Tag Archive | A to Z Challenge

A to Z Reading Challenge 2011

Ok, so I’m a little late doing this, sorry, but better late than never eh!

In late 2010, I heard some people talking about reading novels from A to Z. I thought, what a brilliant idea, and decided to set myself a challenge of doing exactly that in 2011. As I was writing a blog about it, it occurred to me that other people may have the same idea. I googled A to Z Challenge and found this site – A to Z Challenge I didn’t have to start one all by myself!

I started with no plan at all, except to read the A to Z (author surname) in order, and stick pretty much to just those 26 books. In 2010 I’d read about 24 books, so knew I wasn’t going to be able to read many more than the 26.

Of course as time went by and I made my way through the challenge, I found there were other books I really wanted to read that either were a letter way further down the line, or that had a letter I’d already read, or already planned what I was going to read for it. I let myself read a couple of other novels – but only if I REALLY wanted to needed to.

I did cheat a little. Kinna. I didn’t actually finish 26 novels. There were 3 letters that for different reasons I didn’t finish the novel.

Letter L was Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee, I started it and was enjoying it, but it was all about sex, when this girl had it, where she had it and how much she thought about it. Nothing really wrong with that, but I do most of my reading on the tube, I felt embarrassed reading it on the tube, so picked up M, and told myself I’d read L at home. I never got round to it.

Letter O was a really good book – The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell. I got it from the library (a god send, I couldn’t have afforded 26 books in 1 year on top of the ‘really want ones’), and took it to Sweden when I went. I’m not sure if it was on the flight, at the hotel, or our friends’ house, but somewhere I lost it. Typical. I ended up having to pay it in the end anyway. I’d gone on to P while I was away, and just never got the opportunity to go back to it. At some point, I would like to buy it, or borrow it and finish reading it.

Letter Z was a hard one, which I started before a few other letters. I unexpectedly finished the novel I was reading on a Sunday and didn’t have a chance to go and get the next letter. Boyfriend came to the rescue and gave me a Z – Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. It was sci-fi which isn’t my choice, but I’d borrowed a couple off him in the years previously which I quite enjoyed. Lord of Light was not another one though. I just couldn’t get into, or really understand it. I gave it 50 or so pages, but couldn’t go on. When I gave it back to boyfriend, he said he’d had a hard job getting into it. Sigh.

So, I didn’t make 26 novels, but I started them all. In my book I finished it – yay!

Also, I didn’t review all, or add any of my review to the site, but to be honest, I didn’t find the website too easy to navigate, and lets face it, all I need is a little excuse and I won’t do something. I guess technically if I didn’t check-in, I didn’t really do it. In my mind I did though!

I’m really glad I did the challenge, I read a lot of authors that I’d never had done otherwise, and you know me, I love a challenge. But, I’d never do it again. I found it WAY too constrictive, and because I knew I couldn’t really read many other books, I felt guilty when reading one that wouldn’t go towards the challenge. There were times when I just HAD to read other books – like The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon and Faking It by Lotte Daley – and there were many, many more times when I wanted to read another book, but just couldn’t. There were also quite a few letters where I was so torn over which novel to read. M was a good example, I had about 3 books with the letter M on my TBR shelf at home. So what did I do? I went out and bought another. Typical! It was New Moon (Twilight) by Stephanie Meyer.

I discovered some brilliant authors because of the challenge though – Jeff Abbott, Allison Brennan, Ilana Fox Rob Ryan, Nancy Taylor Rosenburg and Minette Walters. Weird – most of the new good authors write thrillers… what does that tell me? I say I prefer women’s lit (chick-lit), but it’s a close call. I did discover new chick-lit authors, but when I discovered them, I read them out of sequence and out of the challenge because I just HAD to read them there and then (Ali McNamara and Lotte Daley)

I know all the books are listed on my ‘Books’ page, but here’s a list of them – from A to Z. Just for fun, I’m putting a comment and rating out of 5 after each one – not something I usually do. The ones which I have reviewed have the links to the actual review.

