Tag Archives: reading challenges

My RIP X Reading List


Better late than never! So this weekend I decided to sign up for RIP X after quite a few years of thinking, “oh, that sounds like such fun.”  Yes, even though in the past I’ve always sucked at reading challenges – in fact, signing up for a reading challenge pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t touch a single book that met that particular challenge criteria.

But I’m in the midst of embarking on a new life right now, and I’m determined to stop doing what I’ve always done in order to effect some hopefully awesome changes. Who says enjoying a reading challenge or two can’t be part of my new future, right?

And to make it pretty easy on myself, I’m signing up for the following levels:


Peril the Second: reading two books of any length which fit within the RIP categories (mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror and supernatural).


Peril of the Short Story: I’ll be (hopefully) reading RIP-related short stories during the challenge period as well.

And now the real fun begins:


Even though I’m only aiming for Peril the Second, I am such a moody reader I always work better if I’m working off a long list of potential reads than otherwise. And then it occurred to me I should also try to use this opportunity to get through some of the books in my TBR, instead of new and exciting titles yet to come my way. So here are the books I might be reading for RIP X, all of which come from my TBR piles:

Pieces and Players by Blue Balliett (middle grade mystery)

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong (dark fantasy)

The Hanged Man by P.N. Elrod (mystery, dark fantasy)

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie (mystery)

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson (supernatural, dark fantasy)

Bag of Bones by Stephen King (horror)

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor (dark fantasy)

Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub (horror)

Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake (horror)

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (horror)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (horror)

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (mystery, horror)

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons (horror)

Short story collections:

Dark Screams, volume 1, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (I have several of these volumes)

The Best Horror of the Year (I have several of these volumes as well)

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, edited by Laird Barron

The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler

The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Actually, I have a lot more horror short story collections scattered around the place. Once I start packing my books, I’m sure more of them will surface …

So this is my RIP X reading list! Surely with such a large selection of books, I’ll be able to finish two between now and the end of October, right?

{2015 Goals} Reducing the TBR Stash – The First Five

Even though I haven’t bought that many new books since we moved from our house into the condo three years ago (I have indulged in the occasional book-buying binge – I admit it – but not many) my physical TBR stash hasn’t reduced in size. My TBR books are double and triple stacked on whatever surfaces I can afford to give over to them (which means closets and the tops of bookshelves).

So I thought I’d motivate myself and see if I can’t do something about the state of the TBR in 2015. As I mentioned in my previous post (A Short Story a Day), I just don’t do well with reading challenges – although I really get tempted. I know there are quite a few reading challenges aimed at helping us bookish types reduce our TBR piles, but knowing me, the moment I sign up for one of them, I’m doomed never to even look at my TBR stacks in the new year, much less take books off of them and – gasp – read them.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little quiet, informal self-challenge. I went through my TBR stash and picked ten books that I really really want to read. Why these books were still hidden away in my TBR stash beats me – it’s not like I was saying to myself, “Oh, I don’t remember buying this!”. Every book I pulled from my stash, I knew full well was there. Because, as I mentioned, these are books I really really want to read.

I think it’s about time I read them, don’t you think? I’ve picked ten books. Here are the first five:

Photo 2014-12-18, 8 18 55 PM

1. Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completelyaccurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .

What more can I say? It’s about time I read this, that’s for sure. I expect a lot of laugh out loud moments when I do.

2. Odd Thomas, by Dean Koontz

“The dead don’t talk. I don’t know why.” But they do try to communicate, with a short-order cook in a small desert town serving as their reluctant confidant. Meet Odd Thomas, the unassuming young hero of Dean Koontz’s dazzling New York Times bestseller, a gallant sentinel at the crossroads of life and death who offers up his heart in these pages and will forever capture yours.

Sometimes the silent souls who seek out Odd want justice. Occasionally their otherworldly tips help him prevent a crime. But this time it’s different. A stranger comes to Pico Mundo, accompanied by a horde of hyena-like shades who herald an imminent catastrophe. Aided by his soul mate, Stormy Llewellyn, and an unlikely community of allies that includes the King of Rock ’n’ Roll, Odd will race against time to thwart the gathering evil.

