Friday, January 14, 2022

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is January 19!

 


It's here!  The first #TBRChallenge Day of 2022 is set for Wednesday, January 19.  This month's (always) optional theme is Quickie.

Is Quickie a connotation for a shorter read (like category romance or novella)?  Or is it a cue to read a romance featuring a romantic couple who are...uh, overly exuberant?  Or does it mean something else entirely?  Hey, take this theme wherever you want!

But what if you don't like to read short and what if you're in the mood for a "just-kisses" romance?  Hey, no problem!  A reminder that the themes are always optional.

It's not too late to sign up for this year's Challenge!  If you're interested or you just want to follow along with those participating, be sure to check out the TBR Challenge 2022 Information Page

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Library Loot Review: Regency Christmas Liaisons

The plan was to have Regency Christmas Liaisons by Christine Merrill, Sophia James and Marguerite Kaye read before Christmas, and that didn't happen.  Instead I finished reading it after the New Year and it's a rare anthology where there's not a single dud in the bunch.  Oh sure, some stories I liked more than others, but this is a very solid holiday anthology with just enough angst to keep sugary holiday sweetness in check.

Unwrapped Under the Mistletoe by Christine Merrill finds our spinster, poor-relation heroine, Daphne Bingham, preparing for holiday guests.  When her parents died when she was young, Daphne was taken in by the Duke and Duchess of Twinden. Slapped with the odious, ill-fitting nickname "Daffy," she had one season that did not take. Now she's the Duchess' fetch-and-carry girl, chaperone for her cousin, and all-around cat magnet. The household cats adore her. The fly in the ointment as far as the Duke and Duchess are concerned is that Daphne keeps filching shiny baubles. They are found in her a room and she has no memory of taking them. They're worried about Daphne's light fingers with holiday guests arriving so naturally instead of helping the poor girl they ask thief-taker, Charles Pallister, to play the role of a distant relation and catch Daffy in the act. Instead, what naturally happens, is that Charles is smitten from the jump.

Merrill spins a classic Cinderella tale while not making the villains cartoonishly evil (oh, they're all terrible but they're not of the twirling mustache variety).  Daphne is the complete opposite of her nickname; smart, resourceful, level-headed.  Charles is very good at solving puzzles but finds the fact that he's been hired to catch Daphne red-handed extremely distasteful. Instead of helping the poor girl, her family is basically throwing her under the carriage, all while taking her for granted and relying on her to make their lives easier.  A very nice romance with a cozy feel, and I loved the cats!

Final Grade = B

If I have one quibble about One Night with the Earl by Sophia James is that it's a story that flew right out of my head after reading it. Case in point, I had to read a couple other reader reviews to jog my memory since Harlequin's back cover blurbs on anthologies tend to be light in the pants.  It's still a good read, just not one that stuck with me for very long.

Elizabeth Martin was at a convent school when Guy Martin swept her off her feet and straight to Spain. The marriage started floundering almost immediately, and while she took care of their twins, Luis and Jenny, Guy had numerous affairs and eventually was killed in a duel. With nowhere else to go, Elizabeth and the children come back to England and Guy's childhood home, where his reputation was well-known. She makes the acquaintance of her closest neighbor, Lord Alexander Grey, when he stumbles across Luis getting beat up by bullies. He takes the boy back to his mother, and having known the boy's useless father, suggests he teach the boy to box. He's got family coming to visit for Christmas and he has a nephew roughly Luis' and Jenny's age.  He invites Elizabeth to join them, also recognizing that she could use a friend and ally of her own.

This is a nice story. Alexander is a good guy and Elizabeth is a widow licking her wounds. Jenny is so desperate to see her mother happy she's taken to leaving notes for the fairies to find and Luis is part boy who wants a mother's love and part angry young man still smarting from his father's general jackassery.  

Final Grade = B-

A Most Scandalous Christmas by Marguerite Kaye is a quiet story where not a lot happens, but it's got a tricky happy-ever-after to pull off.  Lady Silvia Merton is in her 30s and divorced. Her husband was a notorious philanderer who didn't even have the modicum of decency to be discreet. She realizes that if she doesn't leave him, he's slowly chip away at her self-esteem and self-worth until there's nothing left.  So she divorces him. A tricky endeavor since she's a woman and therefore is, essentially, her husband's property. He has to bring the case for the divorce and naturally the way to do that is to accuse his wife of the very behavior he's taking part in. Since Silvia has been unable to produce an heir, he readily agrees to set the wheels in motion.  Once divorced the consequences are swift. Silvia is persona non grata to even her family and has taken up residence in the Yorkshire Moors. She wanted her freedom, and what she got was a life of seclusion. She decides to take a trip to York only to feel uncomfortable and hurry back home after one day. It's on her way back to the moors that she meets up with Ellis Wyn-Jones, a second son and inventor of some note.