A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott – brilliant. Can’t wait to read the other ones in the series – 4.5/5

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern – Prefered her earlier stuff, but still pretty good – 4/5 (I couldn’t choose between the As, so read them both)

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay – Loved it, love his work – 5/5

Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan – So happy I discovered her. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series 4.5/5 (ditto the comment re A for B)

The Famous Writer’s School by Stephen Carter – Not what I imagined. 2.5/5

Ex-Girlfiends United by Matt Dunn – Little slow 2.5/5

Past Mortem by Ben Elton – Good, he’s done better, but still good – 4/5

Spotlight by Ilana Fox – Didn’t expect to, but loved it 4.5/5

The Love Verb by Jane Green – As usual loved it – 4.5/5

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes – Slow 2/5

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro – Couldn’t get over the cultural difference – 2/5

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell – Once got into it, really enjoyed – 4/5

The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson – Loved every second – 4.5/5

Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee – what I read was good. I will finish it at some point 3/5

Twilight: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer – Not as great as Twilight, but still good. 4/5

One Day by David Nicholls – Took a long time to get into it. Had me crying like a baby at the end though. 3.5/5

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell* – I need to finish this – 3/5

Still Thinking of You by Adele Parks – as always a brilliant read from Ms Parks  4.5/5

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – took ages to get into the story – 2.5/5

Trans Am by Rob Ryan – fast paced, gripping – 4.5/5

Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton – loved. Better than her first (and, you know –New York) – 4.5/5

Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Brilliant 4.5/5

Die for You by Lisa Unger – Not what I expected in a really good way. 4/5

The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine – slow, slightly boring. 2.5/5

The Sculptress by Minette Walters – Excellent – 4.5/5

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu – Really enjoyed it 4/5

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto* – again, couldn’t get over the cultural differences 2/5

Lord of light by Roger Zelazny – just couldn’t get into it – sci-fi really isn’t my thing – 1/5

All in all, it was a good year, but I’m glad it’s over and I can read what I want to read, not what’s next on the list!

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January Books Clubs

Last month, having gone from none, I got myself involved in two book clubs, and it seems I’ve done the same again this month.

A friend of mine, her sister and work colleague decided in November to start a book club, so December was month one. We read Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto, which unfortunately none of us enjoyed. I chose that book (I needed a Y for the A to Z Challenge), this time it was B’s turn to choose. Like me she gave the rest of us a choice, and we decided on The Tigers Wife by Tea Obreht. It sounds slightly depressing, but hey, I’ll give anything a go. I’ll read that after the next one, our next meeting isn’t until 25th, so loads of time!

The second book club is at NovelKicks, a website that my ROW80 buddy Laura runs. A year, or maybe 18 months ago, I tried to get involved in the NK book club, but at the time they were reading The Little Stranger by Sarah Walters. I got the book, I tried, but it just bored me. I promised myself I’d get involved the following month, but you know me, life got in the way.

Last month I saw Laura had chosen The Gift by Cecelia Ahern for the book. As it happened that was on my TBR pile, and I wanted to read it around Christmas. I joined in. Well, I commented that I’d started it, and I read the book. No more comments. How rubbish am I?!

I promised myself if I got involved again, I’d do better. This month the chosen book is When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – a book that I’ve wanted to read since it came out last year (I’m not sure if it’s because it’s got a wicked title, or the actual story). Of course I’m joining in again. This time, I promise I’m going to join in with NK and comment! That’s the next book on my list. If you’re interested in joining, please do, everyone is welcome, Laura would love to see you HERE.

I’ve nearly finished Petit Anglaise. Yesterday I arranged to meet my other half in the library before we went shopping (gym clothes, not all that exciting). There were no computers free, so I sat in one of the chairs (that isn’t as comfy as it looks) and read for half an hour. It was great. I can’t wait until summer, so there’s a nice view of the water from the library (Canada Water water – the water the whole area was named after – small, but cute with swans and ducks and stuff!).

Post Christmas Blog

I hope everyone had a great Christmas (or holiday if you don’t celebrate it). I had a wonderful time seeing my and my boyfriend’s families and friends and of course loads of eating, drinking and presents. I had lots of fun, but am glad it’s over for another year (as is my waistline).

Luckily, my boyfriend and I booked these 3 days between Christmas and New Year off work, so we’re having a nice 10 day holiday. The problem is we are always visiting someone or travelling, which means I’ve not had time for much (any) blogging, writing or even reading.

Hmmm.

There’s another 3 days of the year, and in that time I need to finish a novel for the A to Z Challenge and review 3 books for the Mystery & Suspense Challenge. There’s part of me that thinks I should review all 26 books for the A to Z Challenge, but that’s just too much to even comprehend, so I’m going to ignore that thought.

I also need to do a round-up of the M&SC and the AtZC, and of course a round-up of the whole year – reading AND writing. Which of course is why I’m just doing a normal blog today.