I decided I wanted to read Odd Thomas after I read In Odd We Trust, the Odd Thomas graphic novel. The link is to the review I wrote of it – back in 2009. Uh, yeah, I may not have mentioned this, but I apparently have books that have been in my TBR stash for quite a while now. Quite a while.  

3. The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova

Breathtakingly suspenseful and beautifully written, The Historian is the story of a young woman plunged into a labyrinth where the secrets of her family’s past connect to an inconceivable evil: the dark fifteenth-century reign of Vlad the Impaler and a time-defying pact that may have kept his awful work alive through the ages. The search for the truth becomes an adventure of monumental proportions, taking us from monasteries and dusty libraries to the capitals of Eastern Europe – in a feat of storytelling so rich, so hypnotic, so exciting that it has enthralled readers around the world.

Another one I’ve been wanting to read for a long while. The blurb absolutely captivates me.

4. Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes, by Maria Konnikova

No fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can we learn to cultivate these abilities ourselves, to improve our lives at work and at home?

We can, says psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova, and in Mastermind she shows us how. Beginning with the “brain attic”—Holmes’s metaphor for how we store information and organize knowledge—Konnikova unpacks the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights. Drawing on twenty-first-century neuroscience and psychology, Mastermind explores Holmes’s unique methods of ever-present mindfulness, astute observation, and logical deduction. In doing so, it shows how each of us, with some self-awareness and a little practice, can employ these same methods to sharpen our perceptions, solve difficult problems, and enhance our creative powers. For Holmes aficionados and casual readers alike, Konnikova reveals how the world’s most keen-eyed detective can serve as an unparalleled guide to upgrading the mind.

I first saw this on Brain Pickings (2013, so aha! This one hasn’t been in the TBR stash that long!). It’s the only non-fiction book in this list – I think it’s because it was with some of my other fiction TBRs. Now that I think about it, I have a lot of non-fiction books I want to get to, too …

5. The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.

One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.

I LOVED The Passage  – as you can see from my review, I couldn’t stop raving about it. I was so excited about the sequel. So much so I even bought it in hardcover (I hardly ever do that). And then – I never got around to reading it! Partly it’s because I kept thinking I really should reread The Passage first, to reaquaint myself with the world. And when I start thinking like that, well, you know how it is. Now I have to find the time to read two big books. Big obstacle right there.

But I’m not sabotaging myself this time around. I’ll just plunge into The Twelve, trust that Justin Cronin will bring me up to speed relatively quickly and put me right back into the story.

So these are the first five books from my TBR that I plan on reading in 2015. Next five will show up tomorrow (because, you know, I’m blogging every day now …)

What’s the state of your TBR? Do you have any strategies for reducing your TBR piles in the new year?

{2015 Goals} A Short Story a Day

I am terrible at reading challenges. The few years I succumbed to the temptation and signed up for a few (well, okay, several), I totally failed. As in, big time. In fact, out of the several reading challenges I signed on for in those years, I only ever completed one, because it was an easy one. I did a reread of all the Harry Potter books in audio (and if I’d signed on again for something similar this year, I would have completed it!).

It almost seems to me, if I sign on for a reading challenge, it means I’ve increased my chances of not completing a single book associated with that challenge for that year. I’m serious. That’s how bad I am at them.

At this time of the year, I always find myself so tempted as I see everyone announcing the great reading challenges they’re joining in 2015. I want to join in, but I just don’t trust myself.

When it comes to reading challenges, I’m like the little kid who sits when she’s told to stand, and stands when told to sit.

But I did set myself a kind of mini reading challenge earlier this year, of reading a short story a day. And I did do it for a while – and best of all, it was a lot of fun while I was doing it. And if this 365 days of blogging is any indication so far (well, okay, it’s only been seventeen days, but they’ve been seventeen days of easy, effortless blogging, which rather amazes me), I might have more success with self-challenges.