Ellis met Silvia years ago at a dinner party where her husband's loutish behavior was on display (the man was openly flirting with his mistress in front of his wife!).  He was taken with Silvia immediately, but naturally nothing ever came of it. Now they meet again and get to talking. She's dreading another Christmas alone and he's dreading the boorish family gathering at his brother's home where another "suitable" marriageable miss will be paraded before him. So our two misfits come up with a plan - they're spend the holidays together at Silvia's home on the moors. No expectations. No boorish family traditions.  Just the two of them. Alone.

This is a nice story about two well-matched people. The story itself basically boils down to Silvia and Ellis spending time together, talking, getting to know each other.  The fly in the ointment is that Ellis thinks he's not interested in marriage and even if he were?  Silvia's divorce means she cannot marry again.  Which begs the question - how is the author going to work out the happy ending?  Turns out, quite well. It's really lovely.  It's one of those stories where the characters make their own happy ending. Society may brand her scandalous and him eccentric - but they love each other - and love will find a way.

Final Grade = B

This was a nice, cozy anthology with the right amount of angst.  I'm not sure if it was intended, but the authors all delivered stories featuring alienated, misfit heroines who end up finding their perfect matches. Not a bad way to kick off my reading in 2022.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Reading Year in Review 2021

The end of 2021 was an eerie, unwelcome sense of deja vu, in that it reminded me too much of the final months of 2020.  Which is to say my work life sucked harder than a Hoover.  I completely fell off the reading wagon the final two months of the year, which means my goal of reading 100 books in 2021 fell short at 97.  Look, that's nothing to sneeze at (at least for me) and I guess I could be disappointed, but honestly? I'm still standing. And while I know the current work crisis I'm dealing with will still be there come Monday, I'm taking the New Year's weekend to be kind to myself.  So yeah, I was three short but I still read 97 books! Here's how my grading broke down:

A Grades = 6
B Grades = 35
C Grades = 35
D Grades = 10
F Grades = 5
DNF = 6

Six A grades is very good for me (and consistent). I'm less pleased that my B and C reads were in a dead heat and that F and DNFs totaled 11.  For the record, 4 of the 5 F graded books were contest reads. I judged several this year and while it was a pile of mediocre with a few dreadfuls, one contest read is represented on this Best Of. So yeah, that's why I keep judging contests in case you're curious. Now, enough set-up! On to the important part of this blog post: Wendy's Best Reads of 2021!

(Title links will take you to reviews)

Romance:


Forbidden by Beverly Jenkins (Historical romance, 2016) - Jenkins writes great heroines as a rule, but Eddy Carmichael might be my new favorite. There's a quiet determination in her that I found vastly appealing and there's a scene early on in the book between Eddy and her sister which is simply perfection. The hero is passing as white and our Black heroine has ambitions of her own, albeit she's temporarily derailed in Nevada. Meaty, compelling conflict and a fantastic array of secondary characters - including other residents at the boardinghouse where Eddy lives. 

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase (Historical romance, 1995) - Yes, this was my first time reading it and while the second half floundered a bit for me, the first 40% of this book is the most perfect romance novel I've ever read - entirely due to the heroine. What I loved is that she always (ALWAYS) came out ahead. Even when you think the jackass hero has finally backed her into a corner?  Nope. Jessica comes out swinging.  And for the record, she was totally justified in shooting him.

The Secret by Julie Garwood (Historical romance, 1992) - This book makes the list for everything other than the romance. The women in this book are amazing. Anytime two female characters were on the page together I positively wallowed in it. I also liked that this was a light historical with humor but it never descended into twee cutesy. Great female friendships and the romance smacks you upside the head in the second half.  

The Billionaire's Christmas Baby by Marion Lennox (Harlequin Romance, 2017) - A cozy bon-bon of a holiday read by a real pro in the category format.  A working class heroine with a history of caregiving bails out the hero when his infant half-sister is dropped unceremoniously into his lap.  Cinderella without the rescue fantasy.

