Tag: #RockMYTBR

January Readathon and 2018 Challenges

I tackled a couple of reading challenges last year. And they really helped to start my year off right. In fact, they gave me such a huge spurt of accomplishment, I made my reading goal – and knocked out some books I’d been wanting to read for a long time, several of them five star reads. All this to say, I’m here to do it again.

This year, I thought I’d do the #RockMyTBR challenge again, but with a different tack. I’m doing #BeattheBacklist, which involves a little more accountability, a little more checking in. In fact, it looks like Austine put a heckuva lot of work into this!  There is a Bookstagram challenge, teams and prizes. I’m on the Story Sorcerors team. I fell off #RockMyTBR about halfway through, so I still have quite a pile of stuff here that I need to either read or just peruse and unhaul. Continue reading

Tolkien Reading Day 2017

I hadn’t really anticipated becoming wholly consumed by Tolkien during the month of March. But that appears to be what has happened.

First, I heard about this from the bloggers over at Pages Unbound. They put out a call on Twitter for bloggers to take part in their two-week Tolkien blog fest, which would feature posts they wrote plus lots of guest posts. I was happy to write a post about how Tolkien has influenced my work, which can be seen here. And there are lots of other posts about all things Tolkien, so get on over and check them out.

Then I saw a challenge on Instagram. I do a lot of photo challenges (which, if you don’t know, are basically lists of prompts that you interpret and then share with a hashtag), and this was to be a month-long Tolkien theme under the #MiddleEarthMarch tag. I thought that sounded like loads of fun, so I was eager to participate in that. This also included a Lord of the Rings read-along, which was preceded by a read-along of The Hobbit, where we followed along on #febandbackagain.

I had a blast with the prompts, and had fun going through my books and gathering together all my Tolkien-related titles. Come to find out that I actually have a pretty good collection! I am especially happy with a special edition I picked up at a con a year or so ago for $20 – it is the green leather one in a slipcase, with runes on the cover and spine. It’s gorgeous, and a lovely addition to my library (but really, I’m a sucker for anything in a slipcase or a boxset).

On my #RockMyTBR challenge, I had already ear-marked a Tolkien title, The Silmarillion, for April. But I substituted the above titles, which was handy because I found that either I do not own The Silmarillion or I simply couldn’t find it. I just swapped my previous March title with April. And then GoodReads changed its rules so that you could count rereads as part of your challenge goal, so that helped speed me along.

Before I saw the Pages Unbound post, I honestly didn’t even realize there was going to be a Tolkien Reading Day in March. March 25 is the anniversary of the day of the defeat of Sauron, in case you are wondering. The celebration is sponsored by the Tolkien Society, and there are lots of celebrations worldwide. This worked out perfectly for me, since I read that scene in the book on the night of March 24! I was able to keep on track with my reading in the read-along, though I am sad to say that I hardly read anything else during March. But it was worth it.

I never read The Lord of the Rings until after college. So this was only maybe my third time reading the series. The last time was when the movies came out. When I was in high school, fantasy was a class for stoners and slackers. I loved English and reading, so instead, I took Shakespeare and English lit. Well, let that be a lesson to you. Don’t skip a class if it sounds interesting! Had I taken fantasy in high school, I might have been a decade ahead on my Tolkien obsession!

And now I am well and fully hooked. I have always loved the movies, and my son and I did a binge watch of the extended version DVDs over the holidays. So that set me up nicely for all the reading. Now I am looking forward to The Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion. I have been looking around, and it sounds like this is the order which is most recommended in reading Tolkien (that is, The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Unfinished Tales and The Silmarillion).

I am very much looking forward to the upcoming Beren and Luthien, which is being released in May, and was edited by Christopher Tolkien and illustrated by Alan Lee. Many Tolkien fans will know that this story of star-crossed lovers was very close to Tolkien’s heart. He even had the name Luthien engraved on his wife’s headstone when she died, and then instructed that Beren should be engraved under his name (they share a headstone).

I’ve long had a wish to go to Oxford, and see his haunts. I would also love to go to New Zealand, where you can see the set for the Shire, and have lunch at the Green Dragon. So go ahead, Tolkien merch, take all my money! I don’t even care.