So in 2015, I’m going to do a short-story a day reading challenge. I have short stories from several more anthologies to add to my short story box, and I’ll continue to use the randomized method of selecting a short story to read, since this random method worked so well for me earlier this year.

Photo 2014-12-17, 4 10 31 PMThe Short Story Box, for Totally Randomized Reading Fun

There are a few reasons why I want to read short stories more regularly:

  1. As a reader, I have a lot of short story anthologies, but for some reason, when I’m wanting something to read, I never reach for any one of them. Even though I know I’ll enjoy them (I mean, good grief, I have a few short story collections by Neil Gaiman that I haven’t read yet!). So I have stacks and stacks of short story collections just sitting around gathering both physical and digital dust..
  2. As a writer, during the period earlier this year when I was reading a short story a day, I just buzzed with both ideas and writing energy. It was really quite an incredible creativity booster, and yes, I’d like more of that in 2015, please.

If you’re interested in joining me, just let me know in the comments.  I’m not going to do anything formal about this challenge. I’ll tweet about it occasionally, maybe using a hashtag like #shortstoryaday (it’s probably being used for another, similar challenge, but I’m sure it will be fine).  I’ll probably also post once a month with a list of the five or ten best short stories I read that month, in order to keep myself accountable (since it is a challenge, after all!).

It’s very likely there’s already a formal short story reading challenge out there (or two or three …). I don’t dare look, because I’d be so tempted to sign up, and that would just jinx my plan to read more short stories in 2015!

Completed: The Harry Potter Challenge!

NaNoWriMo progress report (day 4): 9,115 words to date. I’ve already had one writing session today, but I’d like to do another one, as I’d like to make it to 10,000 words by the end of today.



Now for some wonderful news. I have completed my very first reading challenge EVER!

Yes, that’s right. I’ve completed the Harry Potter Reading Challenge!

It will actually be one of my last reading challenges completed, because I’ve sworn off signing up for more reading challenges, even very interesting ones like the Women Unbound challenge (I had to sit on my hands to avoid giving into the temptation of that one – but if you’re looking for a great reading challenge, you should definitely consider this one).

I did the entire Harry Potter challenge in audio, and even though this is a reread for me, I realized I must have read the last two books in the series in one or two gulps; listening to the last two books, I found I had forgotten (more likely, “skimmed over”) a LOT of the plot, and so it was almost like reading them for the first time.

In other words, very, very exciting. And I cried lots, too. I even get teary eyed now when I think about what Harry named his middle child (you find this out in the epilogue. I won’t mention it here, as it’s a spoiler).

And while it’s a kind of funny thing to express appreciation for, I wouldn’t have finished listening to the series in audio so soon if I hadn’t had those days in October, and most recently, the first day in November, when I wasn’t feeling well. Audiobooks are great when you’re under the weather, and these Harry Potter ones were especially enjoyable.

I’ve had Harry and his friends as my bedtime reading for the past three months now – I’m really going to miss listening to the books. I’d definitely reread them all in audio again!

Where I Throw Up My Hands in Resignation and Yell, “I’m Giving Up!”

There’s no graceful way to post about this, so I thought I might as well let my Inner Drama Queen take over.

(If you have any pots and pans handy, feel free to bang on them and add to the general noise and ruckus.)

Are you ready?


So, what exactly am I giving up on?

My reading challenges.


So this is my official notice that I have totally failed at almost all of the reading challenges I’ve signed up for, and my declaration that I will be exercising more discipline henceforth when it comes to all the gorgeous, glorious reading challenges that I just KNOW will be coming up now that we are in the final quarter of this year and heading into the new year.

And I’m trusting all of you to hold me accountable. From now on, if I find myself accepting another reading challenge, I will include in my post all the reasons why I will be able to succeed, and if I can’t think of enough reasons, I will not accept.

See, it’s not even that I’m not reading the books that I challenged myself to read. The fact is, I don’t have a clue whether I am or not.

