Reading in 2018

2018 should be an interesting year of books for me. Last year I set a GoodReads Reading Challenge Goal of 52 books which I literally finished on 12/31/2017.

Some of my librarian friends mentioned the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge back in early 2017 and I joined the forums but never visited. This year, I’m in two book clubs and I feel trying to do the Read Harder Challenge will let me be a bit more focused on what I read.

In one book club, the hostess picks the book we’ll read so when we meet up we usually end up having dinner, discussing the book, discussing what’s happening in our lives, and then we talk about our current reading picks. As readers, we’re usually reading another book not long after finishing the book club pick.

In my newest book club, we pick any book we want and talk about it. We’re strongly considering using the Book Riot tasks to focus what we’re reading.

My reading challenge this year is 54 books (I know there will likely be a handful of graphic novels) with more intentions.

R.I.P. X Challenge

RIPX Image Courtesy of Abigail Larson

Over the years I’ve seen calls for the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril challenge and I finally decided to participate. The logo by Abigail Larson is pretty awesome, isn’t it?

This challenge or event runs from September 1st through October 31st so it’s a short commitment and I plan on a setting a small goal since I’m starting late. It’s not limited to books. You can read short stories or watch movies that fit the theme. This year it’s hosted by The Estella Society and the gist of it is this:

Without further ado, pick your poison, won’t you? September 1st is here, and we’re ready to begin!

Dark Fantasy.

Or anything sufficiently moody that shares a kinship with the above.

That is what embodies the stories, written and visual, that we celebrate with the R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril event.

As time has wound on, we’ve discovered that simple rules are best:

1. Have fun reading (and watching).
2. Share that fun with others.

The books I’m contemplating reading include:

  • On the Night of the Seventh Moon by Victoria Holt
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
  • The Apothecary by Maile Malloy
  • The Scarab Heart by Michael Gallagher
  • The Church of Dead Girls by Stephen Dobyns

As I mentioned, I’m going to go for a small goal. Peril the Second: Read two books of any length that you believe fit within the R.I.P. categories.

Peril The Second

A Month of Letters 2013 Wrap-Up

Here are the links to my weekly LetterMo updates:

The challenge is to mail an item daily for each day of postal service in your area. The second part of the challenge is to reply to all the letters you receive.

I did better this year in sending items out, replying to letters, and posting my updates. Last year I mainly wrote to people I knew. This year I added some new people from the LetterMo forums to my address book. Postable seemed like a popular choice for keeping track of mailing addresses although I did not create an account for myself. I did add my address to a few Postable accounts. I made sure each new person I wrote or was hoping to get a letter from had something in common with me. Usually it was an interest such as reading, writing, or yarn crafting. Continue reading A Month of Letters 2013 Wrap-Up

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Title: Wolf Hall
Author: Hilary Mantel
Publisher: Macmillan
Source: My Personal Library

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

In the ruthless arena of King Henry VIII’s court, only one man dares to gamble his life to win the king’s favor and ascend to the heights of political power

England in the 1520s is a heartbeat from disaster. If the king dies without a male heir, the country could be destroyed by civil war. Henry VIII wants to annul his marriage of twenty years, and marry Anne Boleyn. The pope and most of Europe opposes him. The quest for the king’s freedom destroys his adviser, the brilliant Cardinal Wolsey, and leaves a power vacuum.

Into this impasse steps Thomas Cromwell. Cromwell is a wholly original man, a charmer and a bully, both idealist and opportunist, astute in reading people and a demon of energy: he is also a consummate politician, hardened by his personal losses, implacable in his ambition. But Henry is volatile: one day tender, one day murderous. Cromwell helps him break the opposition, but what will be the price of his triumph?

In inimitable style, Hilary Mantel presents a picture of a half-made society on the cusp of change, where individuals fight or embrace their fate with passion and courage. With a vast array of characters, overflowing with incident, the novel re-creates an era when the personal and political are separated by a hairbreadth, where success brings unlimited power but a single failure means death.

