Les Miserables by Victor Hugo – Volume I. Fantine

I decided to do my reviewing of The Brick by volume to keep me on track and to make it easier to remember what I felt about it. I feel like most people know Les Miserables to some extent, if only by the musical. I’ve wanted to read it since I got into the musical years ago, especially with the 2012 adaptation by Tom Hooper.

Volume I is titled Fantine but most of it is spent with the Bishop of D_ and Jean ValJean. The Bishop is a fascinating character. I don’t fault the adaptors for cutting his part way down, there are many parts where I feel like I would only understand what’s happening if I had a better knowledge of French history. He was in a family that narrowly escaped the Revolution (his only souvenir of that time of his life are his silverware and silver candlesticks) and he becomes this humble, benevolent Bishop who is considered pious to a fault but still beloved. He has an interesting experience with a man who had supported the execution of King Louis XVI. He is uncharacteristically severe and angry with him but is forced to acknowledge that it isn’t as black and white as “killing people is bad” when the people in question are the direct source of death and suffering for many others. The Bishop allows himself to be changed by this experience, something we don’t often see religious figures in novels do.

Jean ValJean’s story is much the same as in the book. Hugo does an excellent job illustrating how horribly broken the “justice” system was (and in many ways still is) and how damned people are through poverty and merciless systems. There are many sentences or phrases I’ve highlighted in my copy because through the dense prose there are some really beautifully descriptive pieces. Hugo is a genuinely good writer. He is a good writer who was clearly being paid by the word, but I can’t fault him for making his money.

When we meet Fantine it actually offers a small backstory for how she gets pregnant with Cosette. Novels I read from this time period in lit classes were always pretty severe with women who “fell from grace” or “ruined” themselves so it was interesting reading a contemporary of Dickens, Hardy, and Trollope write about a woman who has premarital sex and doesn’t describe her resulting circumstances as a reflection of her poor morals but rather the way society has failed her. He is critical of her lover who intentionally abandons her and the many people who continue this abandonment and debasement. He definitely has a bit of an infantilizing eye on women, and we do see some Madonna/Whore stuff going on as he writes pretty stark characterizations of women, but I still found this noteworthy.

Javert was another very interesting character and for once I wished Hugo would write more than he did. He describes the character being born and raised among the same miserables that the rest of the story is dedicated to. Unlike ValJean who views mercy as a kindness and a duty of humanity, Javert views mercy as an unfair farce and his only redeeming(?) quality is that he is as severe with himself as he is with others. There is no hypocrisy in this character, but there is also no charity. I pity him but also I would have dismissed him ASAP if I were Jean ValJean.

I am currently in Volume II. Cosette which began with a thorough description of the battle of Waterloo but we have finally reached the titular character and things are already picking up speed. If I keep reading 50 pages a day as planned, I should be done by the end of the month. I’m going to plan to keep a weekly review of whatever volumes I get through and then give an overall impression at the end.

This volume was pretty appropriately miserable but it sets the foundation for where all of these next characters are coming from/escaping and I’m looking forward to getting into more about the rebels. Other than Les Mis, I am currently reading Twice Tempted, the sequel to the Dracula romance I read last year, so be on the lookout for that review next week!

Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace 2021

My final reading list for the year is the Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace! You may remember (or read) that I planned on completing it last year but 2020 happened all over the place and here we are, trying again!

