Monday, December 9, 2019

The 2020 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

Wow.  Another year.  Another decade.  Another reading challenge.  This is my fifth year doing the Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge, and I'm very excited by this year's list.  I've tried to include some stash busting categories as well as some that are a little more challenging.

2019 was a bit of a rough year for me.  My mother passed in early March.  Mom got her first job in a library when she was 14, and went on to work in different libraries throughout her life. It's from her that I really got my love of reading and my huge respect for the important role that libraries play in our society.  My younger sister has carried on the proud librarian tradition, working as an archivist preserving knowledge for the future.  My older sister has had some serious heart issues, and finally this fall had heart surgery, which required a lengthy hospital stay and help at home for several weeks, so I have spent a lot of time on the road listening to audiobooks as I traveled back and forth to my hometown.  Thank goodness for audiobooks.  I would really be struggling to finish my challenge this year if it weren't for them.  I'm pretty sure I'll finish just in time for the New Year.

I'm looking forward to 2020 as an opportunity to celebrate my mother and my love of reading and also the fact that my older sister is still here with us and doing much better.

So here it is, the 2020 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge.

For folks who like to be able to print off a the list so they can take notes or make changes, click here for a downloadable PDF.

For folks who like to use spreadsheets to keep track of their books, click here for a spreadsheet you can save to your drive.

And as always, super special thanks to Good Karma for all the great graphics and fonts.  Show her some love by checking out her shop and grabbing some goodies for yourself.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

The 2019 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

It's that time of year again.  It's dark before I leave work, and by the time I get home all I'm thinking about is a cup of hot chocolate and a good book to curl up with.  With the New Year on the horizon, we're all thinking about resolutions and goals and pushing ourselves a little bit further.

For the fourth year, I am excited to offer the Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge as an option for being creative with your reading goals this upcoming year.  I have designed this challenge to be flexible for  because I know there are a lot of different types of readers out there.  If you struggle to finish a book a month, the Baker's Dozen is the choice for you--pick 13 books from the topics.  If you are like me, and find yourself making trips almost daily to the library to return books you've finished and get new ones, the Freak Reader option should be your choice--read one book that fits each category in all of the topics.

I also know that sometimes you just can't find a book to work in a topic, so I've created some wildcards to help you out.  If you're up for a super challenge be a Freaky Reader and complete all the Wildcards.  Go on.  I dare you.

So here it is, the 2019 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge:

Many, many thanks to my good friend Good Karma for the graphics and the new look for 2019.  I always send her an email that says, "Do you mind?..." and she responds, "Of course I will!" and then I wait (no so) patiently for the magic that she creates.

Good Karma is also way more tech savvy than I am, and "knows what the people want" when it comes to being able to download things.  This year she has once again created a 2-page pdf so you can print it off and make notes.  Or, for the folks like me who love spreadsheets, she has created a great spreadsheet for you to keep track of what you've read.

Click here for Printable PDF

Click here for Spreadsheet

Good Karma also has a great shop where she sells lovely handmade housewares, wallets, journals, handspun yarn, and much more!  Take a moment to check out her shop and help me thank her by maybe making a purchase or two.

I also owe a world of thanks to the supportive gals in the "Cafe"--you guys know who you are.  Thanks for proofing my list and making suggestions!  I appreciate all of you!!!

Hope your 2019 is full of great books!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Final Legendary Carrot Uprising story

So I have definitely entered that stage of life where pulling an all-nighter is beyond my capability.  In the last couple of days before my final project for class was due, I found myself yawning uncontrollably by 10 pm.  I set my alarm early (around 4:30am) so I could get some writing done before work.

My final portfolio was due last night at 11:59pm.  At 11:21, I clicked "submit" and I am done.

For those who read the original draft of the Legendary Carrot Uprising, if you are interesting in reading the final version, it can be found here.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Legendary Carrot Uprising

I am taking a creative writing course this semester from the college where I work.  Our final project for the term is a short story.  I was really struggling with an idea for my story when a friend of mine mentioned a phrase that she always wanted to see made into a story, "Legendary Carrot Uprising."

Somehow that title really appealed to me and I found myself coming up with all sorts of fun, ridiculous ideas of what might happen in carrots decided enough was enough.

I have submitted the initial draft of my story.  My classmates and instructor should all comment on the story and then I'm expected to make final edits and submit a final version at the end of the term.

