Fall 2017 Readathons

Maybe it’s the approach of sweater weather and the need for an excuse not to rake leaves, but autumn seems to be a popular time for readathons. And Hallowe’en means it’s time for reading spooky books! Some of the readathons started on September 1st, but some don’t start till October. Here are the ones that interest me the most:

#GothicSept at Castle Macabre and #RIPxii. Both of these started yesterday, so this means you can get started early on your Hallowe’en reads. Gothic September focuses on four different Edgar Allan Poe stories. If I locate my giant book of Poe soon, I might join up. I know, I know, I could find the stories on the internet and/or borrow them from the library, but it’s just not the same. The twelfth R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril runs through the end of October and offers many options for participation, from a group read of Slade House to watching movies. In addition to Peril of the Short Story and Peril of the Screen, I will be doing Peril the First, which is a challenge to read four books of perilous content.

#FrightFall at Seasons of Reading. This one runs for the entire month of October and requires the reading of at least one scary book.

So, what will I be reading for these challenges? I will be finishing off a few Agatha Christie short story collections, including The Witness for the Prosecution and Other Stories and The Tuesday Club Murders. I hadn’t been planning to read Christie’s Peril at End House until December (for GenreLand), but how can I not read it for RIP? I also have some hope of finishing A Game of Thrones and Wuthering Heights by the end of October. Other books I plan to read that will likely count are Borderline by Mishell Baker, Poe by J Lincoln Fenn , We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson, My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier, Mapping the Interior by Stephen Graham Jones, The Conjure Woman by Charles W Chesnutt, At the Mountains of Madness by HP Lovecraft, Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff, The Ballad of Black Tom by Victor LaValle, and Lord of the Flies by William Golding.

I have no specific movie-watching plans at this time, but this year’s My Cousin Rachel will likely be out on DVD by the time I read the book for book club, so maybe we will watch it as a group. I’m also watching Season 1 of Game of Thrones as I listen to the audiobook. So far, one DVD of the show lines up nicely with 5 CDs of the book.

 

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A Short Story Challenge

Yes, I’ve joined another challenge. But this one isn’t about books. At least, not specifically about books. It’s about short stories. A thousand of them, to be exact. In a year. Well, we’ll see about that. For myself, I may end up making this a perpetual challenge to see how long it takes me to read 1,000 short stories, then seeing if I can shorten the length of time it takes me to read another 1,000 short stories.

This challenge was posed by writer Travis Richardson, and the Twitter hashtag is #1000storychallenge, so you can join in or at least follow along and see how we’re doing. I’m grateful for this challenge because I feel like I’ve strayed from my short story roots. I’ve been focused on novels the past several years, but once upon a time I wrote lots of short stories. I even submitted many of them, and some of them saw publication. I had a sort of natural storytelling flow of about 2,500 words. But now I try to write something to a submission guideline of 5,000 to 10,000 words, and I feel cramped and stifled. More often than not I give up and declare it the start of another novel. But I’m set for novel starts at the moment and would rather avoid starting more until I get one out into the world.

So yes, I would like to get back into the mode of writing short stories to the point that I always have at least one out for submission. The Missouri Review just announced their contest winners, so my current-submission count is officially zero. But reading short stories, besides helping me get back into that concise rhythm, gives me exposure to more markets to try. Considering what a long-shot my TMR contest entry was — I wonder if their staff had ever before had to read a steampunk machine of death story — this is something I desperately need.

On Joining the Legendary Book Club of Habitica

Apparently I didn’t actually join the Legendary Book Club of Habitica when I joined the guild’s 2016 Modest Reading Challenge. Or maybe I did and they kicked me out because I didn’t post enough? But I did complete the challenge, which was a mere 12 books. Anyway, when I went to look at the 2017 challenges, I made sure to join the guild. And this year I decided to attempt the Ultimate Reading Challenge, which is 52 books.

I know, I know, I said I was done joining annual challenges, but I took a peek at this one and realized that it’s composed almost entirely of tasks I already have for other challenges. So I would be a fool not to join. A fool, I say! So, here are the 52 tasks (in no particular order):