  1. Darkness Button – Twice Tempted, Jeaniene Frost
  2. Defcon Most Extreme – The Obsession, Nora Roberts
  3. Englandtimes America – A Daring Arrangement, Joanna Shupe
  4. Furrrrrr – Moonrise, Ines Johnson
  5. Ghost Boner – Highlander in Her Bed, Allie Mackay
  6. HB Author – What Comes After, Blair Leigh
  7. Holy Cats That’s A Nice Nipple! – Get A Life, Chloe Brown, Talia Hibbert
  8. Keep Being A Badass- First Grave on the Right, Darynda Jones
  9. Lady Love – Sunsets and Shades, Erica Lee
  10. Morality Boner – Rafe, Rebekah Weatherspoon
  11. Murder Smolder – Big Bad Wolf, Suleikha Snyder
  12. Never Seen Snow Before – Love at First Snow, Jami Davenport
  13. Orgasms and Waffles – The Waffle House on the Pier, Tilly Tennant
  14. Remembering Things in 2021 – The Wallflower Wager, Tessa Dare
  15. Roll Butter – The Widow of Rose House, Diana Biller
  16. Royal Boner – A Duke By Default, Alyssa Cole
  17. The Seven Seas – Savage of the Sea, Eliza Knight
  18. The Sheriff of My Vagina – Dance Upon the Air, Nora Roberts
  19. Traditional Naperville Tree Lightings – A Lake House Holiday, Megan Squires
  20. War Horniness – A Heart of Blood and Ashes, Milla Vane

*All books subject to change

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2021

Creator: Elijah Forbes

Oh hello there.

I disappeared shortly after The Troubles began because I simply stopped reading. Some of my friends coped with this year by reading even more, I delved into writing fanfiction. We all find our way.

I made a pretty decent dent in the BRRHC for 2020 but I am here with a new syllabus and new determination for BRRHC 2021:

  1. Read a book you’ve been intimidated to read – Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
  2. Read a nonfiction book about anti-racism – Fatal Invention, Dorothy Roberts
  3. Read a non-European novel in translation – Our Lady of the Nile, Scholastique Mukasonga
  4. Read an LGBTQ+ history book – Bisexuality in the Ancient World, Eva Cantarella
  5. Read a genre novel by an Indigenous, First Nations, or Native American author – The Only Good Indians, Stephen Graham Jones
  6. Read a fanfic – TBD
  7. Read a fat-positive romance – Spoiler Alert, Olivia Dade
  8. Read a romance by a trans or nonbinary author – Reverb, Anna Zabo
  9. Read a middle grade mystery – A Spy in the House, Y.S. Lee
  10. Read an SFF anthology edited by a person of color – Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora, ed. Sheree R. Thomas
  11. Read a food memoir by an author of color – The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South, Michael W. Twitty
  12. Read a work of investigative nonfiction by an author of color – Explaining Humans, Camilla Pang
  13. Read a book with a cover you don’t like – Kissing the Witch: Old Tales in New Skins, Emma Donoghue
  14. Read a realistic YA book not set in the U.S., UK, or Canada – A Girl Like That, Tanaz Bhathena
  15. Read a memoir by a Latinx author – My Time Among the Whites: Notes from an Unfinished Education, Jennine Capó Crucet
  16. Read an own voices book about disability – Run, Kody Keplinger
  17. Read an own voices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain – If It Makes You Happy, Claire Kann
  18. Read a book by/about a non-Western world leader – Cleopatra: A Life, Stacy Schiff
  19. Read a historical fiction with a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist – Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters
  20. Read a book of nature poems – A Thousand Mornings: Poems, Mary Oliver
  21. Read a children’s book that centers a disabled character but not their disability – Hands & Hearts, Donna Jo Napoli
  22. Read a book set in the Midwest – Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
  23. Read a book that demystifies a common mental illness – Everything is Horrible and Wonderful: A Tragicomic Memoir of Genius, Heroin, Love, and Loss, Stephanie Wittels Wachs
  24. Read a book featuring a beloved pet where the pet doesn’t die – The Familiars, Stacy Halls

All books are subject to change via DNFing or difficulty accessing them.


	

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2020

Hey y’all,

If you have been with me since the start of this blog, you may remember that I took on the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge of 2019. You may have also noticed that I read about two books on that list and then it fell by the wayside. This has been my pattern with this challenge but I’m going to try yet again next year because even if I just read one book from these lists I am expanding my reading experience more than if I didn’t try.

