Book Riot Read Harder Challenge 2015

As part of my 2015 Culture Goals (see my previous post if this is a bit mystifying)  I would like to complete 12 of the  Book Riot Read Harder Challenges for 2015. I am not sure why I decided on 12 – I was probably thinking something along the lines of one per month. That said I haven’t really looked that closely at the challenges so I thought I might write out the ones I would like to do and then I can compare at the end of the year what I actually did (and perhaps venture which books in my TBR might work with this as I am hoping to be able to draw the titles from the TBR rather than find new titles).

   

 

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1. A collection of short stories

So my TBR has several different options for this but two titles immediately jump to mind

The Mammoth Book of Apocalyptic SF Edited by Mike Ashley

I am actually already three quarters of the way through this anthology so it is pushing a little to claim it as a 2015 completion but so far I have really enjoyed this SF collection and I am interested to see what the last quarter of short stories are. I have a theory that I much prefer SF in short story form and fantasy in novella/novel form.

Yellow Cake by Margo Lanagan

Not much more really needs to be said beyond Margo Lanagan. She is probably my favourite short story writer and her short story Singing my sister down is my all time favourite short story ever. So really it is a little embarrassing that I haven’t read this collection yet.

2. A book that is written by someone whose gender is different to your own.

The Wise Mans Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Both of these are on my tbr and keep getting recommended to me or buzzed about in various places so I must complete one of these in 2015 (and they both helpfully fit into a book riot category).

3. A YA novel

We were liars by E. Lockhart

Is on my kindle and I have been meaning to read it for ages.

4. An audiobook

– As I have an audible subscription this will not be difficult at all but let’s just say Royal Blood by Rhys Bowen which is the fourth book in The Royal Spyness Series. This story is a light and fluffy crime series about the rather sweet if naive Lady Georgiana in the pre-world war II upper class British society. Perfectly suited for listening to when I am doing data entry or exercise and need to occupy some but not all of my brain.

5. A romance novel

The King by JR Ward. The Black Dagger Brotherhood still qualifies as romance….. I think….. it is definitely a guilty pleasure series for me so if I decide against romance I can switch this to the guilty pleasure challenge.

6. A book written by someone over 65

Death Comes to Pemberley by PD James

Again I am already part way through this book but I started several years ago so imagine I will have to start at the beginning again. And then I can watch the tv series – finally.

7. A book that was originally published in another language

So I have technically completed this challenge with Superzelda by Tiziana Lo Porto but I want to use this title for my personal graphic novel challenge so I will hopefully read The Key by Junichiro Tanizaki. Which is a very slender volume from the Vintage Red Cover range.

8. A graphic novel, memoir or collection of comics

I have so already completed this Challenge! Ms Marvel Volume 1 by G Willow Wilson. Thank you Book Riot Quarterly #5.

I really enjoyed Ms Marvel – it was a nice fast paced read with an absorbing story. And I like Kamala Khan she is so easy to relate to. I am hoping to read more of this series.

9. A book published this year

– Prudence by Gail Carriger. The beginnings of a new series following the daughter of the heroine of the Parasol Protectorate, Alexia. I am hoping for lots of appearances of Lord Akeldama and lots of adventures. (Not yet actually on my tbr pile as it hasn’t been released yet but lets be honest I know that I will buying this so may as well accept it and make it work for me).

10. A book that is by or about someone from an indigenous culture

– The Swan Book by Alexis Wright. This book was shortlisted for the Stella prize in 2014 and I really want to read it. (I don’t actually own this yet but it has been on my radar enough of late that I can see it being a purchase that slips through).

11. A book set in Asia

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki. Languishing on my tbr pile since late 2013/early 2014 this book really needs to be read. And then I can watch the review videos I have seen on booktube. (Also only on pulling this book off the tbr did I discover that it was written by the same authro as The Key).

12. A book that is a retelling of a classic story

– Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm by Phillip Pullman. So I think technically these are a new translation not a retelling so I may need to rethink this at some point.

I will be really interested to see how many of these titles will get completed in 2015 as I have found prescribing myself things to read has a high tendency to backfire. Though this does feel a little like an exercise for re-invigorating love for the titles in my tbr.

So who else is aiming to complete some of the 2015 Book Riot Read Harder Challenges? And which ones with what books?

Hello 2015………. Goals and Resolutions Oh My!

I am planning at some point to post an actual review of my reading in 2014 but my last post went in its own little direction so the 2014 reading post will have to wait. For me this is the end of my first official week of 2015 as the days before I head back to work for the New Year exist out of time in a strange way, not really part of the year before or the year ahead, so the reality of New Year only hits when I swipe into my office.

2015 is going pretty well so far, still managed to get sucked into working some really long days at work, so that’s started already. And this is probably only going to get harder to control, as due to funding issues, I am working for two different projects/supervisors with the ability to time manage entirely being placed at my feet. I don’t mind the work so much but it is the fact that by the time I make it home I am so exhausted I can’t do much more than dinner, shower, and if I’m lucky read. And this leaves a lot of pressure on weekends to get all the external non-work stuff done.