  • A book with a red spine – Dragon of the Red Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne
  • A book set in two different time periods – Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • The oldest book in your TBR pile/list –
  • A book with a month or day of the week in the title
  • A book with an unreliable narrator or ambiguous ending – I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
  • A book set around a holiday other than Christmas/Yule/Hannakuh/Kwanzaa/Festivus/etc
  • A book about a topic you already love – Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog: The Book by Joss Whedon et al
  • A book set in a hotel
  • A book in translation
  • A book that takes place over a character’s life span
  • A book you never finished – You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
  • A book that is mentioned in another book
  • A book set somewhere you’ve never been but would like to visit – Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon (Ireland)
  • A book recommended by an author you love
  • A book with a single-word title – Untitled by Julie Kaewert
  • The first book in a series that you haven’t read before – New Beginnings by Victoria Schwab
  • A book about food
  • A book about a difficult topic
  • A book with a subtitle – Boudoirs to Brothels: The Intimate World of Wild West Women by Michael Rutter
  • A script or screenplay – Black Coffee by Agatha Christie
  • A book by an author who goes by at least one of their initials instead of their name – A Gathering of Shadows by V E Schwab
  • A book with a family-member term in the title
  • A book involving a mythical creature – Promises, Promises by L-J Baker
  • A book featuring something that doesn’t normally talk doing so – Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino
  • A book with a cat on the cover – File M for Murder by Miranda James
  • A book that is set within 100 miles of your location
  • A book by a person with a disability – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  • A classic by a non-European author
  • A book with multiple authors – 2017 Fifth Annual Battle of the Bards Poetry Contest
  • A book based on mythology – The House of Shattered Wings by Aliette de Bodard
  • A book that is a frame story – Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
  • A Newbery Award winner – The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
  • A book by an author who uses a pseudonym – Murder at Hazelmoor by Agatha Christie
  • A book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color – Persona by Genevieve Valentine
  • A book with a title that has a character’s name
  • A collection of stories by a woman
  • A book where the main character is a different ethnicity than you – Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
  • A book of letters or about letters – The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • A book by an author from a country you’ve never visited – Born a Crime by Trevor Noah
  • A book with one of the four seasons in the title – In the Dead of Winter by Nancy Mehl
  • A book you loved as a child – Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
  • A book recommended by a librarian or bookseller – Planetfall by Emma Newman
  • A book with pictures – The Steampunk Tarot by Barbara Moore and Aly Fell
  • A book that you can finish in a day – Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
  • A book with a chase scene – Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • A book by an indigenous person
  • A book set in the wilderness
  • A book published before you were born – Giant’s Bread by Mary Westmacott
  • A book from a non-human perspective
  • A book nominated for an award in 2017 – All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
  • A book with career advice – The Wonder by Emma Donoghue
  • A book of any genre that addresses current events – Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies by Chris Kluwe

Since double-dipping is discouraged in this challenge, and I have to mark a task as completed in order to get the xp for it, I’m going to be declaring each task as it is completed and just hope it works out well. Most of these I have a pretty good idea what I’m going to read, but a few are new tasks. Like “a book with a chase scene.” Anybody have any suggestions for that one?

More 2017 Reading Challenges

Okay, the first week of 2017 has already come and gone (and Betty White is still alive!) so it’s time to nail down my reading challenge goals for the year. dff0b868f44a5487f22365767ea081d0

The aforementioned Book Riot Read Harder Challenge and Award-Winning Science Fiction and Fantasy Challenge have both been updated for 2017.

Book Riot specifically states that double-dipping is acceptable for Read Harder, so I may do a little bit of that, but I will still try not to. The method I plan to use is to note all applicable categories when I finish/review the book, but I won’t officially declare the book for the category unless it doesn’t fit any other categories for that challenge. Needlessly complicated? Probably. That’s just how I roll.

For Shaunesay’s AWSFF Challenge, I am shooting for the Orion level (9 to 12 novels). (Shooting…stars….get it? ::sigh::) The categories only come into play for the bingo games, and Shaunesay is clear that not only may a book not count for more than one bingo square, it may not count for more than one bingo. I will definitely be giving bingo a try on the card that is a holdover from the 2016 challenge, but I doubt I will get very far on the Grand Master bingo cards. I’ve printed them out and will see how it goes, but I don’t hold out much hope for success there, as most of the GMs on the cards are not ones I’m already intending to read this year.

Speaking of bingo, there’s a Goodreads challenge group for 2017 Book Bingo. It has a lot of crossover to other challenges, and (unless the rules explicitly prohibit it) I always permit myself to count a book across multiple challenges, so this one should be relatively easy. So far I’ve finished two books for 2017, and I can fit both of them onto this board, which bodes well.

Another challenge with a game board is my local library’s GenreLand Challenge. It doesn’t have signups and prizes like the library’s summer challenge does, but it’s a nice low-pressure way to read eclectically throughout the year.

There’s another category-based challenge I’m doing since it also has a fair amount of crossover to other challenges. It’s from online book shop Better World Books, which is partially to blame for the fact that my library is measured in tons.

And I had better stop there, so I’ll wrap up with a quick reminder that the three (okay, maybe four if I make good on that threat to host a cat-cover challenge) reading challenges that I am hosting can be found in my new Goodreads group, Challenges from Exploding Steamboats. Invite all your Goodreads friends and frenemies!

 

My 2016 in Books

I finished 65 books in 2016, and the Goodreads site put together a nice little summary for me. As usual, I’m running behind on writing book reviews, but I’m certainly in much better shape than I have been some years. I’ll be giving priority to reviews for the Award-Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy Challenge so I can get those linked to Shaunesay’s challenge blog. I think I wound up with a whopping three qualifying reads for that challenge, falling short of my goal of five, but I will try it again this year.

I successfully completed two challenges in 2016. I read books for all 24 tasks of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, but I took advantage of the double-dipping option, so that does not reflect 24 separate books.

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Challenge completed on December 26th!