You may have also noticed that I created a full syllabus for the Reading Embrace and ended up reading maybe a handful on there. But I am still going to do it again! Because I love making lists and that list still came in handy!

With all of that being said, here are the categories and my (tentative and open to editing) selections for the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2020

  1. Read a YA nonfiction book: Witches! The Absolutely True Tale of Disaster in Salem by Rosalyn Schanzer
  2. Read a retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, or myth by an author of color: The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
  3. Read a mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman: Goldie Vance by Hope Larson
  4. Read a graphic memoir: Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Alison Bechdel
  5. Read a book about a natural disaster: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
  6. Read a play by an author of color and/or queer author: How I Learned To Drive by Paula Vogel
  7. Read a historical fiction novel not set in WWII: Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin
  8. Read an audiobook of poetry: Ronit & Jamil by Pamela L. Laskin
  9. Read the LAST book in a series: That Kind of Guy by Talia Hibbert
  10. Read a book that takes place in a rural setting: The Lost Man by Jane Harper
  11. Read a debut novel by a queer author: Texts From Jane Eyre by Daniel Mallory Ortberg
  12. Read a memoir by someone from a religious tradition (or lack of religious tradition) that is not your own: Casting Lots by Susan Silverman
  13. Read a food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before: Israeli Soul by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook
  14. Read a romance starring a single parent: The Governess Game by Tessa Dare
  15. Read a book about climate change: As the World Burns by Derrick Jensen & Stephanie McMillan
  16. Read a doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman: The Lake House by Kate Morton
  17. Read a sci-fi/fantasy novella (under 120 pages): Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  18. Read a picture book with a human main character from a marginalized community: The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
  19. Read a book by or about a refugee: The Refugees by Viet Thanh Nyugen
  20. Read a middle grade book that doesn’t take place in the U.S. or the UK: Adventures with Waffles by Maria Parr, Trans. Guy Puzey
  21. Read a book with a main character or protagonist with a disability (fiction or non): The Madness of Lord Ian MacKenzie by Jennifer Ashley
  22. Read a horror book published by an indie press: Tomorrow’s Journal by Dominick Cancella (Cemetary Dance Publications)
  23. Read an edition of a literary magazine (digital or physical): Ploughshares
  24. Read a book in any genre by a Native, First Nations, or Indigenous author: New Poets of Native Nations edited by Heid E. Erdrich

Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace 2020

The categories for the Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace 2020 came out and I had to immediately make a syllabus which I will absolutely stray from by the end of January but I’m still going to post it here!

The categories for the embrace are based on inside jokes from the podcast and the most important thing to remember is that there is no wrong or right way to embrace. You can choose the most random association to make a book fit a category. It actually ends up being more fun if you make an additional challenge to try and fit odd pairings to categories but I’m far too type A for that so here is my mostly literal take on the embrace!

Abs, Abs, Abs, Dick! – Once Burned by Jeaniene Frost

Competency Boner – Garden of Lies by Amanda Quick

Dueling Bring it Back – More Than a Mistress by Mary Balogh

Fae Is Bae – Darkfever by Karen Marie Moning

Franch Doors/Boastful Floors – The Corrupt Comte by Edie Harris

Frogs – Enchanted by Alethea Kontis

HB Author – A Kiss For Solstice by Elizabeth Allyn-Dean

Herbs, Herbs, Herbs – A Night to Surrender by Tessa Dare

I’m a Waitress! – His Naughty Waitress by Bella Love-Wins

Intellectualism in 2020 – Romancing the Inventor by Gail Carriger

Keep Being a Badass – A Duke By Default by Alyssa Cole

Lady Love – A Man of Character by Margaret Locke

Octopus Tentacles – Taken by Tentacles by Jessie Snow

One True Chris – A Girl Like Her by Talia Hibbert

Pleasure Barge – Floats Her Boat by Nicolette Dane

Queen Bird – The Kiss Thief by L.J. Shen

Smokeshow – Smoke and Mirrors by Sabrina Wagner

Tits Out – Drowning in Rapture by Megan D. Martin

Traditional Highlander Fingerbanging – Plaid to the Bone by Mia Marlowe

Your Faves are Problematic – Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace 2019