Ok, anyways let us get back on topic as to what this post is meant to be discussing. Namely my creative and cultural goals/resolutions for 2015.

I really enjoy setting goals/resolutions every year. I try to follow the SMART goal setting system (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely). I have six goal fields, or areas of life, that are important to me. For each field I have an overall aim of what I want out of this field for my life and a set of things I would like to achieve in the coming year. I also write out what I need to do to make this happen. As you can imagine I do end up with a rather lengthy document but I do love headings and dotpoints.

I’ve been doing the particular system (with refinements) I have for a few years now and I think it really helps me to go into the New Year with some perspective on what I want out of all the aspects of my life. And when I reviewed 2014’s master list I was pleasantly surprised by how many of the points I had chipped away at over the year and also how most of the points were still relevant. I still have a long way to go before I achieve all that I set out to do (but then my experience tells me that this is true for everyone I know) but I like having a written record of what I thought of as important and what I did or didn’t do to achieve in any given year.

For 2015 I have included a blanket aim to try and be more consistent with how I work towards things. As I tend to make this awesome document at the beginning of the year and then subconsciously achieve the things on the list, rather than review them regularly and so actively work on the things I should/need to do but am avoiding. And also new things come up throughout the year that I want to work towards, which I would like to incorporate into my goals, but as there is only a finite amount of time, I’d like to be able to make more conscious decisions to put things on hold or change my direction on certain fronts.

The two  goal fields relevant to this little corner of the internet are ‘Culture Goal’ and ‘Creative Goal’.

The ‘Culture Goal‘ came from a reflection I made several years ago about the person I had wanted to be as a teenager, and the experiences I wanted that person to have, compared to what I felt I had become (one day I will write about the wasteland that was a large chunk of the middle of my 20’s). And though my teenage daydreams were both unrealistic, and a bit pretentious, I did feel that some of the things that I most enjoyed doing had fallen by the wayside (for a number of reasons). So I created this goal field to spur me into, excuse the bogan terminology, ‘gaining some culture’ and not just passively but in a participatory and reflective manner (ok so some of this goal is still pretentious, and also very white middle class).

So applying the SMART principles for 2015 my ‘Culture Goal’ is the following:

Reading

  • Read 55 books/25,000 pages
    • Write a paragraph blurb on all the books I read in Goodreads.
  • Start making videos for youtube again – 1 per month
    • Comment on other booktubers channels regularly
  • Write 12 book reviews (a friend of mine run a review website and I have been promising to write some reviews for an embarrassing amount of time).
  • Read 5 non-fiction books/ 5 modern classics/ 5 graphic novels/ 5 novels in translation
  • Do 12 things off the Book Riot Read Harder List
  • Reduce TBR
  • Read and vote in the 2015 Hugo awards
  • Continue as a short story reviewer – review 52 stories in 2015 (this is for a sci fi and fantasy fiction magazine and has been lots of fun so far).

Concerts/Festivals

  • Melbourne Theatre Company and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra subscriptions
  • See a new to me Shakespeare performed live.
  • See at least one National Theatre live at Nova
  • Attend Melbourne White Night Festival
  • See something at the following festivals – Melbourne International Film Festival, Melbourne International Comedy Festival, Melbourne Writers Festival
  • Continue fortnightly movie tradition (we have a local independent cinema two blocks from my Melbourne apartment)
  • Go to a concert/art exhibition/play every quarter (not included in the above)
  • Write a sentence blurb on each of these experiences at least in my journal, if not on my blog.

The ‘Creative Goal‘ is all about my creative self expression and also trying to gain some solid skills in some of the crafts that I enjoy (again another area of life in which consistency is difficult to achieve, and it is very telling in both my writing and creative endeavors).

So applying the SMART principles for 2015 my ‘Creative Goal’ is the following:

Visual Art Projects

  • Complete Dr Who Scarf/Blanket
  • Complete William Morris Cross-Stitch (without having a breakdown)
  • Start mushroom cross-stitch
  • Submit entry to Linden PostCard show

Writing

  • Finish a draft of ‘the current novel’ (100,000 words (of which I have 65,000))
    • Workshop as long piece in March
  • Complete Camp Nano and Nanowrimo 2015
  • Write and publish 12 short pieces of fanfiction
  • Redraft short story (working title the Mistress and the Maid) and send out for possible publication
  • Complete story for my writing group anthology
  • Write serious chunks of five new (short) stories (or at least play with some new story ideas).
  • Be a fully present and unflappable member of my writing group
    • Make sure to read and review well all pieces submitted
    • Turn up to as many meetings as possible
    • Workshop twice in 2015

General Creative-ness

  • Schedule weekly craft and writing times
    • Organise work schedule
    • Organise writers den
    • Organise crafting supplies
    • Stay on top of hoarding tendencies
  • Blog Monthly on creative blog and Green Eyed Gal Reads
  • Keep personal journal on my creative process (and life generally).

Realistically I will not achieve all of these things, but then on the flip side I will do things that I haven’t even heard of, or thought about, but this is sort of how I would like my 2015 to shape up.

