I got the last book I was missing (which I haven’t read yet). And then my husband bought me the second and third volumes of Blanche Wiesen Cook’s biography of Eleanor Roosevelt.

So even though I read 15 books this month (including seven from my shelves), my TBR is only down to 42, six less than it was at the beginning of the month. And it should really be at 45 (making it three less), but my new books from Barnes & Noble haven’t shown up yet, so I haven’t added them to my TBR shelf yet.

I have plans to buy a book from my most anticipated releases list in December, plus I’ll be picking up a few romance novels at a book event I’m going to next week and I have to buy my book club’s next pick, but I’m otherwise hoping to really shrink my physical TBR in December so I can let myself start borrowing books and buying books that aren’t by auto-buy authors in January.

Anyways, on to my recaps of the readathons. Remind me never to participate in so many in one month again!

Nonfiction November

Alright, let’s start with my Nonfiction November wrap up. So my main goal this month was to finish that massive biography of FDR, and while I came soooo close, I just ran out of time at the end of the month. And I didn’t make much progress on the audiobook for Unbroken, so even though I was planning to switch at the end of the month and just finish it by reading the print book, I ran out of time to do that, too. So I only finished two nonfiction books this month, which makes me feel like a bit of a failure. BUT, I read 1,130 pages of nonfiction, so I think it was actually a pretty successful month.

That said, I still read a ton of fiction. I didn’t use it to take a break from my nonfiction reading like I had originally intended, so I don’t think I participated in Nonfiction November as much as I had wanted. I think next year my goal is going to be to have half of my reading for the month to be nonfiction. And remind me not to participate in more than one readathon at a time! I don’t wind up doing any of them much credit.

Dangerous Books for Girls by Maya Rodale

Dangerous BooksDangerous Books for Girls is a history of the romance genre, from its beginnings in the 19th century to the emergence of the modern day romance novel to today’s world of romance. It examines how romance has often been denigrated as a genre written by women for women, but the profound impact it’s had on readers and its continued success as a genre.

This was my book club’s pick for November, and while I started it in October, I wound up reading the bulk of it in November. I really enjoyed this book the first time I read it several years ago, but I was less impressed with it the second time around. I already knew it wasn’t the most academic (I still have a hard time taking such a casual survey seriously as support for some of her some points), but this time I really noticed a lot of missed opportunities to bring in outside research to support her arguments. Plus, as I found out at my book club, there actually is a fair amount of academic work out there regarding the romance genre that wasn’t included in this book. My biggest complaint during this read, though, was that the book was pretty defensive and kept justifying the romance genre, but I think most romance readers already agree with most of the points made in the book, and it wasn’t really written in a way to appeal to non-romance readers. So I’m not entirely sure what the point was? Basically it just seemed like this book was preaching to the choir when it could have been a lot more. Complaints aside, I did still enjoy it and think others who enjoy the romance genre will like it too. I just didn’t think it fulfilled its full potential.

Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano

Open VeinsOpen Veins of Latin America is essentially a look at the exploitation of Latin America by Europe and the United States. From cacao to gold to oil to rubber to coffee, the book traces how colonialists profited from Latin America at the expense of locals.

This book was difficult to push through. I just think it was overly economic, plus it talks about a lot of South American history that I just don’t know about, so I was missing a lot of context for it. I think I’d be much better off rereading this book after learning a lot more about South America. It definitely left me horrified at the colonial legacy left behind there; I don’t understand how people can be so brutal to each other and treat each other as less than human, even though I know this isn’t a circumstance unique to South America and that it very much still occurs today throughout the work. It also really made me think twice about my own consumerism. And it was written in the 1970s! I’m really interested in how much (and how little) things have changed since then.

FDR by Jean Edward Smith

FDRAs the title suggests, FDR is a biography of our 32nd president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I mentioned this in my Nonfiction November TBR, but I picked this specific biography of FDR because Smith is widely regarded as one of today’s leading biographers, and I’m interested in reading about FDR after visiting his home at Hyde Park this past spring.

While I didn’t technically finish this during Nonfiction November, I’m still going to include it here since I read more than 80 percent of it in November and will definitely finish it this weekend (I’m counting it towards my December stats for books read and TBR, though). It’s really interesting reading this after reading the first volume of such an in-depth biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, because it really felt like this book glossed over a lot even though I don’t think it really did. I actually think it gives a pretty comprehensive view of FDR, and it was never dry or difficult for me to push through like some nonfiction that I’ve read, though I have to admit I prefer Ron Chernow’s writing style. I can’t comment on how this compares to other biographies of FDR, but I think if you’re looking for a single volume to read about him, this one is a solid choice.

ContemporaryAThon

Yeah, I participated in too many readathons next month. It’s hard because I want to do them all! But then I can’t commit and focus on them as much as I’d like. As predicted, I did wind up reading three contemporary books during the ContemporaryAThon, which ran from November 13 to 19, but I know I could have finished more (possible even my entire TBR) if I hadn’t read a bunch of nonfiction during the week as well. Ah well. I actually really enjoyed all three contemporaries that I read for this readathon, so I would definitely call that a success. Plus, I wasn’t really trying to complete the challenges, but it just so happens that I finished all of the challenges other than to buddy read a book!

Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai

I wasn’t sure if I would be able to wait until the readathon to read Wrong to Need You, but I wound up getting sidetracked with a few other books, making this the first book I read for the readathon. I won’t share too much hear as I ran a full review earlier this week, but I liked it. It’s a much different book than the first one, so it’s kind of hard to compare them, but I personally liked it more.

Reading Wrong to Need You checked off the challenges for reading an adult book and a book not set in summer. Now that I think about it, this could also qualify as an LGBTQ book as the heroine is bisexual.