There’s no getting around it. I just have a tough time keeping track of the books that I’ve read. And when I write reviews, I can never seem to remember to check on my challenges and see if the book I’m reviewing fits into any of the categories.

Take J. Kaye’s 100+ books challenge as an example. I’m pretty sure I’m on track to meet my goals for this challenge, but for the life of me, there’s no way I can list the all the books that I’ve read this year – I just haven’t kept track and can’t remember them all.

So this post is my not-so-graceful way of admitting that I simply fail at reading challenges – even when I’m technically fulfilling the challenges, I’m still failing them.

Sad, but true.

From now on, I’m only going to take on challenges that I know I will be able to meet; yes, I know this rather defeats the point of challenges but so be it. I might, for example, tackle a Betsy-Tacy reading challenge if I come across one (I’m sure I will). Or an Anne of Green Gables rereading challenge. But that’s the extent of it. No thrill of discovering new-to-me authors for me, no ecstasy of reading newly published books, no triumphant reading-across-the-finish-line posts.

As for my current challenges, I am letting myself stick with the following challenges:

The Harry Potter Reading Challenge


The Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge

And now, as gracefully as I can after admitting to so many stupendous reading challenge failures, I will exit this post …

Harry Potter in Audio: Books 1 and 2

hprclogoFor the Harry Potter Reading Challenge, I decided to re-read the Harry Potter series in audiobook format.

I’d just like to pat myself on the back now, and say, “Good decision, Belle”.

I’ve always had a sort of strange envy for people who decided to start reading the Harry Potter books after book seven was published. I think to myself how delightful it would be to have that opportunity to sit down, new to Harry’s wizarding world, and polish off the entire series from beginning to end, one lovely book after another.

And now, listening to the books in audio, I feel like I’m getting the chance to experience the books that way, too. (Well, almost, anyway.) Jim Dale, the narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks, is a superb narrator;he ably brings each story to vivid life, and I find myself caught up in the books almost as if I didn’t quite know what was about to happen.

I normally listen for an hour or so before bed, and it’s like my own personal bedtime story. Once again, I find myself drawn into Harry’s story, and there’s just such a good feeling when I come to the end of one book, and know that the next book is there for me, waiting for me to start it.

When it comes to audiobooks, I have a tendency to favor books I’ve already read before. That way, there are no surprises. I know beforehand that yes, I do like the book (and no, there aren’t any scenes that are too intense for me to handle in print, much less in audio, where you can’t flip through the next page or two, eyes closed).

So the books in the Harry Potter series are perfect for an audiobook re-read. Although they’re pricy (and I noticed that Audible isn’t currently carrying them, either), I discovered that my library has a few copies of each volume.

Audiobook bliss. That’s about all I can say.

And the Harry Potter challenge is definitely one that I will be completing (I’m afraid I’m going to have a generally woeful post coming up soon about the state of my reading challenges). So far, I’ve listened to Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (that’s the UK title) and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (finished that last night, smiling all the while at Dobby’s reward). I also started Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban last night.

One thing, though: I do find that the images in my mind resemble to a great degree the images I remember from the movies. If you’ve re-read the Harry Potter books, do you find this happening too?

Jumping In: Words Behind the Pictures Challenge


I’ve been promising myself I wouldn’t take on another reading challenge this year. I’m behind in terms of updating all of my challenge posts, so I thought I’d be disciplined about things and not jump into any more challenges.

Hah! Me, disciplined? Not for long. I was visiting Margot over at Joyfully Retired today, and saw that she had signed up for the Words Behind the Pictures challenge being held at Michael’s A Few Minutes with Michael.

I held myself back a little by not immediately rushing over to Michael’s blog; I was good – I think it took me at least 45 seconds before I clicked over. And there I read again the description of the challenge:

The first Saturday of every month, from September, 2009, through to August, 2010, an electronic copy of one screenplay will be made available through this blog.

The goal is to read the screenplay and then watch the movie before the end of that month and comment on what you’ve experienced.

The more screenplays you get through, the stronger you are as a reading challenger, but you only need to do one month to consider yourself to have completed this challenge.