Writing. Hmmmm. Well. 

Like I said, I’ve just not had a chance to do anything this holiday. We’re going home tomorrow, so I’m hoping to get loadsof writing done then and on the 31st. I have to – The Man of My Dreams is nowhere near finished, and my goal was to finish it this year. Damn. I don’t really know how much I have left to write, maybe 15-20k words. It is doable this year, but I doubt very much I can. I’ll give it a try.

My plan has been to finish it December, leave it in January, then pick it back up in February to start editing. If it’s not finished in December, I don’t know what to do.

I know it needs to get finished. I k now that. But, there’s part of me that thinks I should just stop and leave it for the month, then pick back up in February for the edit, but include the ending in the edit. Or read it first, then finish the ending, then edit.

I know that’s a bad idea, and I suspect I only think that because it’s the easy way out (right now). I just think there’s a few holes that need to be filled in so it would be easier if I’d read it through to know where to finish it. That’s silly though,  because I know how to finish it. I’m just making excuses I think. I’ll finish it then leave it for a month, so maybe it won’t be 1st February, but hopefully, not that much later.

Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Review

Corruption, violence, rape and a mother’s vengeance are the explosive ingredients of this exceptional thriller. Promotion to chief of the Sex Crimes Division, and a budding romance with colleague Richard Fowler, give DA Lily Forrester the courage to end a bad marriage. Once she gets teenage Shana through the divorce, she can really start to live her own life. But the dream is shattered when a brutal intruder invades her home and attacks Lily and her daughter. And – distraught, terrified, frantic to protect Shana – Lily takes the law into her own hands . . .

This is another book that my Aunt picked up from a charity shop and offered to me before she took it to her holiday rental flat in Bournemouth. I am so glad she did.

I found the first chapter quite hard going as there were lots and lots of different characters thrown at the reader, but once I made it through there and realised who the important ones were and weren’t, I really got into it.

I couldn’t put it down, I was totally gripped. In the mornings I get a tube, then can either walk to work, or change to another tube for a 4 minute journey. Everyday when I was reading this I took the 2nd tube, just so I could read for those extra 4 minutes. I loved it that much.

I read it a few months ago (I know, I should have reviewed it then – naughty me!), so don’t remember too many details to review thoroughly, but I remember enough to have googled Nancy Taylor Rosenburg and been very happy to find she’s got LOADS more novels that I can read. The Mystery & Suspense Challenge 2012 is going to be a fun one!

*As well as counting this in the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge I’m using it as R in the A to Z Challenge. I know this is cheating a little as it should be a T (last name), but I genuinely thought she was Nancy Taylor-Rosenburg when I picked it up (Nancy Taylor – Rosenburg didn’t even cross my mind), so I’m going with it! Out of the rules I’ve broken for it (my own specified rules even if not the real ones) this is a minor one. Cheat? Maybe, but I don’t care. I’m just glad I thought it or I would have missed out on this awesome book!

Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan Review

In cyberspace, no one can hear you scream.

Instead of preparing for her high school graduation, Lucy Kincaid is facing a vicious execution. Lured by an online predator, she’s destined to die horribly – live on the Internet – while hundreds of heartless viewers watch and vote on the method of her slaughter. Her family’s only hope rests with Kate Donovan, an FBI agent who took on the same sadistic killer once before . . . and lost. Blamed for another girl’s gruesome murder, Kate’s been fighting to clear her name. But she agrees to join the hunt for Lucy – and reluctantly steps back into her worst nightmare.

With time running out before the bloody webcast airs, Kate teams up with forensic psychiatrist Dillon Kincaid to get inside the head of her twisted quarry, zero in on his chamber of horrors, and reach Lucy before grim history repeats itself and another innocent’s brutal death goes hideously live.

Face the fear. Speak its name. See its face.

I’d never heard of Allison Brennan, but my lovely boyfriend won this book for me in a Twitter competition. It was dubbed as Romantic Suspense, which kind of put me off it – I like my romance, and I like my suspense… but mixing them? (I was totally forgetting that I love Sandra Brown at this stage – and hers are definitely Romantic Suspense). I had to read the book though for three reasons: It was a prize, tt was letter B for my A to Z Challenge, and it’s a Mystery/Suspense novel that fits with that challenge.

If I’m completely honest, I actually read it at the beginning of the year, and loved it, but just hadn’t got round to reviewing until now.