Going Dark by Monica McCarty

Going DarkGoing Dark is a Navy SEAL romance. The book opens as a SEAL time goes on a highly covert op in Russia, but when their team is compromised, their leader orders them to go into hiding. While hiding out in northern Scotland, Dean crosses paths with marine ecologist Annie Henderson, who is there to protest offshore drilling. Only the group she’s protesting with his more violent plans than Annie, and she and Dean find themselves in danger.

I probably wouldn’t have picked up Going Dark if it weren’t the pick for my next book club meeting, but I really enjoyed this book. I thought Annie and Dean were both excellent characters, and the combination of tension between them and suspense in the SEAL part of the story kept me racing through it. Plus there were a lot of good conversations between them that drew on political topics in today’s culture, like feminism and the military, which just added another layer to the story. Seriously, the whole thing was really well done. I’m so mad I have to wait for the stories of the rest of the platoon, but apparently McCarty has a bunch of highland historicals to tide me over in the meantime, so I’ll definitely be checking those out soon.

Reading Going Dark checked off the challenge for reading the newest contemporary on my shelf.

Blue-Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas

Blue-Eyed DevilBlue-Eyed Devil is part of Kleypas’ foray into contemporary romance. It follows the story of Haven Travis, an heiress who marries her college sweetheart against her father’s wishes, only for him to turn out to be abusive. When she comes home two years later, she crosses paths with Hardy Cates, a self-made millionaire and family enemy whom Haven can’t stay away from.

This was an interesting book. It’s much different than your usual romance novel, and different from anything else I’ve read from Kleypas. For one thing, this book was very much about Haven. The entire story was told from her point of view, rather than switching viewpoints with Hardy, and (minor spoiler alert) the first hundred pages or so detailed her abusive marriage with Nick rather than her budding relationship with Hardy. I think that’s an interesting decision, rather than having her relationship with Nick happen off page and told through flashbacks or her talking to Hardy (end spoiler). I don’t dislike it, but I think it took away from the relationship aspect of the story and made it harder to get to know Hardy.

I read this entire book in one sitting and really liked a lot of things about it, but it didn’t have the emotional ride that I normally associate with a romance novel, which is just throwing me off a bit since this is a Kleypas novel. It wasn’t bad by any means, it was just different. I really liked Haven as a protagonist and seeing her growth, and of course I cheered for her happy ending. Oh, and I thought Kleypas did an excellent job portraying Haven’s recovery after leaving her husband and how she grew and dealt with her father, though it’s not something I personally have experience with or have read about extensively. So yeah, this book wasn’t what I was expecting and I’m not entirely sure I’ll read the rest of the series, but I liked it a lot.

 

Reading Blue-Eyed Devil checked off the challenges to read a book over five years old (it was published in 2008) and to read a book with a dark or taboo topic.

Tome Topple

So I’m actually one of the rare people for whom Tome Topple would have gone better if it hadn’t been over Thanksgiving, as I spent the break catching up with family and doing a bunch of activities in Chicago rather than reading. I have no regrets about that, but it does mean that I didn’t get to participate in Tome Topple as much as I would have liked. I still finished one book and made a significant dent in FDR, though, so overall I’d say it was a success. Hopefully I’ll have more time to participate in the next round!

The Sea King by C.L. Wilson

The Sea KingThe Sea King is a fantasy romance set after the events of The Winter King, which I do recommend reading first. Seafaring prince Dilys has been invited to court the three magical princes of Summerlea and finds himself drawn to Summer, the princess that Dilys thought would be least suited to helping him rule his kingdom. But Summer has been hiding powers that she struggles to control, and when evil threatens their lands, they are forced to combine his sea gifts with her magic to defeat their enemies.

I was really looking forward to this book, and for part of it I really enjoyed it, but overall I wasn’t nearly as big of a fan of The Sea King as I was of The Winter King. I had a hard time getting into it because there was so much worldbuilding, and Wilson really liked using made up foreign words in this book, which kept pulling me out of the story. It took ages for the hero and heroine to finally meet, but the book really picked up when they did. It was great for another 200 to 300 pages, but after a while their relationship kind of stagnated and nothing much happened. It was too much of a slow burn for me.

Eventually external things start happening and the fantasy plot took over, which is cool, but then (spoiler alert) the heroine was sexually assaulted. I have a few problems with this. For one thing, I don’t like reading that in my romance novels (interestingly, it seemed appropriate in Blue-Eyed Devil, but that also felt more like a woman’s fiction novel than a romance and the hero and heroine weren’t together yet). Even if I set aside that preference, I really didn’t think Summer’s assault was adequately dealt with. Summer was understandably traumatized, but Dilys was able to take her grief and give her love back, and before you knew it she was pretty much over it and she gave him her virginity with no qualms. I’m pretty sure that’s not how it works and I was really disappointed in how it was handled (end spoilers).

After that, I had a really hard time getting back into the story and finishing the last third of the book. Dilys is a great protagonist and I liked him just as much as I did in the first book, but I didn’t care for this story, I was irritated with Gabriella (Summer? The whole naming thing was weird to me, and the number of times Dilys said her full six names was kind of irritating after a while—but at this point I’m just nitpicking) for constantly rejecting him, and I thought the book was way longer than it needed to be. I’m still excited for the next book in the series, but this sequel definitely fell short for me.

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Whew, that’s a long wrap up for not that many books! I clearly had lots of thoughts about them. Did you participate in any of these readathons this month? How did they go? What’s your favorite book you read this month? Let me know in the comments!

2 thoughts on “ContemporaryAThon, Tome Topple, and Nonfiction November Wrap Ups

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