Tuesday, 19 November 2013

2014 Individual Reading Challenge - Focus Authors

Last year, I added an additional Individual reading challenge besides my Alphabetical Mystery authors challenge. My wife might not believe this, but I've got quite a few books on my TBR shelf (just kidding there, she does know) and that includes many series that have been neglected over the past couple of years. So I chose 12 authors, some I'd read before, with a number of books sitting there that hadn't been read and decided each month to focus on one of the authors and use those books as my bed-time book. Hmmmm, maybe I should have called my bedtime author's challenge.

Ngaio Marsh
The Twelve Authors I chose in 2013 were -
1. Ngaio Marsh - author of the Inspector Alleyn mysteries
2. Phillip K. Dick - Science fiction writer
3. Charlaine Harris - Author of the True Blood books as well as the Lily Bard mysteries, the Harper Connelly and the Aurora Teagarden mysteries.
4. Jane Haddam - Author of the Gregor Demarkian mysteries
5. Ian Fleming - the James Bond books
6. C.S. Forester - Author of the Horatio Hornblower adventures
7. Edgar Rice Burroughs - Author of the John Carter of Mars books as well as countless other excellent Fantasy stories
8. Bernard Cornwell - Author of the Sharpe historic adventures
9. John D. MacDonald - Author of the Travis McGee mysteries
10. Alistair MacLean - Author of a variety of war, spy and adventure thrillers.
11. Ian Rankin - Author of the Inspector Rebus mysteries.
12. Ellis Peters - Author of the historical Cadfael mysteries.

Ellis Peters
Of these authors, only John D. MacDonald was a new author to me, I'd read at least one of each of the other author's books and, in some cases, quite a few. But this challenge gave me an opportunity to try and make a bigger dent in their writings and in some cases to re-introduce myself to their excellent works. At the moment, I am reading Ian Rankin's Inspector Rebus mysteries. I had previously read the first nine books in the series, but it's been a couple of years since I picked up another. I've finished Dead Souls so far and hope, by the end of the month to have finished the next book, Set in Darkness. For the most part I've managed to read 3 or 4 books by each author, but either I'm running out of steam as the end of 2013 gets closer or the Rebus books are a bit longer (I choose the latter). For December, my bedtime book with be the Cadfael mysteries. I've read 3 or 4 of the series so far and I think I'll manage to make a bit more of a dent in the series by end 2013. I've enjoyed the books and also the TV series, starring Derek Jacoby as the intrepid Cadfael.

So what to do for 2014? Do I keep this challenge going? I do hear the many series on my TBR shelf calling out to me. 'Take me, Take me!!' I don't think I have much choice.

What I've tentatively decided to do (I do reserve the right to change my mind before year's end) is to not limit myself to 12 authors. Instead, what I'll do is limit myself to two books by each author over the course of the year. that way, I may get exposure to many more series and satisfy both myself and my demanding TBR shelf. Over the past couple... Er, few years I've gathered many series that seemed interesting, but that I just haven't had a chance to crack open yet. This might present me the opportunity to finally do that. I'm thinking of authors like Jefferson Bass of the Body Farm books, M.C. Beaton of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish MacBeth mysteries, Simon Brett of the Mrs Pargeter or the Fethering mysteries, etc.. Those examples are just the tip of the ice berg. Believe me! Then of course, I can also refresh myself with some of my favourite writers and series; Nevil Shute, Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon books or Donna Leon's Inspector Brunetti mysteries. I think I will probably work the challenge this way, it'll let me read more authors and maybe keep me a bit fresher over the course of the year. :0)

Anyway, something for me to think about for the next month as I finish off 2014's reading selections. I've noticed that my Goodread's book group already has threads up for both the Reading Group and the Individual challenges. I'll give myself another few weeks before I add my challenges. Can't wait!!

Have a great day tomorrow.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Individual Reading Group Challenge 2014 - Alphabetical Mystery Authors

Two years ago, as one of my Individual Reading Group Challenges, I decided to try and make a dent in my collection of mysteries; and when I say mysteries, I also include spy novels and thrillers. What I decided to do  was to work my way alphabetically through the author's on my TBR shelf, starting at the letter A (makes sense, eh?), reading one book by each author. I've been pretty successful so far, over the two year period I'm managed to work my way up to the letter H; the last author I read was Carolyn Hart.

In 2012, the first book I cheated a bit with my first book, as it actually was by an author starting with the letter 'B', John Bingham. He was a new author for me and I remember finding the book at a used book store in Worthing, UK. After that I got on track and over the course of the year I finished books, finishing the year off with an Inspector Lynley mystery, Deception on his Mind, by Elizabeth George. I discovered many new authors; Mark Billingham, M.C. Beaton and Lee Child to name just a few. My favourite books from this challenge were John Le Carre's, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Karin Altvegen's, Shadow, Colin Cotterill's, The Coroner's Lunch and Ariana Franklin's, Grave Goods. I was quite satisfied with my progress in 2012 and decided to continue with the challenge in the same format for 2013.