The book was the third in a series, so I was worried that I was going to have missed half the story by missing the first 2 novels, but it turns out it’s a series, but each focusing on a different member of the Kincaid series. Missed nothing.

I can’t explain how much I loved this book. It was very graphic in some places, so I wouldn’t read if you have a weak stomach, but other than that I can say nothing bad about it (I don’t even think that was bad). I was immediately caught up in it and loved the main characters almost from the beginning. I couldn’t put it down once I got into it – there were way too many late nights because of it!

I can’t wait to read the other books in the series (which I most definitely will do – the only reason I haven’t this year is because I could only read 1 B in the A-Z Challenge and I wasn’t sure I’d have time to read many more outside the challenge), and to be honest, all her other books. She has A LOT (have a look at all of them here)!

Seriously, go buy it or rent it from the library. You will not regret it!

Book Groups Galore

Because November was NaNo month, for the whole month I think I pretty much missed out on writing about anything other than NaNo (quite frankly I’m surprised that I DID anything other than write for the month, but I did)! Now we’re into December I should probably start blogging about other things going on in my life.

Like my new book club.

Well, two book clubs really.

My dear ROW80 buddy Laura runs a site called NovelKicks which every month hosts a book club. I’ve joined in a couple of times when they were readings novels I really wanted to read, and December is another of those books! This month they’ve chosen The Gift by Cecelia Ahern.

Somehow this book coming out completely passed me by. I heard about it by accident one day (maybe on her website, I can’t remember) and knew I had to read it (seeing as it was Cecelia Ahern – I love her novels!). The problem was it looked like a Christmas book, which is fine, unless it’s summer. Which it was.

So I added it to my ‘wish list,’ which I promptly forgot, until the following summer, which was this summer. I was at a friend’s house when I found her book shelf. Hmmmm. Book shelf + me = more books on MY bookshelf. She told me to help myself to anything. I was SO good, I only took 3. One of which was… you guessed it The Gift. Like a good girl, I put it on my shelf, to read in December.

Of course I forgot. Until Laura asked on Facebook the other day what people’s favourite Christmas book is. I don’t have one, but I mentioned this and that I wanted to read it. She was thinking the same (great minds think alike eh!). So now it’s their book club December book. And when I’ve finished my current book, I’m going to jump in. I cannot wait. If you’d like to join in, anyone’s welcome, go here.

What’s the book I’m reading at the moment you ask? Well, it’s the one for my other book club.

Mid way through November, I went for a cheeky drink or two with a friend and her work colleagues and sister. Four of us were talking about how cool it would be to be part of a book club (I think it came from them all wanting to read my novel when I finish it), but in a really relaxed atmosphere (yeah, pub). We decided to start our own mini book club.

1 book per month. One pub meet up per month. No looking for hidden meanings – just if we enjoyed it or not.

We then had to decide on a book. I’m still finishing my A to Z Challenge so I suggested a novel who’s author’s surname begins with Y – the letter I had left to find. Everyone agreed, but decided I had to find the novel.

Hmmmm. Author whose surname begins with Y. Not that many. The library wasn’t that helpful, but Waterstones was. Especially when I found an author called Banana Yoshimoto. Now, I’m not saying I chose it for the name Banana, but it helped. Amrita the book we chose sounded good too.

So, currently reading Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto. Then The Gift by Cecelia Ahern. Then I have to read an X for the A – Z Challenge, then I think we’ll get to 2012, and the reading starts again, with new challenges too 😉

Weekend Update on Reading, Writing and Life

I have this strong urge to do a blog today and post it today. Without the internet (which is coming soon I’m promised) I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to pull it off, but we’ll give it a shot! *I didn’t so I’m posting on Monday – all still stands though*

Writing:

Well I’m trying to get through ‘Holiday,’ and the deadline I’ve given myself to finish it is 31st October. This is to coincide with the beginning of NaNo, so I don’t leave it on 1st November and take another six months to get back into it – as has been the case for the last two years.

I’d really like to see it finished because I think it’s the one that has more legs than any other (definitely The Dating Project that was my NaNo novel in 2010, and a little more so than Italian Infatuation, which is the only novel I’ve finished, but as it was done in NaNo 2009, it needs SO much work that quite frankly, it scares me).

When I was at the Jane Fallon event on Monday, a few people asked me if I’ve sent the first few chapters off to an agent. Of course I haven’t because the first few chapters of ‘Holiday’ aren’t finished (chapter one is acutlaly just notes, damn), and because when I submit Italian Infatuation I’ll do it directly to Mills & Boon, not through an agent.