Goodbye 2014

It’s Sunday afternoon in my little corner of the world. It is for me traditionally a moment in my week in which I am filled with an overwhelming sense of frustration to the point of tears. For it is the point at which I have to put down whatever fun things I have been playing with on the weekend and begin to get ready for the week ahead. And it always seems to coincide with a moment in which I am filled with the urge to create, and also the realization that the list of incredible things that I was going to get through this weekend are not going to happen. Now wise heads would probably indicate that I should manage my time better, something I fully recognize but as yet have not been able to implement a plan for this to occur. Perhaps 2015 shall be the year in which I figure out how to achieve this.

For the moment I just wanted to use this window into my emotional state as a jumping off point to talk about how this Sunday I am actually feeling pretty chilled even though it is actually the end of not just a weekend but also my Christmas/New Years break. And it is not because I did all the things on my list or anything like that, it’s just…. I am really not sure what it is, it just is.

Some of the reason I am chilled out might be that I have been reflecting on 2014 and what I wanted to say about it. And mostly I have come back with positive things. I did not achieve all of the things that I would have liked to and some things that started out strong, like my youtube channel and my plans for this blog, fell by the wayside throughout the year. However, when I pulled out my New Years Goals/Resolutions for 2014 and made notes on what I achieved there were a lot of green yesses, a lot of orange sort-ofs and not nearly as much red No’s as I had expected (Yes I color coded my responses – it is pretty and helpful and you should try it sometime). And when I wrote down some of the other things I achieved but hadn’t included in my list (Completing Nanowrimo, first fanfic, my accidental side trip to the UK) it made 2014 a pretty incredible year really.

The less tangible things that made 2014 a good year are that with every year I am so much more comfortable in my own skin, not to say I am always happy with every aspect, but I just like feeling at home with who I am, mistakes and all. And I like being able to step more boldly into new experiences, good and bad, because of this.

And I am so grateful for so many things in my life right now. 2014 had a few brand new experiences that can be filed under the crappy/horrid/scary/wtf pile and rather than drag me down they just gave me a new level of appreciation of how lucky I am. I am lucky for the people in my life, those who have been around forever and those who just came into my life, I am lucky for the experiences I gained (travel, culture, emotional, physical) and I am grateful to be me, right here, right now.

So thanks 2014! You were pretty awesome. And to everyone (though most of that everyone will never read this blog) who was in my 2014. Thanks!

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo #Diversiverse 2014

Or Brie is (very, very) late to the party yet again.

Awhile ago (read months ago) I posted that I would be participating in Diversiverse 2014 (See bottom of the post for Diversiverse details) by reading We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo.

And I did, read it that is, well before I needed to, but I failed at the last hurdle and haven’t yet written my review. And my excuse for not writing my review is the usual writing reviews make me stressed and when I get stressed I avoid and I procrastinate and then I miss deadlines. Nevertheless what follows shall be my attempt to write a coherent review and completing things, if not on time then at least completing things.

We Need New Names by NoViolet Bulawayo

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Blurb:

We Need New Names tells the story of Darling and her friends Stina, Chipo, Godknows, Sbho and Bastard. They all used to have proper houses, with real rooms and furniture, but now they all live in a shanty called Paradise. They spend their days stealing guavas, playing games and wondering how to get the baby out of young Chipo’s stomach. They dream of escaping to other paradises – America, Dubai, Europe. But if they do escape, will these new lands bring everything they wish for? Man Booker Prize

Review:

The blurb for this book is a little bit of a misdirect (as many blurbs are) as the story really focuses on Darling and for the second half of the novel, once Darling has moved to the US, we really only catch glimpses of her childhood friends. As I became quite attached to all of Darling’s friends I was a little sad that their stories became so fragmentary in the second half of the novel but this is more my preference for the tying up of loose ends rather than something lacking from the actual novel.

There is a distinct shift from the large character cast, and a more coherent detailed story, in the first half We Need New Names to the more fragmentary scenes and the disconnected and isolated Darling in the second half. And this shift in the narrowed narrative focus of Darling’s experience as child and then teenager is placed into a broader context of a displaced migrant experience through the secondary narrative within the novel. I found the secondary narrative frustrating and distracting in the first half of the novel when I just wanted to learn more of Darling and her friends but its occurrence in the second half of the novel helped tie together the whole novel and contribute to the feeling of disconnection and loss which the reader is left with at the end. And though overall I enjoyed the reading experience with We need new names I would not say it was a particularly happy feeling I was left with when I think of where the novel took the characters in the end.

All the details on Diversiverse 2014 (and perhaps a bookmark to add it to your calendar for 2015 or even just your general reading goals for 2015).

“For those who have not heard about #Diversiverse before, it’s a very simple challenge.  For those of you who have participated in the past, it’s even easier this year.  The criteria are as follows:

  • Read and review one book
  • Written by a person of color
  • During the last two weeks of September (September 14th – 27th) “

Diversiverse is the brainchild of Aarti from Booklust .