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PopSugar Reading Challenge 2021

PopSugar Reading Challenge 2021

The truth is, I’ve never participated in a reading challenge … at least not one that runs an entire year. I think I participated in an OwlCrate reading challenge a couple summers ago, but it didn’t really count because I was already reading a book that fit the challenge and then I didn’t even complete it in the time … so, yes. I’m not very keen on reading challenges.

However, I was looking for a fun way to pick some more reads off my shelves of owned books, and came across this popular yearly reading challenge. What I like about this one is that I can plan out my reads ahead of time and either read them all at once in a month or two, or divvy them amongst the year and see how far I get, tracking along in my reading planner as I go. Here’s a link to the 2021 prompts if you’re interested in following along.

Of the 50-ish prompts, I’ve combined and contorted those challenges into 13 reads (rather than a singular, different book for each challenge). Note that I also didn’t use all the challenge prompts and left those listed at the bottom of the article. Maybe I’ll get to them, maybe not, either way it’s for fun and here we go!

Ninth House

Ninth House book coverWritten by Leigh Bardugo

Published by Flatiron Books

4 Challenges Covered:

– A book by an author who shares your zodiac sign.

– A dark academia book.

– A book with a black and white cover.

– A book from your TBR you associate with a favourite person, place or thing (this book takes place at Yale University, which makes me think Rory Gilmore, which makes me think Gilmore Girls … my favourite show!)

Synopsis: Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. In fact, by age twenty, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her? Still searching for answers, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. Their eight windowless “tombs” are the well-known haunts of the rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street’s biggest players. But their occult activities are more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive. They tamper with forbidden magic. They raise the dead. And, sometimes, they prey on the living.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

An Ember in the Ashes

An Ember in the Ashes book coverWritten by Sabaa Tahir

Published by Razorbill

4 Challenges Covered:

– A book with a gem, mineral or rock in the title.

– A book everyone seems to have read but you.

– A book by a Muslim American author.

– A book from your TBR list you meant to read last year but didn’t.

Synopsis: Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear. It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do. But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy. There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Girl with a Pearl Earring

Girl with a Pearl Earring book coverWritten by Tracy Chevalier

Published by Penguin Books

2 Challenges Covered:

– A bestselling novel from the 1990s.

– A book about an artist or art.

Synopsis: With precisely 35 canvases to his credit, the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer represents one of the great enigmas of 17th-century art. The meager facts of his biography have been gleaned from a handful of legal documents. Yet Vermeer’s extraordinary paintings of domestic life, with their subtle play of light and texture, have come to define the Dutch golden age. His portrait of the anonymous Girl with a Pearl Earring has exerted a particular fascination for centuries—and it is this magnetic painting that lies at the heart of Tracy Chevalier’s second novel of the same title. Girl with a Pearl Earring centers on Vermeer’s prosperous Delft household during the 1660s. When Griet, the novel’s quietly perceptive heroine, is hired as a servant, turmoil follows. First, the 16-year-old narrator becomes increasingly intimate with her master. Then Vermeer employs her as his assistant—and ultimately has Griet sit for him as a model.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org


Gingerbread book coverWritten by Helen Oyeyemi

Published by Hamish Hamilton

2 Challenges Covered:

– A magical realism book.

– A book found on a Black Lives Matter reading list.

Synopsis: Perdita Lee may appear to be your average British schoolgirl; Harriet Lee may seem just a working mother trying to penetrate the school social hierarchy; but there are signs that they might not be as normal as they think they are. For one thing, they share a gold-painted, seventh-floor walk-up apartment with some surprisingly verbal vegetation. And then there’s the gingerbread they make. Londoners may find themselves able to take or leave it, but it’s very popular in Druhástrana, the far-away (and, according to Wikipedia, non-existent) land of Harriet Lee’s early youth. In fact, the world’s truest lover of the Lee family gingerbread is Harriet’s charismatic childhood friend, Gretel Kercheval–a figure who seems to have had a hand in everything (good or bad) that has happened to Harriet since they met. Decades later, when teenaged Perdita sets out to find her mother’s long-lost friend, it prompts a new telling of Harriet’s story. As the book follows the Lees through encounters with jealousy, ambition, family grudges, work, wealth, and real estate, gingerbread seems to be the one thing that reliably holds a constant value.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Marrow Thieves

The Marrow Thieves book coverWritten by Cherie Dimaline

Published by Dancing Cat Books

3 Challenges Covered:

– A book you’ve seen on someone else’s bookshelf (IRL, on a zoom call, or TV show – in this case I’ve seen it on BooksandLala’s youtube video … I’m counting it).

– A book by an Indigenous author.

– The shortest book (by pages) on your TBR.

Synopsis: In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the “recruiters” who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing “factories”.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches book coverWritten by Deborah Harkness

Published by Penguin Books

3 Challenges Covered:

– A free book from your TBR (gifted, borrowed, or library).

– A DNF from your TBR list.

– The longest book on your TBR list.

Synopsis: Deep in the stacks of Oxford’s Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org


Commonwealth book coverWritten by Ann Patchett

Published by HarperCollins

3 Challenges Covered:

– A book with a family tree.

– A book with an oxymoron in the title.

– A book featuring three generations.