Mantel creates a sympathetic portrayal of Thomas Cromwell. He’s a self-made man who left his abusive father’s home as soon as he could. I’ve commented in the Wolf Hall Read-Along discussions (held by The Bluestocking Society  and It’s All About Books) how his story can appeal to Americans since he’s a self-made made. Out of nothing but his willingness to work (or fight in battle) and use his brains, he rises to power in King Henry’s court.

One aspect of Cromwell nearly everyone commented on in the Read-Along was his love for his wife. Because of his background he was able to choose his own wife. Mantel certainly makes you believe he loved her. After her death he longs for her and often finds himself mistaking his sister-in-law’s presence for his wife. Years later, he still thinks of her.

The political intrigue is quite interesting but nothing I’d want to live through or with. A lot of the book is spent trying to figure out how Henry can leave his wife and still be a religious example. Cromwell thinks like a lawyer and a common man so it’s interesting when he thinks ahead to the counter-arguments.

There are so many different characters with the same first names – Thomas, Henry, Edward and William – it can be difficult to keep track of them. Fortunately, Mantel has a reference guide in the front of the book. I didn’t want to wait too long before reading Bring Up the Bodies. For some readers it will be confusing because some of the story is told through Cromwell’s recollections and some parts are third-person point of view. But if you can read it for long stretches at a time, it will become second nature to know what is happening in the action.

A Month of Letters 2013 Update #4

Lettermo is no more but the spirit lives on.

This week I mostly sent letters:

  • Michelle Obama
  • Mary Robinette Kowal – I received her reply to my first letter this week so I sent her a reply.
  • An introductory letter to a UK Lettermo participant.
  • An introductory postcard to a US Lettermo participant.
  • Replies to Beth Cato, Rhonda Parrish, and a third Lettermo participant.
  • Girls Love Mail – I sent a small package with three letters.
  • A birthday present for my niece.

As of today I have mailed 25 items, received 14 Achievements and have an achievement score of 140.

In last week’s update I mentioned some people have mailed hundreds of items and pondered how much was spent in postage. One person was kind enough to share his statistics for the month. In February he sent out 56 cards and spent about $33.40 in postage. He received 23 pieces of mail which I think is a wonderful number. At the end of January he sent out 14 items which may have helped increase what he received.

My mailed items went to:

  1. Alberta, Canada
  2. Berlin, Germany
  3. Southampton, United Kingdom
  4. California, Illinois, Georgia, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington D.C, and Wisconsin.

Next week I’ll have a wrap-up post.


A Month of Letters 2013 Update #3

The third week for the challenge is now over!

This week I mostly sent postcards and letters:

  • Artist Deena Warner – Starting in 2005 I’ve received an annual Halloween card from  her. For once, I thought I’d send her a little artwork, and sent her a Niteblade postcard featuring artwork from Marge Simon.
  • A reply to Suey of It’s All About Books.
  • A friend in New Jersey.
  • An introduction letter to a Lettermo Participant who friended me on the forums.

As of today I have mailed 17 items, received 11 achievements and have an achievement score of 90. One person has mailed 374 items. While I can estimate that is quite a bit of postage, I can’t help but wonder what the person has mailed to people. Are they postcards, mailart, packages, or letters?

I have been quite a bit more active on the forums this year for Lettermo and one of the questions posed was “In what order do you send your mail?” When you have a bunch of thank you cards, for example, do you tackle the shortest content first? Do you write them in alphabetical order? Do you send them out according to geographic area?

My goal for Lettermo was to send letters internationally first and when it came to my Valentines I sent them out according to the furthest point from me first to Ohio addresses last. Everything else has been sent with no rhyme or reason.

A Month of Letters 2013 Update #2

The second week for the challenge is now over. I skipped mailing on Friday and Saturday and made it up on other days.