For your reading pleasure, Legendary Carrot Uprising.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The 2018 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

Wow!  Where did this year go?!!!  I have been busily reading and dealing with some family matters and have neglected this blog terribly.  I have four more books to read to finish last years challenge.  Woohoo!  Feeling much less pressure this year to finish up.

But while I'm busily finishing up this year's list, I definitely want to get next year's challenge up so you can start planning.  I'm really pleased with it.

My super awesome friend, Good Karma, who helps me with the graphics, this year created a two page .pdf so that you have a little more room for notes if you are writing on the print out.  Click here for the .pdf version.

For folks who have not "picked your poison" in the past, I created this challenge to try to be a little more flexible than some reading challenges.  I remember looking at some challenges with only 10 or so topics and thinking "That might work for some folks, but I need more."  At the same time, I know not everyone has as much free time as I do (I've heard some people out there have these things called "friends" and "family"), and maybe a book a month is as much as you can manage.  I also created the wildcards to try to give you an opportunity to swap out some topics if you're just not finding anything.

Mostly, though, I'm hoping to get folks to push themselves a little bit out of their comfort zone, to see if there are books out there that they might not read otherwise, and to have fun!

Please feel free to share the list, but don't forget to give credit where credit is due. 😉

And finally, as always, super awesome thanks to Good Karma for taking time out of her busy schedule (and fighting with her recalcitrant internet service) to help me out with the great graphics.  Please check out her online shop for lovely handmade gifts, including housewares, wallets, knitting and crochet cases, and other great stuff.  (And if you ask real nice, she might even do something custom for you!)

Here's to a reading filled 2018!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The 2017 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

Wow.  Time has totally gotten away from me.  I'm seriously behind in my blog posts!  Guess I've maybe been reading too much!!!!  I have been a busy little beaver when it comes to reading this year. Per Goodreads, as of today, I have read 217 books for a total of 64,595 pages!  You can see my final tally here:

Niffer's Year In Books2016

(**Note: The number will adjust as I read more books, so while as of today I've only read--Only! Ha!--217 books, there's still 17 more days to the new year and I expect that number to go up.)

Even with 217 books, I have not quite completed my 2016 Pick Your Poison Challenge.  Remember!  The point of the challenge is not just to read a certain number of books, but to read books that meet certain criteria.  I have 6 more books to go to finish all my categories.  6 books...17 days...Can she do it?....

But while we're fretting about whether or not I can finish this year's challenge, we should not forget next year.  I have been putting my poor little brain to work and trying to come up with an even better reading challenge for everyone out there.

Ladies and Gentlemen!  I present, for your reading pleasure, the 2017 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge!!!!  (drumroll, please.....)

A printable .pdf is available here for your convenience.

A few hints for folks:

This is totally supposed to be a fun challenge.  Don't look at the Freaky Reader challenge and think, "Man, I could never read 104 books."  Check out the Baker's Dozen challenge and think, "You know, I probably will read 8 or 10 books this year.  I bet some of those books will fit into some of these categories."  One of my friends recently commented that she didn't think she could ever do this challenge.  I stalked her Goodreads read books from last year and she had totally completed the Baker's Dozen challenge.  The challenge is as much to stir your creativity as anything.  Is there a river mentioned in the book you're reading right now?  Dude, mark it off for the "A book about a river" category in the "Take It To The Bank" topic.  Reading a mystery and the murder victim has a pet cat?  Check off "A book with a cat in it" under "Critters."  You can do this!

Need help finding books that fit into a category?  Seriously, check out the Lists on  Last year I found "a book that takes place on an island" here.  The have a list of books where the dog lives or cats in romance novels.

And if you totally can't find a book that fits, or you're just running out of time, remember you can use a Wildcard category for any of the levels except Baker's Dozen.  (And heck, you can use it for that, too, if you really want to.  I won't judge you!)

And of course, once again, Extra Special (With A Helping Of Stevia On Top) Thanks are due to my friend Good Karma for helping with the fonts and getting me all the files I needed to post this.  (I'm so helpless with it comes to computer stuff.)  You should totally check out her lovely shop here.  And, as always, thanks to the Cafe gang at Creative Breakroom for offering support and suggestions as I put together this list.

I will try to come back with another blog post soon to update my 2016 progress!

Monday, March 21, 2016


Wow.  More than a month since my last post.