Gingerbread and Jingle Bells by Caro Carson (Novella, 2021) - The shining beacon in this year's round of contest judging. Set between 1970 and 1985, childhood friends reunite in the tiny Texas town where they grew up - he's now the town veterinarian, and she's on break from a corporate job to help grandma with her bakery over the holidays. A sweet treat of a holiday read. Warm, cozy, delightful.

A Place Called Home by Elizabeth Grayson (Historical Romance, 1995) - A sweeping colonial epic about a newly widowed heroine making her way to a Kentucky homestead with two small children, where she hooks up with her dead husband's BFF (whom she despises). I stayed way up past my bedtime, sucked into this epic, sweeping tale - but fair warning, it has a TON of problematic elements.  Read the review before taking the plunge.

Mystery/Suspense:


What You Don't See (2020) and Runner (2021) by Tracy Clark - This is hands-down my new favorite mystery series! Cass Raines is former Chicago PD, now a private detective. There's a heaping helping of Found Family, compelling storylines, and Cass is smart, savvy and so capable I get a heavy dose Competence Porn.  These are books three and four in the series, with What You Don't See holding the slight edge.

A Madness of Sunshine (2019) and Quiet in Her Bones (2021) by Nalini Singh - These were both quiet, slow-build suspense novels and both of them had me sucked in almost immediately.  They're both domestic thrillers, where small towns or quiet neighborhoods are hiding dark and sinister secrets.  While both stand-alones, they're similar in that Singh slowly builds her suspense using a wide cast of characters trapped in insular communities.  They have the feel of a "locked room" mystery without the actual locked room. 

A Spy in the Struggle (2020) by Aya de Leon - A domestic espionage thriller with a Black woman as the lead and a heaping helping of current events.  I loved the feel of this story, a heroine who turns whistleblower when the SEC raids her corporate law firm and soon finds herself back in the town where she attended college infiltrating a Black Lives Matter / environmental group making too much noise for a biotech firm with a juicy government contract. This is a great blend of current events, suspense and romance (a fairly spicy one!). Also, my vote for best cover art of the year (this book was published at the very tail-end of 2020, so honestly I think it should count as 2021!)

Young Adult:


The Obsession by Jesse Q. Sutanto (2021) - Adult Wendy thought this book was great, but the ghostly memory of Teenage Wendy that still lives in my brain frickin' loved this! Teen heroine with a dark secret accidentally (uh, maybe?) kills her Mom's abusive boyfriend - who just so happens to be a cop.  There's a witness to this crime - a boy in school that, unbeknownst to the heroine, is stalking her.  When she figures that last bit out? Yeah, he starts blackmailing her into a relationship.  How will our heroine untangle this tricky web?  Oooooh, boy.

Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson (2018) - Charlotte comes home from a summer visit at grandma's to discover her best friend, Monday, is missing.  Worse still?  Nobody seems alarmed by this development except for Charlotte. If there is criticism of this book is that it's tragedy porn featuring young Black girls, but I felt Jackson did a good job of providing a multi-layered story with multi-layered characters. It's also one hell of a gut-punch and I ugly-cried through the last 25%.  All the trigger warnings - so I encourage you to read reviews.

Nonfiction:


Just as I Am by Cicely Tyson (2021) - An absolute triumph of a memoir. What a gift Tyson gave to all of us, finally writing her memoirs before her passing. She covers everything from her New York City childhood, her break into modelling, then acting, her turbulent marriage to Miles Davis, and her numerous famous friends. The audiobook is great and if it's not nominated for all the awards I will literally burn sh*t down.

All the Young Men by Ruth Coker Burks (2020) - The memoir of a single mother who became an unlikely AIDS activist in Hot Spring, Arkansas in the early days of the epidemic. I was a child when HIV/AIDS was known as "the gay cancer," and nobody knew what it was or how it was transmitted. It's amazing how the passage of time, and new treatments, has made it easy to forget these scary, dark, early days.  Burks life experiences up to that point made her the ideal ally, she'd spent most of her life taking care of somebody (relatives, her child, her best friend). She helped these men navigate a confusing and cumbersome social services network, found doctors and pharmacies willing to treat them, and  confronted the "fine, upstanding" citizens when it was called for (which was, sadly, often). She also hit road-blocks from other allies and activists in large, urban areas (New York, San Francisco) who didn't have the first clue about the epidemic in Arkansas.

