2017 Book Challenges – Halfway Point Check In



Since we are about halfway through 2017, I wanted to take a look at how I’ve been doing on my book challenges for the year.


I’m only doing 2: The 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge and my Goodreads 2017 Challenge. 









Review – Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy



By Julie Murphy

SummarySelf-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Source: I received this book in the September 2015 Owlcrate

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This book has sat on my shelf for a year and a half. I participated in the Owlcrate-athon last month and one of the mini challenges was to read the Owlcrate book you’ve had on your shelf the longest. I received Dumplin in my very first Owlcrate and it has sat on my shelf ever since.

Let me start by saying that I think there should be way more body positivity in literature. I think it’s important for readers to connect with characters and that means there should be a variety of main characters and I support diversity in all aspects. I cannot emphasize that enough. With that being said, the few books that have been hyped as having a “fat” heroine have not worked for me. I feel like a lot of times when I’m reading, I have no idea whether the main character in a story is fat or skinny in most books. Seriously. And I think maybe it’s assumed that they are skinny if the author doesn’t specifically mention they are fat. But I read a lot of books and many of them have main characters who are not confident in their own skin and I think any person who feels like that can identify no matter what the specific issue is and I like that about books. When I read books with specific fat girls who are supposed to be a breath of fresh air in a world of skinny literature, I typically pick up a book riddled with the opposite of body positivity. It’s more about their looks than it is about anything else and I just don’t get it. If there ARE going to be books about growing some confidence, I certainly hope they take a specific issue and make it positive instead of being more awful than the stereotype they are trying to fight against.

So I went into Dumplin with a ton of reservations and wariness.

I’m on the fence about whether I liked it. I don’t feel like Dumplin was all that amazing in terms of making readers feel confident or promoting body positivity in general. I felt like everything came down to weight and the confident heroine wasn’t at all confident. I honestly think I would’ve rather read the same book from Millie’s point of view because she didn’t seem to be as negative or judgmental about the way other people looked. Willowdean was just as bad as the rest of society because she judged people all of the time for everything. It was almost as if she felt that, as a fat person, she had the upper hand and could look down on the rest of the world AND also judge her fellow ugly people because she was one of them. It was kind of awful. I think her feelings about herself could have been conveyed in a way that didn’t put other people down. We all feel self conscious, that doesn’t give us a right to judge other people more harshly in return.

At the same time, I think it’s unrealistic to expect a contemporary book about the issue of weight to ignore the fact that teenagers are awful and judgmental. Of course, as a teen girl, Will was going to be hyper aware of looks and social status and judge people. It’s what teen girls and boys do. And of course, while being judgmental, she would simultaneously be insecure while projecting false confidence. That is also what teenagers do. So I applaud the book for not trying to be some rainbow and fairy dust covered contemporary that makes us all better. Also, I think it did hit the point that we are our own worst critics and whatever we are worried about, we judge and notice in others as well. I know that as an awkward person, sometimes I get snotty about people who seem really comfortable in a new place and I realize that it’s not fair to the person I’m judging or to myself to do that. So Will’s awfulness has a point and it certainly does add to story, even if having that takes away from the whole positive message.

I can’t help but be torn. I liked the book and I felt like it did a good job of being realistic while attempting to be about learning to be comfortable in your own skin. By the end of the book, Will was better. She learned her lesson, stopped being so concerned about looks and how other people looked/were in comparison and I think that’s the point. It’s just that we had to watch Willowdean learn that lesson and she was quite awful about it. I’m just not sure if it helps or hurts the issue. 

Star 3


An Adventure – Harry Potter Reread

After completing my 2016 challenges and setting up reviews to take me into the new year, I decided to take the time to do a full reread of the Harry Potter series. It was the first time I was rereading.. I read books 1-3 as a kid, and then later, 1-7 as an adult. I’ve never actually read the series more than once as a whole! Partly, I’m just not much of a re reader, but also, being a blogger makes it hard to take the time to reread something longer because I need to have reviews scheduled.

However, I’m really glad I took the time. The movies are great, but they miss so much.. so many details! It was nice to get back into the series and savor all of the details. Also, I never read the books from any other perspective other than just experiencing the story. It’s a lot different knowing what happens and being able to analyze it all. Also, I’m a Slytherin, which makes for an interesting reading experience.

I’ve decided to document some of my thoughts during each book.