It took a few more minutes before I decided, yes, I think I might do this. And then I glanced at the sidebar where Michael has a poll, where challenge participants could vote on the first screenplay in the challenge. I saw Dead Poets’ Society and Good Will Hunting and I was hooked.

I love reading screenplays. One of my absolute favorites is Eat, Drink, Man, Woman, which was directed by Ang Lee. I read the screenplay quite a while ago, and only recently did I get my hands on the DVD. I watched the movie, captivated, and have since been looking through my book stashes to try and find my copy of the screenplay again.

Another favorite of mine is Fanny and Alexander, by Ingmar Bergman; I have read and reread this one so many times. I also have The Complete Fawlty Towers, which contains the scripts to all 12 episodes of Fawlty Towers – this book is another favorite of mine.

So that’s why I couldn’t resist this one. Anyone want to join me?

Harry Potter Reading Challenge


I couldn’t resist! And yes, I know I’ve been very derelict in keeping my other reading challenge posts updated. But come on! It’s a Harry Potter reading challenge!

I just couldn’t say no. So I’m signing on for this one.

I’ve read all the Harry Potter books (I can remember waiting by the mailbox, eagerly awaiting the delivery of the newest, just-released book – whichever it was depended on the year in memory – and ripping the package open, having already made the entire family promise to leave me alone for the entire day so I could read from beginning to end in absolute bliss.)

I’ve also re-read several of them once or twice now, and I’ve been wanting to sit down and do a re-read from beginning to end.

So, for this challenge, I’m thinking about listening to each of them in audio. Jim Dale, who narrates the books, is a wonderful narrator, and I think this will be a great way to complete this challenge.

The challenge in full is this: Read or listen to all seven books in the Harry Potter series, anytime beginning August 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010.

What are you waiting for? Sign up at GalleySmith’s and come join me in the fun!

The Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge

sookiechallenge Yes, it’s lunacy. I don’t have any excuse for signing up for yet another reading challenge, except that I’ve been wanting to read the Sookie Stackhouse series for a while now. So when Beth Fish Reads announced the Sookie Stackhouse Reading Challenge, I knew I just had to join in on the fun.

Here are the rules: Between July 1, 2009, and June 30, 2010, catch up on Charlaine Harris’s Southern Vampire series. No matter if you’re starting with book 1 or book 8, you have a year to read all about Sookie. Read Sookie in print, listen to the audio, read an eBook — format is not an issue.

The books in the series are:

Dead Until Dark
Living Dead in Dallas
Club Dead
Dead to the World
Dead as a Doornail
Definitely Dead
All Together Dead
From Dead to Worse
Dead and Gone

I was assured by a few people on Twitter last night that these books are fast, fun reads. So I’m really looking forward to this. And here’s a bonus: Melissa’s Bookshelf has a giveaway of the boxed set containing the first seven books in the series! The giveaway ends July 5, and it’s open worldwide. Very nice!

Interested in doing the challenge with me? Hop on over to the official challenge sign-up post and add your name to Mr. Linky. In July, Beth F. will put up another post where you can go to link to your reviews and keep track of your progress.

The Last of the Reading Challenges – No, Really, This Is It

It seems that there are a lot more reading challenges that I had bookmarked to join than I remembered, and while I tried to go through the list to weed things out, the list didn’t exactly shrink much (I think it grew, actually).

And rather than write a post for each of my challenge pages, it dawned on me that I could just write a page for each challenge page, and then list them all in one post!

So here they are – the rest of my 2009 reading challenges, in no particular order. I told you there were a lot!

2009 Pub Challenge

What’s in a Name 2

Romance Reading Challenge 2009

Numbers Challenge

Suspense and Thriller Reading Challenge

Read Your Name Challenge

2nds Challenge

Chick Lit Challenge

Essay Reading Challenge

Buy One Book and Read It Challenge

2009 Mini Challenges

TBR Challenge 2009

’09 Debut Authors Challenge

This should be fun. I think. I hope.