427 The Other Black Girl

otherblackgirlby Zakiya Dalila Harris, 2021

When Nella is first hired at the prestigious publishing company Wagner Books, she’s the only person of color on the editorial staff. She’s inspired by the black author/editor pairing of Diana Gordon and Kendra Rae Phillips who, through Wagner, put out Nella’s favorite novel in the 80s and shined a light on black creative work. Tired of being the only person interested in being educated on the importance of diversity, she’s intrigued when she gets a whiff of cocoa butter floating through the office. It can only mean one thing: there’s another black person on the premises. This appears in the form of Hazel, a newly hired editorial assistant whose long locs are the source of the scent. Nella is enthusiastic about the idea of having another person on her side, but it’s not long before she starts getting bizarre anonymous notes telling her to leave the company. Does one of the editors have something nefarious in mind for her, or is Hazel set on becoming the only black girl at Wagner? That’s the question at the heart of this so-called suspenseful thriller that has gotten a lot of buzz that, ultimately, fails in nearly every endeavor.

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426 Y: The Last Man, Vol. 7—Paper Dolls

ythelastman7by Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra, 2006

This volume opens with a journalist who’s chasing the story of a mysterious remaining last man. The people she interviews offer opinions that seem pretty in line with what we might expect to hear. Some reference an air raid bunker that’s supposedly holding a prize; another says she heard that some of the men in Rwanda were immune to the plague; another asks why no one thought about the astronauts. Most fittingly, one asks who really wants to know. Some accuse the journalist of giving people false hope by spreading the idea that there is a man still left, but she counters by saying that her gossip rag, no matter how much truth or falsehoods it holds, just helps people feel normal again. Of course, we know that there is some veracity to her search, and it’s only a matter of time before she finds him and exposes him—literally—to the world.

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424 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

doandroidsdreamby Philip K. Dick, 1968

Toward the fall, I started to get antsy for classic science-fiction stories, and as Netflix had acquired the rights to Blade Runner, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to take out this much-revered novel and see how it stacked up, both against the beloved movie version and against our times. Philip K. Dick is undeniably one of the most thought-provoking writers of plot in the genre, but his literature, in and of itself, can sometimes be a little lacking. I suppose your feelings on it will depend on whether you read more for plot or for style, but as I’m more a fan of the latter, I don’t always find Dick’s work to be as breathtaking as others may. That said, I do find his ideas quite interesting, and I was happy to see in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? that the questions he poses are ones for which we still have no answers and about which we’ll likely continue to wonder for some time to come.

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423 Y: The Last Man, Vol. 6—Girl on Girl

ythelastman6by Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra, 2005

Volume six finds our crew aboard The Whale, a ship bound toward Japan where the three hope to recover Yorick’s stolen monkey, Ampersand. Unfortunately, the crew doesn’t take kindly to their new shipmates until the captain’s interests are provoked by seeing the last male person on Earth. That goes about as expected, until Yorick finds out the captain’s intentions with her cargo ship don’t meet his moral standards. More surprising to him, though, is his discovery of the developing relationship between Dr. Mann and 355, one that he reacts to with childish homophobia that is far less charming than it probably was back in the aughts. Yes, Yorick, sexuality is a spectrum, not a constant. Your early 2000s sensibilities are showing.

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422 Y: The Last Man, Vol. 5—Ring of Truth

ythelastman5by Brian K. Vaughn & Pia Guerra, 2005

The adventure of Yorick Brown and his two traveling companions continues with the three having finally made it to California. This volume opens with Yorick entering a church and finding a former flight attendant taking refuge in it. We learn that the group has been on the road for two years and have had to do much of their travel on foot. They’re expected to reach Dr. Mann’s lab in another day or two, where she hopes to find out what killed all living beings with a Y chromosome and why Yorick and his pet monkey, Ampersand, were the only ones spared.

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Challenge Completed! 2021


I was pleased to have finished the Read Harder Challenge in the middle of September this year, which left me plenty of time to catch up on some classic science fiction and some new buzzy reads of the year. As always, I kind of wane toward the end of the year, wanting to get it finished, but I’m glad that I pushed through and forced myself to read some of the books that have been on my To-Be-Read list for ages. And, as always, this year was a bit of a mixed bag, but with some surprising wins right along with the unfortunate flops. Here’s the breakdown for each task:

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420 Hollow Kingdom

hollowkingdomby Kira Jane Buxton, 2019

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read a book featuring a beloved pet where the pet doesn’t die.

The apocalypse is nigh and it’s up to the crow S.T. (full name “Shit Turd”) and his faithful, if dimwitted, bloodhound companion Dennis to set the world right again. In this uproarious take on the apocalyptic zombie genre, we’re given a literal bird’s eye view on what would happen if all of the humans suddenly turned into lumbering monsters and the animals of the world had to take matters into their own hands…or paws…or beaks. With S.T. as our narrator, we’re taken on an adventure across Seattle to find a way to save all of the domestics (S.T.’s name for pets).

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419 The Lightning Thief

atthelightningthiefby Rick Riordan, 2005

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: Read a children’s book that centers a disabled character but not their disability.

Ahhh…it’s so nice to pick up a book that everyone says is really good and find out that it actually is really good. The Percy Jackson series has been on my radar for quite some time, but because I don’t often read young adult literature, it hadn’t sprung to the top of my to-read list. Thanks to this Read Harder task, I suddenly had the perfect reason to pick it up. Percy is a 12-year-old sixth grader doing his best at his boarding school in upstate New York. He’s a “troubled kid,” having had to change schools multiple times throughout his short life. Things just keep happening around him, and he always seems to be involved somehow. Most recently, a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art turns chaotic when Percy suddenly finds himself alone with Mrs. Dodds, the school’s new math teacher, and she turns into a large winged creature and tries to kill him. It’s not your everyday middle school encounter, that’s for sure.

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417 Sweet Tooth Book Three

sweettoothbook3by Jeff Lemire, 2016

Finally, we get to learn the origin of the virus that has taken over the world and resulted in the birth of a new type of human-animal hybrid. Alas, as we’ll probably find out with our own pandemic, that reveal is less satisfying than we might have wished.

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416 Sweet Tooth Vol. 2: In Captivity

sweettoothvol2by Jeff Lemire, 2010

After going back and forth with my library and finally convincing them that Book Two of the deluxe edition of this series was not, in fact, the same as Volume Two, and having gotten the wrong book on hold three times, I finally got to see what I missed in between Volume One and Volume Three, where Book Two picks up. This part of the series puts a lot of the focus on Jeppard, the mysterious big man who comes to save Gus after his father dies and promises to deliver him to a sanctuary with other hybrid children like him. Of course, as can be expected, that sanctuary is far from what it purports to be, and Gus remains in just as much danger as ever.

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