Reread Thoughts:


Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 

In book 1, I realized how short sighted Harry could be. At first, I felt really bad for him because of all he endured at the Dursley’s, but it was clear that Dumbledore had a point when he decided to stick Harry there. The fame could’ve easily turned him into an awful person. Even with a ton of hardship and perspective, he still had his faults. All of his actions were based on his point of view, but he never stopped to think about how he appeared to other people. He completely disregarded and offended Draco and, if you look at it from Draco’s point of view, it was a really awful slight. The famous Harry Potter just treated him like dirt.. and he didn’t even really deserve it. He did later, he really did bully Harry, but that short exchange is what started the whole thing. If Harry was nicer, he could’ve avoided an enemy. Of course, I am a little more defensive when it comes to Draco because I know that he’s ultimately not evil and neither is Snape. And in the beginning, Harry seemed to associate people who didn’t like him with evil.. and that’s kind of a problem. I’m glad he has Ron and Hermione to help balance him out.


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

 In book 2, I realize I totally forgot Ginny’s role in the diary from Tom Riddle. It’s been a really long time since I’ve even seen the Chamber of Secrets movie. I feel like Harry’s insistence that Snape and all of Slytherin is evil is completely over the top. So far, the only house involved in anything is Gryffindor. Obviously, we know why and we know that stuff just happens to Harry and it’s not like he wills it, but just imagine how it looks to everyone else! It’s kind of unfair. It was interesting to see Harry struggle with his fame and find things he is good at.


Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

In book 3, I had forgotten just how much I absolutely love Professor Lupin. He was such a great teacher and person and remains one of my favorite characters. I also enjoyed the whole dementor thing and the existence of Sirius Black. I also liked that we got to know Snape a little more and realize that Harry’s father perhaps wasn’t the amazing person Harry thought he was if he bullied Snape. I’m still completely bothered by how Harry can continue to be a jerk to Malfoy, yet act like it’s so unfair that Malfoy treats him like crap. It’s a two way street and yet Harry just walks around like he’s the victim. I understand why Snape hates him. Unless you’re in Harry’s head or his friend, it’s probably really easy to assume he’s full of himself.. he certainly acts like it at times. 


Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

I stopped at this book as a kid. Honestly, I just didn’t know when it would end and I didn’t want to get stuck in another Harry Potter is good at everything and solves another mystery while also becoming champion of everything. It wasn’t until later, as an adult, when I discovered that Harry would struggle, lose people he cared about, and not always come out on top. To me, that’s what makes fiction interesting. So I read this one in full as an adult. I think Goblet of Fire is a bit too long, but I just wasn’t into the whole Triwizard Tournament or the Quidditch match. This is the one book where I feel like the things that attract people to the fandom differ from what attracts me. However, there are some of my favorite moments, like S.P.E.W. and Dobby and the more complicated plot involving He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. 



And here come my favorites… I love 5-7 so much!




Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix 

 This is where the series starts to really improve in my opinion. Harry struggled a lot in this book and I think that’s what I needed him to do. His life was chaos. He spent his summer feeling isolated. He returned to school and few of his classmates believed You-Know-Who was back. The Ministry of Magic and Hogwarts butted heads throughout the entire book because of the issue of whether or not Voldemort was back. Dumbledore backed Harry, but the Minister felt threatened by Dumbledore and it turned into the worst situation. And this was the book that introduced Umbridge, perhaps the worst sort of person in the entire series. She makes me cringe in ways that Voldemort and even Bellatrix don’t do for me! She’s the evil we see everyday and I think that’s what makes her such a great evil character. We really got to see some parallels in this book about government interference. 

I love meeting all of the characters in this book. The Order of Phoenix was made up of some pretty unique characters. Harry got to see the Black home with Sirius and meet Kreacher, the disgruntled House Elf. I also loved meeting Luna Lovegood, the quirky Ravenclaw that could also see Thestrals. 

In my opinion, this book is the one that sets the series apart and gets super serious. It crosses out of fun middle grade adventure territory and becomes a serious piece of literature. I can’t wait to crack the next book open.


Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I love this one! Book 6 is intensely serious. Harry struggled with feelings for Ginny (which always seemed forced and weird to me, though I know that’s an unpopular opinion), watched Ron struggle with whatever it was that was happening between him and Hermione, and people were getting hurt at Hogwarts (but what else is new?) Harry was very suspicious of Malfoy, which was kind of annoying, even if we did figure out that he WAS indeed up to something. My one complaint is that Harry kept on being validated. His obsession with trying to catch Snape and/or Malfoy doing something dark was awful, but he wasn’t wrong. At least Dumbledore attempted to keep him on his toes. A lot about Voldemort was revealed and I enjoyed the darker side of things. This book is one of my favorites.