 

Reading Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes Series (Books 1-5)
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I love a good mystery. I had some stacking up here, so I decided to make February my mysteries month. Most of my TBR for the month was mystery and thriller. Books I had been meaning to read for ages, most of them. And I love to curl up with a good mystery on a cold night. The more bodies, the better!

I’ve got a beautiful box set of Sherlock Holmes books (it was part of my #RockMyTBR list). I think I got it at a thrift store, because I know that I didn’t pay much for it. And I didn’t take the books out of the box for years. When I finally did, they were pristine – the spines had never even been cracked.

The books are lovely little hardcovers, small enough to fit in your hand, with gilt lettering and gold fore edges (the part of the page you see when it’s closed). The finish is an interesting wood grain, but it’s black, so hard to photograph. I love pretty books. I just can’t tell you how nice it is to sit down with a book that is lovely to hold and lovely to look at, and of course, the story has to be good, too.

Now, I knew these were good stories. But I had never actually read them. So I added them to the stack. The stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were a bit different than what I expected, though. Not so many dead bodies as misunderstandings, jilted lovers, and just plain con men. But that was okay. The writing held up, and I wanted to get past the shows I had watched (both the BBC production and the CBS show Elementary) to the real deal.

Here are the five books I read.

A Study in Scarlet/ The Sign of the Four (#1 & #2)

The first book was two stories in one. I had heard the titles before, but not the stories. I am so glad I started at the beginning, though. Here we get the complete timeline of how Watson and Sherlock met, how Watson comes to understand him and his methods, and how they grow to be close friends. We also get Watson meeting Mary! The first story is not all that memorable itself, but worth reading just for these character-building reasons. The only thing I didn’t like about it was that it included a large bit of backstory set in the American West, which took away from the mood I typically go to Sherlock for. The second story is interesting, a bit more exotic, and complex enough to hold your attention. I didn’t agree whole-heartedly with the way it was presented, as it was less than of a whodunit than a how-dunit, but that’s okay. It had lots of color, shall we say? Convicts and con men and double-crosses – much of it set in colonial India, with all that entails.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (#3)

This is an eclectic collection of stories in which many of those featured don’t actually involve crimes. I dearly love the different voices of Watson and Holmes, as they are clearly delineated. And finally by this point I was able to get away from picturing Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch in my head! This was a struggle in the first volume, let me tell you. These are all very quick and somewhat slight, but with good detail and lots of that murky London fog. There are 12 stories in all. Some of them were very curious, and I especially liked A Scandal in Bohemia (in which we meet Irene Adler!), The Red-Headed League, and the Blue Carbuncle. Just about every kind of crime you can imagine is included in here.

The Memories of Sherlock Holmes (#4)

I found these a bit better than the last volume, because they were more involved. So many of the stories had quotes that I had heard elsewhere – “the curious incident of the dog in the night time,” and the reference to the code word Norbury. I love seeing how these things were treated in the BBC production, and how they originally appeared. That is really why I wanted to read the books in the first place. Again, though, a lot of these stories were nebulous as to their actual endings. They were cons, or jilted love, or some such things. I liked The Musgrave Ritual (which harkens a bit towards The Hound of the Bakervilles) and The Naval Treaty best, I think. But they were all very good, and included such varied settings and issues, that it really kept me reading.

The Hound of the Baskervilles (#5)

This is a full-length story, and I really do like it when he hunkers down and make a novel out of it. I loved the setting of this – the atmospheric spookiness of the moors. It is done so well, it made me want to pick up Wuthering Heights just to keep being spooked! It’s almost like the setting is another character in this novel. It has much more to do with setting than the short stories all set in London. And the story was intriguing, full of foreboding. There are all kinds of threats, hair-raising adventures on the moor, Neolithic ruins (about which I greatly enjoyed Watson’s ruminations!), and all sorts of folks pretending to be something they are not. It keeps you hopping. I saw this as a stage play when I was really young, and while it was a professional children’s theater production, I don’t remember much of the story. I just knew there was this black baying hound off stage. It suffers some from being produced, I think. You just need to get your head on to the moors.

