Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A few more notches on the bedstand...

Overall, I'm feeling a little behind in my reading.  First, I read The Sister.  My normal "MO" for reading is that I read a book at lunch for a couple of days, get pretty well hooked, and end up staying up way too late one night to finish it.  Unfortunately last week was full of errands that needed to be run in the evenings, so I wasn't able to finish it in the evening.  I was feeling very frustrated by the time Saturday rolled around and I was able to finish the book and then, well, it ended.  And I was left feeling like WTH?

I'm not sure what even caught my eye about the book.  When I first read the blurb, for some reason I thought it was going to be a funny book.  "Humorous book" is one of the categories, so I was okay with that.  Then about 50 pages in I could tell it wasn't a funny book and thought maybe mystery, but then it wasn't really a mystery.  It was kind of a horror story, but (as one goodreads reviewer said "The only thing it lacks is a sense of horror....") it really wasn't that either.  By the end I was like "Did I just waste a week of my life on this?"  Luckily there's a "book by/about someone you don't like" and I definitely didn't like the main character of this book by the end, so I guess we'll pop it there and have done.

Because I could tell generally where that book was heading, I decided to go for a book I knew I'd likely enjoy for my next book.  When I was a kid, one of our teachers was a fairly conservative Christian and we were forbidden from reading The Witch of Blackbird Pond.  I've always wanted to read it, though, and this seemed a good opportunity to jump in.  I was not as enamored of it as I had hoped, but it was a relief after The Sister.

I got suckered in by a colorful cover and thought maybe I'd enjoy The Cherry Cola Book Club, but overall it was a really disappointing read for my "book with a fruit in the title" category.  This is the kind of book that you feel like publishing companies publish just because they need to meet a quota this month, and hey everyone loves a good "they're going to close the library--we need to save it" drama, right?  Yeah, do yourselves a favor and pass.

Finally, I greatly enjoyed reading Bloodsucking Fiends to complete my "humorous book" category.  It really was a humorous book, by the same author who wrote "Lamb," which is an old favorite of mine. This was a fun book about a woman who was turned into a vampire (mostly to amuse the vampire she turned into) and her struggles to figure out how to survive.  Campy and entertaining, with a solid plot and good characters.  I need to read more of Christopher Moore's books when I have time.

Next up is my behemoth "book over 600 pages" category, which I'm guessing will take me awhile (and disturb the cats as a 600 page hardcover takes up too much lap space for them to be comfortable sitting on me), and I'm working my way through a "book written by a celebrity."  We'll see which I finish first!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Off to a good start!

I'll admit to cheating a little bit.  I had already read about seven books by the time I have this list created--but due to my late start creating the list, I'm going to go ahead and use a few of them.  I don't know that I will have time to review every book I read, but so far I've managed to do reviews.

First, a trilogy, The Nightblade Epic First Trilogy Box Set: Books 1-3 of The Nightblade Epic  Luckily these books were fairly quick reads, because honestly they wouldn't have been worth the effort if they were longer.

Second, a book of poetry, Goblin Market  Technically this was one long poem, not a book of different poems, but I found it enjoyable and will likely go back to it in the future.

Third, a book about trains, Orphan Train  I'm being a little loose here in my interpretation of the topic, but I feel like it's in keeping with the spirit of a book challenge.

There's two other books I've read--one I actually started in 2015 (even if I only read 40 pages) so I'm not going to count it, and the other I'm not sure what category it might fit into so I'm going to add it quite yet.  Still, three books (five really, if you don't count the trilogy as one book) is a good start.  I've got a start on a couple of other books, and have been looking at what I can read to complete the other topics.

Knowing myself, and how long a year it, I don't know for certain if I'll want to create a 2017 Pick Your Poison list, but I am considering things as I go along, such as: How easy/hard is this list?  Are there changes I would make?  What would make it more appealing?  What would make it work better?

One thing that has occurred to me is that I wrote this from a very American-centric viewpoint.  I have Facebook friends in a handful of different countries, and my initial blog post was viewed by folks in fun places like Spain, Germany, New Zealand, Ireland, Australia and Great Britain.  Looking at my list I see topics like "a book from your home state."  I choose "state" over "city" because the book challenge I did last year had a city one and, being from South Bend, IN--a lovely city, but not the world's most happenin' place when it comes to exotic book locales--I found "city" a bit too restrictive.  But now I'm thinking not every country has states.

Maybe I need to consider that in the future.

Also, I made topics like "a book set in Europe" because for me that's an exotic and different location.  Perhaps someone from Spain would rather read "a book set in the US" or "a book set in India."  And I have topics like "a New York Times bestseller", "an Oprah Book club book", "a Newbery Award Winner."  (And I just noticed a typo in "Newberry" on the list--whoops!)  Maybe I'm including too many books from lists that are common in the US but not so much elsewhere.

Granted I would go crazy trying to find award winning lists in every country around the globe, so it probably wouldn't be in my best interest to try to be all inclusive.  But perhaps focusing on other types of awards (an award winning Fantasy or Mystery) instead of specific lists would be helpful.  Or maybe just limit the number of topics related to location.

Just things I'm pondering.....

Friday, January 8, 2016

The 2016 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge

Sometime early last year (or late 2014) I saw a 2015 reading challenge. Anyone who knows me knows I love to read. When I was a teenager I would often read a couple books a night (much to my father's dismay) and while I no longer have that luxury, I still love to settle down with a good book as often as possible.

One thing I've found recently, though, is that my tastes have changed, and new genres are out there, and some of the genres I loved really don't exist anymore, so I've been a little frustrated finding things I want to read. Stuck in a rut, really, with a fairly narrow mind about what genres to pick up, and often I've found the books to be poorly written or uninteresting. A book challenge sounded like an excellent way to get me out of the rut. I printed off the graphic and left it on my desk at work.

Around about October I was cleaning off my desk and found the book challenge printout and thought, "Bummer. I was going to do this." Then I started looking at the list and realized that I'd already read books that would qualify for a good bit of the challenge. So I buckled down and started a reading marathon and managed, just barely, to finish the challenge. Whew.

Immediately I started thinking about 2016, and looking for challenges to keep me going. One was too long. One was too short. One had multi-levels, but tended to be all on the same topic.... I was beginning to feel like Goldilocks stumbling around in the three bears' house. (Anyone interested in checking out some other challenges, this article has some great ones.) I finally decided to take the best bits of all the challenges and put them together into something I thought would work not just for me, but for some of my friends who also were looking for a good challenge.

The result is the "2016 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge." There are five levels, starting with the Baker's Dozen (a book a month plus one) through the Freaky Reader (two books a week baby!). Topics are arranged in groups in order to push you a little out of your comfort zone, so that you can't read 4 children's books and skip the 500 page monstrosities. And because just about every challenge I saw had at least one topic that was a real doozy, I decided to include a couple of wildcard topics to help you out.

So here you go.  The 2016 Pick Your Poison Reading Challenge.

A printable pdf is available here for your convenience.

I will be trying to blog about some of the books I read--probably not all, as I'm gonna go for broke and try to do all 104 (it is my challenge after all).  But feel free to check back to see how I'm doing.

Super Awesome Special Thanks go to my friend Good Karma for helping with the fonts and layout of the final challenge and for suggesting some topic changes to replace the ones I made while brain dead. You should totally check out her shop here! And of course, thanks to the whole Cafe gang at Creative Breakroom for putting up with my stress and shenanigans while I was putting this together.