I’m a Sucker for Reading Challenges

Last year,Last year what I thought was a completely do-able reading challenge with one book a month, each month outside my normal mono-focus on the mystery genre.  I actually got going in January by reading a book made into a movie, The Giver, which I liked.  I noted it on goodreads.com Then I lost the will to persevere.  I did read a lot, a whole lot, of books but they were either in my favorite category or something that captured my fancy.  In this respect, it was a great year.  I refuse to feel like a failure, after all, I am reading and enjoying stories.

This year, 2017, I found several reading challenges that sound do-able.  The first one I’m going to write about is run by Becky from Becky’s Book Reviews and is called the Share-a-Tea Reading challenge.     The rules are few and simple:  drink tea, read books, and share.  No minimums or standards to achieve.  I think I’ve already achieved two of the three.


I’ve already read three books, although the first one was started at the end of 2016.  They are:

  • Brownies and Broomsticks by Bailey Cates, a really cute cozy mystery about a young woman, a baker, who moves to Georgia to help her aunt and uncle run their bakery.  This first in a series tells us of her discoveries:  she’s from a long line of hereditary hedge witches; and there’s a dead body.
  • I also read The Taking of Libbie, SD by David Handler.  The next in a series about a former cop who is now a millionaire.  He is kidnapped by bounty hunters due to a mistaken identity.  Once the identity problem is resolved, he investigates.  I adore this series.
  • And then I read the marvelous The Great Reckoning by Louise Penny, one of my favorite authors.  She writes so lyrically about the human condition and the effects of history, corruption, art, literature on people’s thoughts, actions, and their souls.

And the teas I drank, to name a few, since I drink tea all day long!  My fitness program incorporates at least a gallon of liquid a day, which for me is mostly tea.I was on vacation…

  • Mate Chai by Citizen Tea
  • Double Chocolate Mate by The Republic of Tea
  • Matevana by Teavana, which they don’t make any more, to my great sorrow.  Fortunately I discovered Citizen Tea!
  • and probably others, I can’t think of.  I drink iced tea most of the day, though it’s just decaffeinated made from a mix (see I didn’t even apologize for that incredible gaffe in front of aficionados).   As always, I bravely live my life out-loud whether I intend to or not.

May your day and days be filled with refreshing beverages of all types and stories that delight you!


I Read Genre Fiction and I’m Proud

genresandthemes_thumbOver the years, I’ve read in different genres, loving every minute of it.  Sometimes people expect someone like me with advanced degrees in Literature and Library Science to be more erudite.  Not so much anymore.  I love genre fiction because it’s a good, fun read.  Sometimes it’s beautiful, challenging, scary, and heart-breaking.  There are unexpected gems in all the genres. In my checkered reading past, I’ve read science fiction, fantasy, historical novels, romance novels, and mysteries.  Sometimes I read one exclusively and sometimes I read a smattering of all of them.  Sometimes I read two or three genres at once.  No loyalty whatsoever except to a good story, fantastic characters, good writing, and a surprise here and there.

A few years ago, a professor on the college’s writing committee discovered I had published a couple of books and asked me about them, thinking she could invite me to do a committee sponsored writing program.  When I revealed that I write non-fiction about Wicca, Witchcraft, Tarot, and shamanism, she recoiled.  Yes, just like in the books.  In telling the story, I call it a “back the witch up” moment.  Later on at a committee meeting, I and another member mentioned that we knew a couple of published writers.  When we said they wrote romances and paranormal romances, this professor wailed (she really did!), “Doesn’t anyone know a mystery writer!”

Oh yeah, I thought, the acceptable genre.  And that’s it.  People judge you about what you read.  Of course they judge you all the time.  It’s time to get over it; time to stop letting judgy people get the upper hand in your life. Back in the day, when I commuted to work on a bus  I always chose my reading material carefully.  Fantasy and science fiction made me feel smarter and cooler so I read those. Romance novels I left at home.  I believed (and I’ve learned I’m not alone) that people saw me as a lovelorn spinster who could only find love in the pages of a book.  Maybe they did and would.  Shows how much anyone knows about anyone.

A friend turned me on to a terrifically fun and thoughtful blog, a romp through the delights and foibles of romance novels, or Romancelandia, as they call it.  Smart Bitches and Trashy Novels  is as much fun as reading the novel, sometimes more.  It’s snarky, bitchy, loving and honest look at books, movies, and other not-book things. The blog supports a community of enthusiastic and knowledgeable readers.  It’s a joy and delight to read, even if I don’t read the books.

In 2009, these Bitches wrote a book and I just read it and loved it to death.  Beyond Heaving Beyond Heaving BosomsBosoms:  The Smart Bitches’ Guide to Romance Novels (Simon and Schuster, 2009) is still in print and available in libraries near you.  It is a celebration of the books, the evolution of the romance novel, and a great analysis of typical plots and devices.  It’s all lovingly and exuberantly presented in a highly readable text.  There is laugh out loud moments and some very smart insights.

The majority of readers are women, the majority of book buyers are women, and the largest area of publishing are romances.  And yet, as the authors Wendell and Tan point out, the writers and publishers in this genre act like they are a discriminated minority.  You can see it in book reviews on goodreads.  Romance writers rarely criticize another writer; and romance writers read voraciously!    I thought it was very interesting.

I know I’m a very easy grader when it comes to goodreads.  That’s usually because I like everything I read to the finish.  If I can’t stand something, I rarely read it till the end.  Life is too short to drink bad tea and read books you don’t like.  I read this book to the finish and smiled and guffawed to the end.  Not only is this written with wit, affection, and style, Beyond Heaving Bosoms is a cogent and understanding analysis of the romance novels and the genre’s readers.