I’ll continue on with the series, though I don’t have any more of the volumes until The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, which is apparently the final book. I wouldn’t want to skip ahead, though. I think the character-building is one of the best things about this series. There has to be a reason why these characters have had the staying power they have – Conan Doyle takes great pains to make it just right, to make their relationships ring true, and to give each person a distinct voice.

If you like mysteries or like reading classics, you should definitely get your hands on these. There are a multitude of editions, as they are in the public domain. But it’s worth picking up a nice volume. You’ll want to keep them.

RockMyTBR Challenge

I love this challenge. I tried to do it last year, sort of. I made it maybe two months. But I didn’t have a plan, and I didn’t have a post. So here I am, holding myself accountable. Unfortunately, I am too late to link up with the intro post. This is hosted by Sarah at The YA Book Traveler and I am so glad she’s doing it again! It’s a great way to be sure your books are not languishing too long on the shelf! I tend to use my library a lot, so this helps me add to that.

Since last year didn’t go so well, I have laid out some rules for this year for myself.

My Rules for #RockMyTBR

You must make the TBR from books you already own, whether they are packed away, on your shelves or in piles on your floor does not matter.

You can put books anywhere on the TBR for the year, using whatever criteria you want to read whatever you want whenever you want.

You can switch out books for another on your TBR, but only WITHIN your TBR. If you trade a top book for a later book, you cannot trade that top book again. You must read it when you come to it.

You cannot add any newly purchased books to this TBR. This is only for books you owned at the beginning of the year.

I reserve the right to add any books from my shelves, but only in addition to the books already on the list.

These kind of fall in line with what Sarah has already outlined, but I am really going to be strict with myself. That’s why I’m letting myself trade within the TBR, but making sure to put limits on that. I figure if I have a book that I want to trade more than once, then I probably don’t want to read that book anyway, and I might as well get rid of it.

Without further ado, here is my plan for #RockMyTBR for 2017!

January – The Star-Touched Queen (also for #DAReadathon and #boutofbooks) Done!

February – Sherlock Holmes box set (four books)

 

March – Daughter of Smoke and Bone series by Laini Taylor (have read the first one)

April – The Silmarillion by Tolkien and The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth

May – Very Good Lives by JK Rowling

June – Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

July – Game of Thrones book 1 by George RR Martin

August – Mary E Pearson Remnant Chronicles series

September – The Late Homecomer by Kao Kalia Yang

October – Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde (have read the first three but need to start over)

November – A Breathtaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers

December – Potluck Supper with Meeting to Follow by Andy Sturdevant

Wish me luck!

 

#DAReadathon + #RockMYTBR Challenge + #BoutofBooks Readathon + TBR

What better way to start the New Year than with a reading binge? I saw the announcement of the #DAReadathon Challenge on Twitter just before Christmas and while I had it in my head I simply couldn’t sit down to sort it all out. This is one of the more complicated challenges I have seen, but since it involves Harry Potter and reading more diverse books, I simply couldn’t pass it up without at least trying.

Many of you know that the diverse books movement has been a big thing throughout the past year. It would be nice if we could say that it wasn’t needed, or that it had been going on a lot longer than that. But judging from some major faux pas recently by major published books, it is still needed, and we need to realize that those from marginalized groups need to have their own voices, and need to have representation in the publishing industry.

Publishing is just telling stories, after all, and how can we say we are doing a good job of that when we aren’t telling all the stories – just select ones that are curated by one race, one gender or one worldview?

So in my own small little way, I’m going to be working on this. I’m doing this challenge, and I’m sad to say that for some of these prompts, I’m not sure what I will read. I wish I could readily answer each one. Clearly, I have some work to do.

The challenge began yesterday (oops!) and goes until January 15. Each of the books should fit in with one of the prompts, which are named after spells in the Harry Potter fandom. Since this is one of my favorite fandoms, I was very attracted to this idea. Also, for those of you who don’t know, the DA in the challenge name stands for Dumbledore’s Army. Well, we need this more than ever now, don’t we? I like everything about the way this is set up.