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe (2021) - Details three generations of the Sacklers, the family behind Purdue Pharma and the unleashing of OxyContin on to the world. As they reaped billions by creating a nation of opioid addicts, the family hid behind a series of philanthropic donations like they were 19th century robber barons. It's shocking. It'll make you angry as hell - and yet? Another part of you will wonder just how much hubris one family can own stock in. Turns out?  Quite a lot.  This will be on damn near every Best Of List for 2021 and it deserves every single one of those accolades. 

Like 2020 before it, my reading recollections of 2021 were colored in my mind by the sheer vastness of Real Life fatigue that came down like a weighted blanket trying to smother me to death. As I went tripping through GoodReads and took a closer look however, I realized I had a really remarkable year in terms of quality, memorable reads.  So yeah, missing my goal by three books hardly seems a point worth niggling over now, does it?

Onward, upward, here's hoping for great reads ahead in 2022!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Library Loot Review: Danger Next Door

CW: murdered child 

Having enjoyed several books by Donna Alward in the past (she's written some great Harlequin Romance and Harlequin American Romance titles...) I was curious to try her first Love Inspired Suspense novel. For her first romantic suspense title, she certainly didn't take the easy way out. It's not exactly cheery holiday reading (hey, my library hold came in - whatcha gonna do?) and I suspect the dark plot of Danger Next Door is going to give more than a few romance readers pause.

Seven years ago Andi Wallace's 3-year-old daughter, Chelsea, was taken from their Cadence Creek home and was found dead in the woods.  Andi was suffering from a cold, and fell asleep after taking cold medicine. Consumed by guilt and grief, her marriage to Jim eventually disintegrated and now Andi lives alone.  Every year on the anniversary of her child's murder she goes to the woods where they found her body to leave a bouquet of daisies and mourn. However this year something is waiting for her. Chelsea's stuffed bunny rabbit. The toy she never let out of her sight. The toy she took with her everywhere is nailed to the tree where they found Chelsea's body.  The stuffed rabbit that hasn't been seen for seven years.

Andi is, understandably, upset. She knows she needs to call the cops. But how she was treated 7 years ago (as a suspect) and the fact that her daughter's murder was never solved, makes her distrustful.  So she calls Ryan Davenport. He's her BFF's brother and he's a cop.  He knows her. Their families go way back. He's a safe alternative and will likely believe her (also he won't think she's nuts if the stuffed toy nailed to the tree turns out to be a grief-induced hallucination - although, of course, it isn't).

Ryan was a rookie RCMP when Chelsea was murdered and it's a case that's always haunted him.  Now, with the case cold, the killer has resurfaced to toy with Andi. Incidents start happening.  Vandalism, gaslighting, and it looks like someone has broken into her house on more than one occasion. As he turns up the heat to solve this case, he and Andi get closer - further complicating an already extremely complicated situation.

Right up front I want to disclose that this book isn't graphic (Love Inspired books aren't graphic) but it doesn't have to be to be "dark." I mean, a murdered toddler is Dark AF. It's the kind of plot you'd expect in a grim suspense novel with doom closing in from all angles.  Alward doesn't write dark, the Love Inspired lines aren't dark, so the tone of this story isn't dark.  It's a weird juxtaposition - to have such a grim plot thread but the tone of the story isn't swaddled under a cloak of depression and angst.  I suspect the author realized this, and having the story set seven years after the crime, I think, helps add a certain perspective.  But still, murdered toddlers are Dark AF.

For her first time out of the gate, the author does a good job building suspense.  After the appearance of the stuffed toy, she slowly ramps up the incidents targeting Andi. Who is toying with her? What will happen next?  Andi is, naturally, scared and I loved the turning point when she goes from scared to seriously pissed off.  Someone murdered her child. Someone is screwing with her. She wants answers and justice. There's a couple of possibilities and even though I thought I had it all figured out, I was only partially right - so the story did keep me guessing.

The romance here is a slow-burner and of the just kisses variety but it moves along at an expected pace for a plot of this nature.  It could have ended on a happy for now, but the author chose to put an epilogue in (fast-forwarding a year later) which I thought worked things out nicely.  Given this is a Love Inspired, there's going to be some God Stuff - and I'd call it slightly more than middle of the road. Andi has lost her faith (like, duh), characters go to church, they pray, there's a Bible verse thrown in at one point, but I never felt like I was trying to be converted. It was more of a "characters struggling leaning on faith/God" variety of inspirational.