It was a big week for Valentines:

  • A birthday card for Kimmie’s niece.
  • Valentine’s cards for my two best friends.
  • Valentine’s postcards to Beth Cato, my parents, and my brother-in-law’s family.
  • A postcard to the station manager of the main post office.
  • A letter to a fellow Lettermo participant in Germany

Incoming mail is still slow but more than before. My first item was a letter from Suey of It’s All About Books. I received a funny Valentine from Beth Cato. Not surprisingly, a package arrived from my mother with Valentine’s Day goodies for me and my husband. And today I found a pleasantly large envelope from Rhonda Parrish. It was a cute notecard with some Niteblade postcards which I will be sending to other Lettermo participants.

Something new this year for Lettermo are the enhancements to the site. It keeps track of the # of items you mailed, and gives you an achievement score for different things (finding a new mailbox, sending a valentine/birthday wishes, mailing to an international address, etc.). As of today I have mailed 13 items, received 8 achievements and have an achievement score of 42. Some people have mailed out 159 items. That seems unbelievable!

Heather B. Armstrong made a timely post about teaching her daughter how to address an envelope I thought I’d share with you today.

Would you like me to send you something in the mail? Let me know and I’ll send you an email to get your address.

A Month of Letters 2013 Update #1

It’s a week into February and I’ve been doing well at keeping up with the challenge.

So far I’ve sent mail to:

Incoming mail has been small. I received some postage stamps I ordered online and cute Valentine’s Day postcards from Etsy. I’m not expecting much return mail this year.

I thought for this next week it would be interesting to write to authors whose work I like. Some had contact forms on their site or an email address listed. Not surprisingly in this day and age, not many of them have snail mail addresses available. Here were my findings:

  1. Kate Atkinson – No snail mail information.
  2. Margaret Atwood – Snail mail contacts for agent, foreign language rights, film/tv rights and research/academic inquiries.
  3. Emma Donoghue – Snail mail contacts for film rights, agent, speaking engagements, and so on.
  4. Neil Gaiman – Snail mail address for one of his assistants.
  5. Sara Gruen – Snail mail address for agent and speaking engagements.
  6. Joe Hill – No snail mail information.
  7. Jim C. Hines – No snail mail information.
  8. Lee Martin – Snail mail contacts for media and agents contacts. He’s local to me so I could send a letter to his office at the university but that’s stalkerish behavior.
  9. Christopher Moore – No snail mail information.
  10. R.L. Naquin – No snail mail information.
  11. Kait Nolan – No snail mail information.

If you’re participating, are you doing any “theme” weeks?

A Month of Letters 2013

A Month of Letters 2013

It’s nearly that time again. February is A Month of Letters challenge. All you have to do is mail an item every day the post runs. In the United States that is 23 days. You don’t have to mail a letter or a post card. You can mail a newspaper clipping, a magazine article, or a swatch of fabric. Anything. Hopefully you’ll get something in return.

So far I’ve stocked up on note cards, paper and envelopes. Next week I’ll pick up a bunch of forever stamps and plan out my calendar.

Are you going to do it this year?

A Month of Letters Challenge – The Wrap-Up

I had my weekly updates in draft form and decided to just sum everything up and get it posted since the challenge ended on February 29th. 🙂

The challenge was to send an item each day the post office was open. For February that was 21 days. I never counted bills so I ended up sending out 11 items.

  • 2 post cards to complete strangers.
  • 1 post card and a note to internet friends.
  • 7 cards/notes to friends and family.
  • 1 knitted bunny for a birthday present. 🙂

What was I hoping to accomplish? On one level it was to brighten someone’s day. On another level it was to develop a new relationship or deepen an already existing one.

What, if anything, did I learn? It can be difficult writing to strangers unless you  have some common ground. Notes can be too short if you want to really say something. My notes make more sense if I concentrate on one topic or mentally plan what I want to convey. Otherwise, I end up crossing out a lot of things.

Will I continue sending letters? Or do the challenge next year? Yes and yes. I recently watched the first season of Downton Abbey and was struck by how the letters they sent and received were able to shape the storyline. There’s no reason why continued, regular correspondence can’t let the people I care about know I’m thinking of them.