Here are some of my picks. I’ll need help with this one, so if you have suggestions, please let me know in the comments! Or find me on Twitter or Instagram. I want to hear recs, people!

Expecto Patronum – diverse book featuring issue of personal significance to you or a loved one – I’m going with The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig – because it deals with a girl’s relationship to her father. I imagine that Nix’s is more complicated than mine, since her father wants to return to where her mother died, and possibly could. And mine, well, can’t. But it sounds eerily familiar and I am sure this will bring up some long-buried feelings for me. Plus, all the cultures involved just sound fantastic. And I have an ARC of the sequel, so must read this first!

Expelliarmus – diverse book featuring a marginalised group you don’t often read about – So maybe this would be LBGTQIA? Because I’ve not read much in that area.

Protego – Read an #ownvoices book for this prompt – Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova – I won this in a Death Day chat back in early November. I really have been paying much more attention to the traditions of Day of the Dead lately and I am very excited to read a book by someone who grew up in that culture and has a story that centers around it. I had to resist picking this up earlier to save it for this challenge, so now it’s time!

Reducto – a book that empowers women from all different walks of life – Here we have The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli. I received an ARC of this at Heartland Fall Forum, and then I interacted with Becky on Twitter a bit, and well, bam, this shot up to the top of my TBR. This features an overweight teen who is a bit confused about her sexuality, and has a twin sister. I am going out of a limb a bit here to say that it empowers women, but if there is an Upside to Unrequited Love, it has to be empowering, right? This releases in April so I am excited to be reading it so early.

Impedimenta – a diverse book that has been on your TBR for far too long! – This has to be The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. I have had this since it released and it is so beautiful, and I have heard so much about it, but I have only picked it up once. And now that the sequel is coming out, I really need to get on it. I love following her on Twitter and Instagram so I am really looking forward to finally reading this!

Stupefy – a diverse book that has stunned the internet with all its well-deserved hype – The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon – this is a contemporary, which I don’t often read, which is also good for me to do once in a while. This title has landed on many year-end best lists, and I have heard it compared to Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, so of course that piqued my curiosity. Then I won a copy, and well, here it is!

Lumos – a diverse book that was recommended by one of your fellow book bloggers – I would like this to be the forthcoming History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera, recommended recently by the always-reliable Brittany at Brittany’s Book Rambles, but alas, it does not come out until January 17 and I don’t have an ARC. In her last BBTC chat, she featured this book and Adam took part. It was a delight. But I must find me something else so I’ll be asking my blogger friends!

From the website of Aente, Read at Midnight, the host of this challenge, here is her brief definition of what a diverse book is: “Any book that features a diverse experience such as LGBTQIA, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender diversity, indigenous, neurodiversity, people with disabilities.”

I still have two slots to fill, so I’ll be actively looking for those books which can fulfill these areas. I would love to find something with Native Americans (I really love all I’ve read by Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie), or something that I perhaps hadn’t thought about reading at all. I don’t know, it could be anything. The bottom line here is that this challenge is already a win for me, because it has me searching my book piles (and my booktree, because there is The Sun Is Also a Star, about halfway down! Which is why it is not pictured above!) for those stories.

There is a points component to this challenge too, but I won’t be worrying about that. I honestly have enough to do in the next two weeks. But this is a great start to my year and I’m really looking forward to it! What are your favorite diverse reads?

Bonus: For this challenge, I finally went to Pottermore and found out what my Patronus is! And while it was quite a process, I discovered that it is the “unusual” Patronus of a Leopardess!

I’m also going to try this year again to do the #RockMyTBR challenge from Sarah at The YA Book Traveler. I fell off the wagon on this one last year. And this week I’m doing the #BoutofBooks readathon (which is only one week, from Jan 2 to Jan 8). Here is the info on the #Bout of Books Readathon, for which I will be using the same books as for the #DAReadathon, and then if I run out of books, I will just add more! The stack helps me to put blinders on and means that I really will complete the books that I have listed.

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 2nd and runs through Sunday, January 8th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 18 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog– From the Bout of Books team

 

 

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