I have a complicated relationship with romantic suspense and while I wasn't in love with this one, and the Dark AF plot is a lot, it didn't annoy me or make me want to rip my hair out - which is more than I can say for a lot of romantic suspense.  Andi and Ryan are nice people, the bad guy gets caught and Chelsea gets justice. It delivered what I wanted and kept me reading. A solid first suspense offering from a veteran author.

Final Grade = B-

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

#TBRChallenge 2021: One Cowboy, One Christmas

The Book: One Cowboy, One Christmas by Kathleen Eagle

The Particulars: Contemporary romance, Silhouette Special Edition #2011, Book 2 in series, 2009, out of print, available digitally

Why Was It In Wendy's TBR: It's a Christmas Harlequin - that's really about it. To elaborate, Eagle is a solid writer and I like Special Editions. My print copy indicates I likely bought this used while visiting my family in Michigan (the Meijer price tag on the front cover is kind of a dead giveaway).

The Review: Oh reader expectations. We all have them but when it comes to category romance readers, they're amplified. I have a very different set of expectations with category romance than I do single titles. I expect the stories to adhere to line specifications and given the shorter word counts I expect a hyper-aware focus on the romance. Special Editions usually land around 220 pages - that's not a lot - and it's a problem for this story that Eagle chose to write. Honestly? This read like a women's fiction novel that she trimmed down to fit Special Edition guidelines and for that reason it missed the romance mark for me.

Zach Beaudry is a broken down rodeo cowboy (more parts ache than not) making his way to Texas. Where he currently is is driving a neglected pick-up truck through a South Dakota snowstorm. Naturally the pick-up truck quits on him and he finds himself walking to the nearest shelter - which turns out to be Ann Drexler's front porch.  He's near delirium by this point and spies her from the front window decorating for Christmas. Naturally he thinks she's an angel.  Lucky for him she opens the front door, recognizes him, and hauls his near frozen butt inside.

Ann recognizes Zach because she had a one-night stand with him when she was a shy, plumper 19-year-old college student.  She met him at a party through her older sister Sally, who used to supply bulls to the rodeo circuit.  Anyway Ann looks different now - she's lost weight, less make-up and her hair is styled drastically different.  Still, she'd be lying if she didn't say it pricks her pride that Zach doesn't recognize her or even recall their one-night together.

Zach's truck needs repairs requiring parts, so he agrees to help out at the Drexler horse rescue ranch in exchange parts and labor. Beside Ann and Sally, there's a "like family" older ranch hand and a teenager student of Ann's (she's a teacher) who lands on the wrong side of the law and his sentence is community service at the ranch.  Zach is pure itchy feet cowboy and Ann is guarded, reticent and is fully expecting him to take off the moment he can. That's basically it for conflict folks.

Back to expectations, there's a lot of homespun banter and a lot of secondary characters (three of them) vying for page time. When I first started this book I checked the back cover to make sure Ann was the heroine because Sally (who has MS) spends JUST as much time on the page in Zach's orbit.  There's also an annoying neighbor who shows up halfway through to (I think?) juice up the conflict but it's a plot thread that doesn't really go anywhere.  There's other books after this one in the series, maybe he shows up in later books to cause trouble?  Who knows.

What we've got is basically a story about found family with a romance relegated to secondary plot line. This is fine for women's fiction. It's great in fact! I've loved books like this.  But this is a Silhouette Special Edition. It's category romance. Hence, I don't think it's fine. The romance should be front and center, dominating the bulk of the story.  Instead it feels like an afterthought.

Normally I would ding a book with this sort of execution mightily but, and here's the thing, Eagle can write. She's a wiz at setting, atmosphere and characters. It fails on nearly every level of 217 page category romance, but all that other stuff I just mentioned?  Really good. Very solid. It just shouldn't have been published or marketed as a category romance.  Says Wendy.

Final Grade = C-

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Glad Tidings: Unusual Historical Picks for December 2021

I honestly don't know how much the average reader pays attention to the vagaries of the publishing world - but even with the advent of self-publishing I can state for a fact that December tends to be The Dead Zone. It's traditionally been a very, very light month. That said, when my swashbuckling through Amazon's forest of terrible algorithms only netted three titles I thought "This can't be right."  So I looked at my Unusual Historical post for December 2020 and found....four titlesYeah.  So here it is folks! The last Unusual Historical post for 2021. She be small but she be mighty!  Enjoy!