While thus far in 2013, I've read more books in total, about 15 more than 2013, due to adding an additional Individual challenge, I've only managed to complete 15 more books in the Alphabetical Author challenge. I'll probably manage one or 2 more by year end, depending on how the rest of November and December go. As I mentioned earlier, I've worked my way into the H's; I seem to have quite a few G and H authors in my bookshelf. I did discover a couple of new authors; Kerry Greenwood, Australian author of the Phryne Fisher mysteries and Tarquin Hall, author of Indian PI, Vish Puri, mysteries. Now that I look at it, I actually read more than 15 mysteries, as the Kerry Greenwood book had three complete stories within. (just saying. ;0)). My favourite mystery was an old classic, Dashiell Hammett's classic, The Maltese Falcon.

While I'm not trying to say I have too many books in my TBR list (the missus might say that though), I've been thinking of how I would like to continue with this challenge. What I'm thinking is that instead of just working my way up the alphabet, I might instead alternate, one H, then one W. (I don't have an X, Y or Z.. yet.. ;0)

Depending where I end up at the end of December, I will probably still be in the letter H and either start with either Jack Harvey's Blood Hunt or James Hawkins, Missing: Presumed Dead, both new authors for me. Switching to W next, I would be reading an Inspector Frost mystery, Night Frost, by R.D. Wingfield. I think this plan might freshen the challenge up and ensure that my end of alphabet authors don't feel neglected. ;0)...

So there you go, one of my possible challenges for 2014. Next post, I'll take a look at my Focus Author Challenge.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

What's up for 2014?

I know it's barely mid - November, but over the past week or so, in various of my Goodreads reading groups, we've started to a little bit towards what we might like to add to our reading group challenges for 2014. I tried to avoid it, but during a couple of quiet days, I went into my TBR book shelf of about 500 books to see what I might like to start thinking of for next year's challenges.... Only the vaguest notions at this time, but here are some of my considerations..

12 + 2 Reading Group Challenge

Once again, I think I'll try to break it down with a few mysteries, some fiction, some SciFi, Non-Fiction/ Biography and a couple of classics..

Mysteries - In my first cursory look, I put a few down on my 'possibles' list, including the featured on to the left, Lars Kepler's The Hypnotist, one of the fine crop of Scandinavian mysteries, that have come out in recent years. Also possibles are another Swedish mystery, one I've wanted to read for awhile, the first Wallander mystery, Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell. Continuing with a Scandinavian theme, is Roseanna by Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo. I've tried a few of the Scandinavian mysteries this past couple of years and for the most part (with a couple of exceptions) haven't been disappointed. A few others added to my possible list include Kate Atkinson's One Good Turn, John le CarrĂ©'s The Looking Glass War and Colin Cotterill's Thirty -three Teeth.

Science - Fiction/ Fantasy - I enjoyed the SciFi stories I read this past year and always try to read a few each year. It used to be my favourite genre, but over time, has been superseded by Mysteries for some reason. I haven't read any Neil Gaiman but have heard many good things about his materiel. I found Neverwhere at the most recent Rotary Club Book Sale, so had to try it out. I gather it was originally a BBC mini-series, but turned into a novel. It tells the story of an ordinary man thrust into a world he never knew existed, the dark subculture living in the subway stations below London. (Sounded interesting). Also included in my SciFi/ Fantasy possibilities are Scott Westerfield's final instalment in the Leviathan books, Goliath, Edgar Rice Burroughs' Tarzan of the Apes, Iain M. Banks, Excession, one of his Culture series and Hugh Howey's Wool Omnibus.

Non-Fiction - I haven't found any yet. I will take a closer look at my Biographies/ Non-Fiction type books prior to the end of the year, but at the moment my list is too small..

Fiction/ Classics - I think the Fiction/ Classics section will be my major source of books for my 12 + 2 challenge, possibly 6 or 7. My tentative list ranges from Ford Madox Ford's Parade's End, which attracted my interest from the BBC TV mini-series with Benedict Cumberbatch, to Anthony Trollope's Can You Forgive Her, the first in the Palliser books. I've also placed books by C.S. Forester, The General, Graham Greene, The Man Within, D.H. Lawrence, The Prussian Officer, W. Somerset Maugham, The Moon and Sixpence, V.S. Naipaul, The Mystic Masseur, George Orwell, Coming Up for Air, Jennifer Worth, Call the Mid-wife and Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited. I have to say that some of these selections are due to my lovely wife, not that she suggested them necessarily, but from watching various mini-series or just discussions we have had about actors and books.

Anyway, for today, just a few ideas on what might or might not make it to my 12 + 2 list. Still lots of time to totally re look and rejig this of course. Next Blog, maybe I'll look at my Focus Author challenge or my Alphabetical Mystery author challenge. I've got some possible ideas there.. :0)

Anyway, back to the puppies and my current books; Ian Rankin's Dead Souls and C.J. Sansom's Revelation.
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