I love that Harry had some issues with his friends and had to make decisions alone. I love that he screws up and makes wrong decisions. And I love how the plot thickened and we got so much history of Voldemort.


Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

This book is perhaps the darkest of them all and the one that ends it all. Harry did not return to Hogwarts, as Dumbledore gave him a mission and Ron and Hermione accompanied him. Without Dumbledore’s guidance, Harry struggled to complete the tasks, but ultimately persevered. I absolutely loved when Dudley said to Harry that he wasn’t a waste of space, which was quite touching after everything that happened while Harry lived with the Dursleys. 

I forget how much material is in the final book. The mention of horcruxes is briefly mentioned in the last book and then the final book, but it’s something I remember so clearly. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows isn’t much longer than the past couple of books, but I feel like it contains so much. Between the deaths, the Deathly Hallows, the epic battle, and the final understanding of some wizarding lore and quests for power, the final book really is pretty epic. 

I love this series and I love how it ends, at least until the epilogue. I still can’t help but cringe a little bit at the neat bow at the end with everyone paired off and the names of all of the children. However, I know I’m weird and most people like to have concrete where-are-they-now endings. 

Other things of note: I did not miss the way the memory of James Potter compared to Draco’s introduction to Harry in book one, the way he scoffed at Slytherin the same way Draco scoffed at Hufflepuff. Harry didn’t like Draco’s attitude and it completely set them up to be enemies the entire series, but his father had similar stuck up attitudes. I never noticed that before, perhaps because I was focused on the great revelation that Snape was not Voldemort’s wingman and hadn’t been for a long time. Harry is a humble and quite talented wizard, but his tendency to relax the rules really did make him seem like his father in a lot of ways, which explains how awful Snape was to him. (And I really don’t think Snape was very awful, just a tad stubborn and rude). 

Also, I can’t seem to get through the final movies or this book without crying. 



I’m really glad I decided to reread the series. It worked out perfectly, with me finishing on Christmas and ready to start reading books for 2017. I had plenty of time, having met my 2016 goals back before Thanksgiving.

I know a lot of people end up rereading the series often, even annually, but I can’t imagine reading it so often. I’m not much a re reader, so I’m happy to have experienced the series just a couple of times now. I do hope to reread other favorites because I enjoy it, perhaps even more so the second time around.

Also, the movies are fairly good, but I was amazed at how different some of the scenes were, aside from the material cut from the movies, like almost every amazingly hilarious Dobby scene. Since I’ve only read through most of the books once before, the movies kind of end up replacing my memories of events and it’s incredible how many details I’d forgotten were different. 



2017 Reading Challenges

I’ll be participating in the 2017 POPSUGAR Reading Challenge. This will be the third year I’ve done these challenges and I enjoy them. I feel like they are a great blend of what I already read with just enough categories in there to challenge me and make me read a bit outside the box. 

I’ve also set my Goodreads 2017 Goal to 125 books, 25 books under my 2016 goal, but for good reason. My husband won’t be doing another 8 month deployment, so I’m likely to not read as often or as many books as I did this past year since he’ll be home the majority of the year!


What 2017 Challenges have you committed to?


2016 Reading Challenge Update – FINISHED


I have completed the 2016 Reading Challenge above and it’s only September!


He Will Be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker – a book published this year

Reconstructing Amelia by Kimberly McCreight – a book I finished in a day

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – a book I’ve been meaning to read

Vicious by V.E. Schwab – a book recommended by my local bookseller

Hamlet by William Shakespeare – a book I should’ve read in school

Choke by Chuck Palahniuk – a book chosen for me by my husband

The Silver Devil by Teresa Denys – a book published before I was born

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll – a book that was banned at some point

Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain – a book I previously abandoned

The Gunslinger by Stephen King – a book I own but have never read

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas – a book that intimidated me

Red Rising by Pierce Brown – a book I’ve read at least once





2016 Challenge Updates

It’s just over halfway through the year and I haven’t really updated any challenges on here, but I am definitely working on them!

Check out my progress:


2016 Popsugar Challenge





2016 Eclectic Reader Challenge

  • A book about books (fiction or nonfiction)
  • Serial killer thriller Kill You Twice by Chelsea Cain
  • Paranormal romance Lover Avenged by J.R. Ward
  • A novel set on an island Iced by Karen Marie Moning
  • Investigative journalism (non fiction)
  • Disaster fiction The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
  • Steampunk sci fi
  • Any book shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize
  • Psychology (non fiction)
  • Immigrant Experience fiction Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides
  • YA historical fiction A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
  • A debut author in 2016 The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

Goodreads Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge

2016 Reading Challenge
Meganm922 has
read 77 books toward
her goal of
150 books.


What challenges are you doing this year? How is your progress?