Though looking it over, I think I probably could have almost completed it without any double-dipping. Then over at Habitica‘s Legendary Book Club, I read 12 books, one for each month’s task in the Modest Reading Challenge. Sometime this week I need to check in over there and see if they have any new challenges I want to do, but it will need to wait until the houseguests have departed.

I did not fare quite so well on my Personal Reading Challenge or PopSugar’s Ultimate Reading Challenge. My 2016 PRC had 30 reading prompts, and I completed 27. Which isn’t too bad, I suppose. That comes out to 90%, which is definitely a passing grade. But it also allows for some double-dipping. I completed only 33 of PopSugar’s 41 challenge prompts, which comes to 80%, but I didn’t do any double-dipping on that one. Between the two challenges, I have 11 prompts unfulfilled, so I will be adding them to my 2017 PRC, which doubles it. Dang.

I haven’t yet chosen my top reads of 2016, but you can watch that link for developments over the next few days. The 2016 Stinker of the Year Award, however, goes to The Cat in the Hat by Dr Seuss.

 

 

My 2017 Personal Reading Challenge

As I mentioned in a recent post, this year I started a Personal Reading Challenge based on 2015 reads that didn’t fit into that year’s challenges. My 2016 challenge consisted of 30 categories, and I have only five left to complete. Time is running short, but it is do-able. Fortunately for 2017-me, next year’s list is considerably shorter:

  1. A self-published book
  2. A book about a haunted building
  3. An illustrated children’s book
  4. A book with a key on the cover
  5. A book with the word “Girl” in the title
  6. A story told from a non-human POV
  7. An award-winning book
  8. A book with a woman on the cover
  9. A book by a medical doctor
  10. A book about a sheriff
  11. A book with a cat on the cover

And I fell short on two 2016 challenges (this one and PopSugar’s) so I’m adding those prompts to this one:

  1. A book featuring a bookstore
  2. A book set in a retirement community
  3. A book set on another planet
  4. A book you haven’t read since high school
  5. A political memoir
  6. A book at least 100 years older than you
  7. A book from Oprah’s Book Club
  8. A book recommended by a family member
  9. A book with a protagonist who has your occupation
  10. The first book you see in a bookstore
  11. A book about a road trip

As before, feel free to join in! You can comment on this post and/or on your own blog or Twitter or whatever. I’m also starting a Goodreads group for this and other challenges I pose. I’d love to hear your suggestions for books for these categories.

A Challenging Season

Okay, let’s try to think happy thoughts, like maybe I will actually live to see 2018. (That’s looking pretty iffy with the incoming administration, but stranger things have happened.) So let’s take a look at the upcoming reading challenges.

The PopSugar reading challenge has become something of a staple in my life, so I will be setting up a 2017 shelf for that one. I have just now discovered the Goodreads group devoted to this one, and I am pleased to see that PopSugar has been paying attention to its discussions and suggestions. Another Goodreads challenge group I joined this year is the one for Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. I stand a solid chance of completing that one this year! I’m looking forward to next year’s, but as far as I know, they haven’t posted it yet. I’m also looking forward to next year’s Award-Winning Science Fiction & Fantasy Reading Challenge, even though I’m still behind on the 3-month version running through the end of this year.

I am continuing my Completist Christie Challenge, of course, and I welcome people to join me. I don’t feel like administering others’ involvement, but discussion on the post is certainly fine. Likewise, I will be repeating my Personal Reading Challenge in 2017, so watch for that post. (Yes, I know, I still need to go in and do a massive update on the 2016 post.)

And now my friend Michelle Stockard Miller has created an entire Facebook group just for reading challenges, the aptly named Sleep Less – Read More. And…wow…okay, let’s see what I’m letting myself in for.

I am selecting the Mt Vancouver challenge level in the Mt TBR Reading Challenge 2017. That’s 36 books from my TBR piles. Here’s hoping I upgrade and scale even larger peaks as the year goes on! It looks like I will be joining several of the challenges posed by Bev Hankins. The Follow the Clues Mystery Challenge puts a clever spin on the game by requiring links in a “chain of evidence.” I’m going for a six-book “infraction” to start with and maybe I’ll be able to level up! Oh, and sure, let’s do the Vintage Mystery Cover Scavenger Hunts. Both of them, why the hell not! I’ve just printed off the checklists and noted the date ranges on them, and my goal is at least six checks on each list.

Jamie Ghione is running several challenges in 2017, and I think I will give the Humor Reading Challenge a shot at the Cartoonist (1 to 5 books) level.

I was considering using the Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge to bridge 2016 and 2017, but I just don’t think I’m up for it this time. It starts next week, and I need to get focused on NaNoWriMo instead.

I might host a real challenge myself for 2017. I’ve been trying to make “Start Less – Finish More” my personal reading mantra, and I track my ratio. I’m not doing all that well. So the No Book Left Behind Challenge would be for encouraging me to go find all those books I have abandoned and either finish them or give up on them. It should be a nice complement to Bev’s Mt TBR challenge. And maybe I can find a Keep Them Moving challenge over on the BookCrossing forums. Oh, dear, that’s another dangerous place!