Reading Challenges: The Joys and the Sorrows

My last post was a year ago and it was a happy post talking about my commitment to a 2015 Reading Challenge.  There were 26 different things to read and many outside my normal reading pattern.  I was also part of the Goodreads reading challenge where you state how many books you wish to read.  I low-balled my number so I wouldn’t let myself down.  Because

I really blew off the 2015 Reading Challenge I posted.  Part way through the first few months of 2015, I decided that I wanted to stay within my reading comfort zone.  I really did not want my reading material to be challenging.  Reading is a comfort and a joy for me.  Sometimes it’s an escape.  For me, 2015 was not such a bad year but there were challenges, some of them extreme especially for the loved ones around me.

What I did do is blow through my Goodreads challenge and read 300% over my low-balled figure.  I listen to audio books while I drive, while I do housework, while I quilt, and while I sit around and vegetate.  I read the printed word, both ebooks and physical books, as well.  I do believe that the audio books probably outnumbered the print books.  Score for quantity and quality.

I have found a 2016 Reading Challenge I like.  I may give it a try.  It’s one book a month and I managed to squeak January in under the wire.

2015 Reading Challenge

2015 Reading challenge

2015 Reading Challenge

Popsugar, a website I never heard of,  posted a 2015 reading challenge.  I learned the hard way to not accept reading challenges that require you to post the number of books you will read.  This one I thought I could do or mostly do.  The challenge lists 50 categories to choose from.  Some are outside my less than lofty taste level, but I thought I would give it a try. It lists 50 books defined by quirky categories.  It’s technically 52 books, since one is to read a trilogy.

I am going to include e-books and audiobooks in the category as well.  Each format provides a different experience; and it’s the experience of the story that counts with me.  I’ll post here, the books I read.  I’m also keeping a board on Pinterest which you can find here.  You can always read my reviews on Goodreads.  I will also add a goodreads feed to this blog.

So game on…or rather, Read On.  I’m already behind since I’ve already read a couple of books!


Fictional PTSD: the Post-Traumatic Stress of Reading

fictional characters

I love to read.  I love to read fiction.  My choices of fiction are for entertainment.  In the late 1970s, I came across a comic in a probably defunct magazine where a woman goes to a clerk in a book store and says, “I just want a book that starts happy, stays happy, and end happy.”  After many years in graduate school reading majestic tragedies, deep philosophies, and complex literary texts, I am now committed to things that frothy and delicious.  This started after a year, fifteen years ago, when three people close to me died.  One death was very sudden, another was my father after a short illness, and another was a friend after a long and valiant struggle with cancer.  All died too soon.  That year changed my attitude towards life, work, love, and friendship.  I learned to trust and learned to distrust.  It was a profound change.

It did change my choice of reading materials.  I didn’t want to read about the deep, tragic struggles of others because I had enough of my own.  I did, as I joked, want things that start happy, stay happy, and end happy.  It is fiction, after all, not reality.  I forgot that reality is also a fictional construct.  Life is just life and you have to live it.

The draw of fiction, for me, is the characters.  I get involved in their thoughts, dreams, and realities.  I like murder mysteries because that is what my mother read but also because of character driven plots.  I like fantasy because there is no limit to the imagining and reimaging of the world, soul, and people. Whole worlds are built, lived, destroyed, and rebuilt.

Recently I’ve gotten into reading audio books.  Because I’m a fast reader, I often miss details and audio books compel me to pay attention to all the detail.  The voice of the narrator is very important.  The first audiobook (on cassette tape!) I listened to many years ago had a male narrator in an action/adventure book.  Unfortunately, the love interest of the male main character was read in a husky, low voice.  I became convinced that the woman was transgendered, contrary to the fictional construct of the novel.  It caused a dissonance in my understanding of the novel which would have been better had the character been transgendered.  See what I mean?  It’s about how the voice conjured the character and the words.  The voice put the character and the words in opposition, they did not match.  Either would have worked if they both character and the voice had matched.

I think audiobooks and narrators have gotten more sophisticated because now I’m really enjoying them.  I usually listen to a sample since I know sometimes I just can’t get beyond the voice.  I also listen to different genres that what I might read in print.  After watching the Game of Thrones for three seasons on HBO, I decided to read the books.  It is much talked about in our library and I wanted to find out what happened beyond the television program.  I had already learned to not become attached to the characters created by George R.R. Martin because they will surely die.  As each book progressed, they got longer.  The detail more intense.  The world in which the story took place more brutal.

Book 5, Dance with Dragons is very long whether you read it or listen to it.  The chapters end in cliffhangers, the characters are brutalized to a distressing degree, and life is full of degradation no matter what the station of life.  Neither nobility of common-folk are spared death, dismemberment, maiming, torture, or the cold of winter.  I found myself deeply resenting the author.  I felt that the machinations of the author overtly and with growing hostility.  The world of the book is stark, cold, and relentlessly unforgiving.  So is the author.  I finally finished it to my relief.  It ended on a heart rending cliffhanger.  With no projected publication date for the next book.

A week later and two books later, I’m still distrustful of my reading materials.  I have retreated into some familiar series.  The audio-book I’m listening too is a trusted series with a delightfully humorous voice.  I realized that I was suffering from a fictional post-traumatic stress disorder. That listening/reading about characters in extreme distress has been mirrored in my reading reactions.  I will heal, it will take time and the appropriate application of fictional characters and plots but I will survive!

It should be noted I mean no disrespect to those who suffer from PTSD.  This book was probably a poor choice because of what is going on elsewhere in my life and my reaction is rather extreme.  It does indicate both the power of the author and the power of reading in any format.  As we give ourselves over to relationships with characters, we become elated, wounded, empowered, grieved, and aggrieved.  It is the wonder of it all.