Discussion – Review Ratings


Thoughts about the 5 Star Rating scale


I’ve talked about ratings and stars in the past. Years later, it’s still a major topic that is on my mind. It seems like the 5 star rating system is so perfect, yet so obviously flawed.

What is a 3 star rating? Good? Bad? Somewhere in between? Do people buy 3 star books?

I’m not an author, publisher, or anyone who studies the correlation between star ratings and sales. I’m just a reader who uses the system to help me review books and I still don’t really know what to rate books sometimes.

When I review a book, sometimes I go with my gut and throw out a 4 or 5 star review for a book that I totally loved, but might not actually be that great of a book. It’s all based on moods, anyway. If I read the right book at the right time, it can be a 5 star book for me. If I read the same book when I’m not feeling it, it could easily be a 3 star book. I try to be as fair as possible, but it’s difficult because it’s not an accurate system. Sometimes I wonder how unbalanced it would look if I grouped all of my books read together by star rating.

I wonder sometimes if I should make the star system for traditionally published books and self published books differ. I don’t feel bad for throwing out a 3 star rating on a book I liked, but maybe I had some issues with or felt meh about at some point if I paid for the book or borrowed it from a library. But when I’m doing a blog tour or reading a self published book for review, I can’t hold the book to the same standards because it could negatively impact the sales of a book just because I’m being impartial. With self published books, people see a 3 star review as a bad review and no argument of mine is going to change anyone’s mind if they already feel that way. Instead of backing my rating up, it’s almost easier in my head to raise it to 4 just to avoid making a big deal about it and writing the same review I’d always planned to write. And often, that 4 star review still sticks out because everyone seems to always throw out 5 star reviews on Goodreads for self published books.

If I’m rating books for readers, I have to think about how other readers perceive the rating I chose.

My reviews are always honest, but I struggle constantly with star ratings because I know how other people view averages and 3 star reviews. As far as star ratings are concerned, some people view 3 as bad, 4 as okay, and 5 as great. Which makes it a 3 star system instead of 5 really and that really limits how I rate books. It means that if I liked a book, enjoyed it, but it wasn’t amazing, I have to go with 4 instead of 3 always and then books I loved, but weren’t the best best best and I would normally rate 4 stars, I might have to do 5. But it’s not a 5 star book to me. Which is why all of my books are probably crazy if you look at them by rating. Each book suffered through this second guessing rating problem and I end up driving myself mad sometimes.

I am skeptical of a ton of 5 star reviews when I don’t see a lot of various ratings.

Books that are amazing don’t even have 5 star averages because there’s always someone who doesn’t like it and there is always someone who rates conservatively. But with a lot of self published books, I don’t see a mix of ratings. I just see 5 stars or silence and that scares me. What if the book had a blog tour and it was the kind of tour that demanded no negative reviews? I like negative reviews and middle of the road reviews. Those are the ones that I read the most of. I want to see what people didn’t like so I can get an overall idea of what to expect. The quickest way to disappoint me is to pump me up for THE BEST BOOK EVER with all these 5 star reviews and positive feedback. My expectations will be way too high!

Often, I avoid books without negative or middle of the road reviews altogether because there’s no way for me to decide about it and I don’t trust that the reviews I’m reading are from people who paid for or would pay for the book. Which sounds crazy since I’m a blogger and I often review books for nothing other than an honest review. You judge books differently when you think about if you had to pay for them. If you only have a certain budget for all of the books you’ll ever read, would you REALLY rate a book 5 stars if you had to pay $5 for it?

And if the negative reviews just aren’t there.. I think about statistics. If you hand out a book to bloggers to read early, at least one of them will not like it or not think it’s the best book ever 5 star amazing. I mean, it would be crazy to assume that every reader will love your book. But if the reviews are telling me that EVERYONE who reviewed it loved it, I’m just super skeptical. However, I also understand that if you give a book to bloggers to review and one of them reviews it under 4 stars and only 15 people have rated it, it brings down the average. But then.. who am I rating books for? Readers or authors?

The struggle is real.


How do you feel about ratings? Do you think 3 stars is negative? Do you think 5 stars is too good to be true? Do you struggle with star ratings?



This is part of the 2016 Book Blog Discussion Challenge hosted by Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction and Shannon @ It Starts at Midnight