Synopsis: One Sunday afternoon in Southern California, Bert Cousins shows up at Franny Keating’s christening party uninvited. Before evening falls, he has kissed Franny’s mother, Beverly—thus setting in motion the dissolution of their marriages and the joining of two families. Spanning five decades, Commonwealth explores how this chance encounter reverberates through the lives of the four parents and six children involved. Spending summers together in Virginia, the Keating and Cousins children forge a lasting bond that is based on a shared disillusionment with their parents and the strange and genuine affection that grows up between them.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org


Dominicana book coverWritten by Angie Cruz

Published by Flatiron Books

3 Challenges Covered:

– A book about do-overs.

– A book set in multiple countries.

– A book in a different format that what you normally read (this book is written without quotation marks … I think that counts).

Synopsis: Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up with in the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay. As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Cafe

The Irresistible Blueberry & Bakeshop Cafe book coverWritten by Mary Simses

Published by Back Bay Books

3 Challenges Covered:

– A book with something broken on the cover (okay so I’m counting blueberry jam as broken blueberries, work with me here).

– A book set in a restaurant.

– A book set somewhere you’d like to visit (technically it says in 2021, but since travel really isn’t a thing, I’m altering this a bit. I’d love to visit Maine.)

Synopsis: Ellen Branford is going to fulfill her grandmother’s dying wish–to find the hometown boy she once loved, and give him her last letter. Ellen leaves Manhattan and her Kennedy-esque fiance for Beacon, Maine. What should be a one-day trip is quickly complicated when she almost drowns in the chilly bay and is saved by a local carpenter. The rescue turns Ellen into something of a local celebrity, which may or may not help her unravel the past her grandmother labored to keep hidden. As she learns about her grandmother and herself, it becomes clear that a 24-hour visit to Beacon may never be enough.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin book coverWritten by Roseanne A. Brown

Published by Balzer + Bray

3 Challenges Covered:

– An Afrofuturistic book.

– A book with a heart, spade, club or diamond on the cover (if you look closely at the mandala, there be diamonds there … honest!).

– The book on your TBR with the prettiest cover.

Synopsis: For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom. But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition. When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Queen of the North

Queen of the North book coverWritten by Anne O’Brien

Published by HQ

4 Challenges Covered:

– A book that starts with “Q”, “X”, or “Z”.

– A book that has the same title as a song.

– A book that has fewer than 1000 Goodreads ratings.

– A book that’s been on your TBR the longest.

Synopsis: 1399: England’s crown is under threat. King Richard II holds onto his power by an ever-weakening thread, with exiled Henry of Lancaster back to reclaim his place on the throne. For Elizabeth Mortimer, there is only one rightful King – her eight-year-old nephew, Edmund. Only he can guarantee her fortunes, and protect her family’s rule over the precious Northern lands bordering Scotland. But many, including Elizabeth’s husband, do not want another child-King. Elizabeth must hide her true ambitions in Court, and go against her husband’s wishes to help build a rebel army.To question her loyalty to the King places Elizabeth in the shadow of the axe. To concede would curdle her Plantagenet blood. This is one woman’s quest to turn history on its head.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Mercies

The Mercies book coverWritten by Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Published by Little, Brown and Company

4 Challenges Covered:

– A genre hybrid.

– A book set mostly outdoors.

– A book about a subject you are passionate about (feminism – especially patriarchy and the role religion plays in the suppression of women both currently and historically).

– The book on your TBR with the ugliest cover (the North American, not UK).

Synopsis: Finnmark, Norway, 1617. Twenty-year-old Maren Bergensdatter stands on the craggy coast, watching the sea break into a sudden and reckless storm. Forty fishermen, including her brother and father, are drowned and left broken on the rocks below. With the menfolk wiped out, the women of the tiny Northern town of Vardø must fend for themselves. Three years later, a sinister figure arrives. Absalom Cornet comes from Scotland, where he burned witches in the northern isles. He brings with him his young Norwegian wife, Ursa, who is both heady with her husband’s authority and terrified by it. In Vardø, and in Maren, Ursa sees something she has never seen before: independent women. But Absalom sees only a place untouched by God and flooded with a mighty evil. As Maren and Ursa are pushed together and are drawn to one another in ways that surprise them both, the island begins to close in on them with Absalom’s iron rule threatening Vardø’s very existence.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

The Lost Apothecary

The Lost Apothecary book coverWritten by Sarah Penner

Published by Park Row Books

4 Challenges Covered:

– A book published in 2021.

– A book where the main character works at your dream job (this case, pharmacy).

– A book chosen at random from your TBR.

– A prompt from a past PopSugar reading Challenge: 2020’s: A book you picked because the title grabbed your attention … literally why I requested this book as an ARC!!

Synopsis: One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register. In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

You can find it here: Bookshop.org

Unused Challenges So Far: 7

– A book that has won the Women’s Prize for Fiction (just, none appeal to me really)

– A book about forgetting (fitting that I can’t think of any for this as I’ve already read Addie LaRue)

– A locked-room mystery

– A book published anonymously … like seriously?

– A book by a blogger, vlogger, or Youtube creator … I have one in mind but it isn’t available in North America yet – The Ship of Shadows – which would also fulfill the prompt of “A book you think your best friend would like”.

– A book that discusses body positivity

All synopsis were taken from Goodreads. 

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