My favorite podcast, reading related or otherwise, is Heaving Bosoms where two friends banter and discuss romance novels. It’s like belonging to a long distance book club where I practically never do the reading. It is magical. This year they introduced their own reading embrace and I am all in and urge you to join us! I’m a fairly new romance reader and this embrace really gives you an opportunity to revisit old favorites and branch out and explore new facets of the genre.

Heaving Bosoms Reading Embrace 2019 Syllabus

America Times: Tempest, Beverly Jenkins

Because Witches: Witches of East End, Melissa de la Cruz

Consent Boner: The Countess Conspiracy, Courtney Milan

Cousin Stuff: Mastersons, Lisa Lang Blakely

Do They Got Reasons: Guilty Pleasures, Laurell K. Hamilton

England Times: The Duchess Deal, Tessa Dare

Herbs, Herbs, Herbs: Outlander, Diana Gabaldon

Highlander Times: The Highlander’s Bride, Amanda Forrester

Hufflepuff + Slytherin Love: Duke With Benefits, Manda Collins

Keep Being A Badass: When All The Girls Have Gone, Jayne Ann Krentz

Lady Love: Fried Green Tomatoes, Fannie Flagg

Medieval Times: Temptress, Lisa Jackson

Pirate Times: The Notorious Lady Anne, Sharon Cullen

Reindeer Mafia: Ruthless People, J.J. McAvoy

Sherlock Holmes Times: A Curious Beginning, Deanna Raybourn

Sportsball: Time out, Jill Shalvis

Virgin Duke: The Naked Duke, Sally MacKenzie

Werves: The Last Werewolf, Glen Duncan

Western Times: Big Sky Mountain, Linda Lael Miller

#Problematic: I Thee Wed, Amanda Quick

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2019

BRRHC 2019 Syllabus

An epistolary novel or collection of letters – Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher

An alternate history novel – The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead

A book by a woman and/or AOC (Author of Color) that won a literary award in 2018 – Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, James Forman Jr.

A humor book – Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks, Annie Spence

A book by a journalist or about journalism – A False Report: A True Story of Rape in America, T. Christian Miller

A book by an AOC set in or about space – Nigerians in Space, Deji Bryce Olukotun

An #ownvoices book set in Mexico or Central America – The Book of Unknown Americans, Cristina Henriquez

An #ownvoices book set in Oceania – A Long Way Home: A Memoir, Saroo Brierley

A book published prior to January 1, 2019, with fewer than 100 reviews on Goodreads – No Job For A Lady, Carol McCleary

A translated book written by and/or translated by a woman – Antigone by Sophokles, translated by Anne Carson

A book of manga – Vampire Hunter D, Hideyuki Kikuchi

A book in which an animal or inanimate object is a POV character – The Final Solution, Michael Chabon

A book by or about someone that identifies as neurodiverse – The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism, Naoki Higashida

A cozy mystery – Wicked Appetite, Janet Evanovich

A book of mythology or folklore – The Door in the Hedge, Robin McKinley

An historical romance by an AOC – Let Us Dream, Alyssa Cole

A business book – Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell

A novel by a trans or nonbinary author – Peter Darling, Austin Chant

A book of nonviolent true crime – Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Memoirs of a Literary Forger, Lee Israel

A book written in prison – De Profundis, Oscar Wilde

A comic by an LGBTQIA creator – Nimona, Noelle Stevenson

A children’s or middle grade book (not YA) that has won a diversity award since 2009 – Malala’s Magic Pencil, Malala Yousafzai

A self-published book – Frostfire, Amanda Hocking

A collection of poetry published since 2014 – Monument, Natasha Trethewey