 
 The Knight's Convenient Alliance by Melissa Oliver

The only man who’s tempted her… 

Now poses as her husband! 

When an injured knight arrives on Brida O’Conaill’s doorstep, the village assumes he’s her long-lost husband. But her only previous connection to Sir Thomas Lovent was an intense shared moment at a tournament years ago. Brida maintains the pretense while she nurses him, yet once he’s back to full, virile health, she cannot reveal Thomas is not her husband—or that she’s unmarried!—when everyone is expecting them to act like husband and wife…


Oliver's debut medieval romance landed in 2020 and here we are - already on book 4 of her Notorious Knights series. Do romance authors sleep?  Because seriously, I'm exhausted.  Anyway, the fake engagement/marriage/relationship trope is one of my all-time favorites (Forced proximity! Having to put on a show to convince others!) so I'm looking forward to this.



The Viking's Stolen Princess by Sarah Rodi

A kidnapped royal… 

Could be the Viking's undoing! 

After Brand Ivarsson of Kald abducts Anne of Termarth on the eve of her wedding, the Viking’s consumed with only one thing: revenge against her loathsome betrothed. But confronted with the stunning princess, so foreign to his world, Brand’s captivated not only by her beauty, but by her spirit and her kindness. Is Anne his prisoner…or is she the one who’s captured his scarred heart?


I spy with my little eye a debut author! It's got royalty, it's got a Viking, and it's got a revenge plot. I mean, what more could a girl possibly ask for?  Rodi has a background in magazines and is a long-time Mills & Boon fan, so one imagines she's chuffed to have gotten the call for this book - which she finished in one month (!) after being furloughed from her day job.  I'm not sure what I would do if I were furloughed - probably sleep for at least the first two weeks.  Finishing a novel that eventually sells sounds way more productive.


Protecting Virginia by Kate Bridges (Kindle Unlimited)

When Virginia is jilted at the altar, her former fiancĂ©’s brother Zack, a rugged Mountie, proposes a marriage of convenience. 

For Mountie Inspector Zack Bullock, marrying his brother’s cast-off bride would fulfill his family obligations. Zack could marry Dr. Virginia Waters and not get emotionally involved. Their marriage would have other benefits. He could continue his risky work as a detective, and she could blossom in her role as a new doctor. However, the awkward girl that Zack recalls has grown into a stunning, desirable woman and he finds himself emotionally entangled. 

Virginia survived the shame of a first botched wedding. Now she has to survive the humiliation of knowing that Zack is marrying her only because of his sense of duty. But when dangerous criminals put her safety in jeopardy, Zack wonders if the marriage will ever happen. He does everything he can to guard Virginia, and protect himself from his growing feelings of love.
Originally published by Harlequin Historical in 2004 with the title The Engagement, I'm telling you right now I think I have a print copy of that edition buried somewhere in the depths of what I affectionately call my "Harlequin cupboard." Bridges wrote several historicals set in Canada with Mountie heroes and she's been self-publishing them now that her rights have reverted.  She's written some very good books and reading this plot description - HOW HAVE I NOT READ THIS YET?!  I need it in my eyeballs now.

What Unusual Historicals are you looking forward to reading?

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Reminder: #TBRChallenge Day is December 15!

OMG YOU GUYS! It's the last #TBRChallenge of 2021!  We made it!  Whether you are participating or just following along, the final #TBRChallenge Day of 2021 is Wednesday, December 15. This month's (always optional) theme is Festive.

Long-time Challengers probably lament December because it's the "Why is Wendy determined to shove Christmas books down our throats?" theme.  Well ho, ho, ho and not so fast!  The theme is festive. That doesn't just mean Christmas! It can mean darn near any other holiday on the calendar.  It can also mean swanky parties, masquerade balls - anything with a "festive" atmosphere.

But remember, the themes are always optional.  It's OK to not feel particularly festive this month.  The goal of this challenge is always to pull something, any book!, out of your neglected TBR pile.

Sign-ups for the 2022 TBR Challenge are now underway! To learn more about next year's Challenge check out the 2022 TBR Challenge Information Page.