February was not a particularly good month for me.  I love pictures of happy animals, so I follow a few pages on Facebook that are either rescues or just pages of an individual critter.  Two of my favorite pages, Rocky Ridge Refuge and Jamie Samoyed, lost an beloved animal.  Rocky Ridge lost one of the most incredible critter ambassadors ever, Butterbean the bull terrier.  (For a lovely tribute to Butterbean click here.  Much love to Janice.)  Jamie Samoyed lost his kitty friend, Fish.

In the midst of all that, I lost my precious kitty Zigamaboo very suddenly.  She was only seven years old and had never had any health problems.  My vet suspects it was a heart attack.  Z was never a cuddly cat--she had been born to a feral mom and never quite lost her wildness--but she was very vocal and loved her head scratches.

One of the things that I find really amazing when you lose a pet is how empty the house seems without them.  I had eight cats and two dogs--my home is never empty--and yet I have routines with each of my critters.  I turn a corner and I expect to see Z sleeping in a particular basket, or perched in a familiar spot on a cat tree.  In every room there's suddenly an empty corner or a blanket that should have a little furball asleep on it.

I was also surprised by the reaction of one of my other kitties, Lincoln.  I knew that he and Z sometimes played together.  I didn't realize how attached he was to her.  When I returned to my house after taking her to the vet, I found him actively looking for her.  He took short naps in a couple of her favorite spots--but only short naps, as if he was expecting her to boot him out and when she didn't he went looking for her again.

Within a couple of days, Lincoln was driving everyone in the house mad as he desperately looked for someone to play with.  I spent a lot more time playing with him to try to compensate, but I work a full time job during the week and on Sundays I have a part time job.  And I like to sleep sometimes.  It became very apparent that instead of staying with a seven cat household, I was going to have to find Lincoln a friend to save everyone's sanity.

It took four different rescues, but I finally found a super energetic, crazy, seven month old kitty to add to the household.

At the rescue, he was Charlie, but I felt that was a little too prosaic to fit with the rest of the crew, so after a couple of days of internet searches and reading "What to name the baby" books, I finally settled on Petoskey, because his marking reminded me a bit of the petoskey stones I used to find as a kid on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Being a rescue, Petoskey had to be quarantined (he had a snotty nose and icky eyes) and having him in his own room for a week or so just to get acclimated is a good idea anyway, so I've been spending a lot of time sitting with him in a spare bedroom.  Plenty of time for reading, but not so much for updating the blog.  Once his snot cleared up, I started introducing him to the other kitties--first just Lincoln, but eventually to everyone.  It's been a little stressful and there's been plenty of hisses, but overall things are going well.

In any event, I'm up to 50 books read, and no blog post in a month, so time to catch up a bit.  These are the books I've read since my last post:

A book about sportsThe Runner by Cynthia Voigt.  Not my favorite of the Tillerman series, but still a solid book.
An autobiography: Yes My Accent Is Real by Kunal Nayyar.  Not really an autobiography (the guy is only 34) so much as a series of memories about growing up and his acting career.  I enjoyed it a lot.
A book of historical fiction set before 1900: The Miniaturist by Jesse Burton.  A kind of dark story (based in Amsterdam in the winter!), but strongly written.
A book published before you were born: The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.  One of the things I'm enjoying about doing these challenges is pushing the envelope a bit and finding some more obscure books to fit the topic.  Sometimes I find a gem.  Sometimes not so much.  This one was not so much.
You've seen the movie--now read the book: A Slight Trick Of The Mind by Mitch Cullin.  I honestly think I might have been disappointed by this one if I hadn't seen the movie first and had an idea what to expect. Yes, Sherlock Holmes is the main character. No, this is not a mystery. At the same time, I think the book is a little bit deeper than the movie, and not as "Pollyanna-ish" in the end. Worth the read.
The first book by an author, published in the last 5 years: Jackaby by William Ritter. A decent book, but with it's flaws.  A nice, light read, and I look forward to reading more in the series.
A book you can finish in a day: Let's Be Less Stupid by Patricia Marx.  Finished it in a day, and regretted the time wasted on it.
A book about somewhere you want to visit: The Shadow Of The Wind by

A non-fiction book about science: The Soul Of An Octopus by Sy Montgomery.  More memoir than scientific, but a decent read.
A book published the decade you were born: If On A Winter's Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino.  An odd book, with a very different premise, I enjoyed it although it got a little confusing towards the end.
A fable: Frederick's Fables by


I've got a few more in progress.  Hopefully it won't be as long before my next update.