But it kind of got me thinking. If I could finish and the first few chapters of ‘Holiday’ (and think of a better title) I could do that. It would be scary as hell, but I’ve got to do it at some point, so why not early next year (with finishing the first draft of it, NaNo, hopefully NYC and Christmas there is no way I could get it done this year)?

I have made a little realisation though. I don’t think I’m going to get it finished by the end of October. Reason being that most of it is stored on my laptop. Because I’ve been writing it a little at a time, different scenes at a time (not consecutively) there’s about 14 documents that make it up at the moment. Some are finished, some aren’t. Unfortunately I don’t remember which ones on my laptop have been finished, and which haven’t.

And my laptop is still dead (ish). We were going to go to the boyfriend’s dad’s in a few weeks – he’s a computer expert so could  have seen what was up, boyfriend thinks it’s the cable, but not sure – but now we can’t afford to. As we can’t afford to go there, we definitely can’t afford to get my laptop fixed this month. November, definitely, but not October. Which means, unless I can find every document somewhere else (which I think is kind of possible – Ubernote, different email addresses?) I can’t do it this month.

Part of me is annoyed by that, but another part of me is a little relieved. It means I don’t have to hurry with this goal of finishing hanging over me! Yay! Only, I do want to finish it. I really really do. Or have it as done as I possibly can. So I am going to try. ROW80 Round Four (A Round of Words in 80 Days) starts again tomorrow. I’m in again. I thought I had goals for it, but I think I might be re thinking them. I’ll update tomorrow, but for today I’ll leave the writing section of this post saying I’m going to do my best to do as much of ‘Holiday’ as I possibly can by the end of October. I promise you and I promise myself.

Reading:

Last weekend I had to read The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon before I went to the party on Monday. It was great, I loved it, and I will get a review up as soon as possible (it’s half written, so I just need to finish it). Since then I’ve been out so much that I’ve not really had a chance to read much more.

The book I’m on is The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a non-fiction story of how Rubin took a year to get happy. My cousin went to US this summer and came back raving about it, and said I HAD to read it. Fine I said.

Then I read the intro and it was all about how to make yourself happy. Acutally no, it is all about how she did it, it’s not a ‘You should do this… You should do that…; it’s more ‘this is what I did and it worked for me because…’ I read that and was like ‘Nah, this isn’t for me, I’m happy.’ But then I thought I’d give it a go.

I’m only of February, but already I’m very glad I’m reading it. January was about Boosting Energy and February is about Remembering Love. It is very American in the way we think very differently about some things to the way they do, but I don’t think that’s always a bad thing. I think this book is brilliant because it’s making me think a lot about what I’m doing, and made me realise that I can be happier than I am (away from this, I’ve actually realised I’m not that happy, I just think I am. But more of that later). 61 pages in and I’ll definitely be recommending it. Already I know a few people who I think will benefit from reading it.

The A to Z Challenge

I’ve not written much about this recently, but it’s going pretty well. The next book I read will be T. Although I’m only half way through O and about quarter of the way into L, but I’ll probably ignore those, at least I’ve started them. It means I’ve only got 7 books to read until the end of the year. Which is ok. Only, I’m not really gong to be reading in November (I need to focus on NaNo not reading) and I’m currently reading another book. So that gives me Oct and Dec to read 8 books. It’s not a totally unobtainable goal, but it’s going to be hard.

I have enjoyed this challenge, it’s introduced me to some authors I never would have found otherwise (some good, some not so good), and it’s made me read some of the books on my TBR pile that I probably wouldn’t have got to otherwise. So I’m glad I’m doing it. But, I totally hate it too. As it’s 26 books in a year, I know it doesn’t give me much scope to be able to read much else. SO there’s loads of books I’ve got that I’m desperate to read, but know I can’t because of this silly challenge. And you know now I’ve started and got this far, I HAVE to finish. I’m really looking forward to January when I can read what I want when I want. Also, I’ll be able to buy more books – I haven’t been allowing myself to unless it’s a book I really really want, or it’s one of the next letters.

I am however, making a list of the books I want to buy in 2012. Yay!

Life

Quick little bit about life cause I’ve just realised how long this blog is.

I’m currently the heaviest I’ve ever been, but can’t seem to stop eating, and after weeks of thinking about it I’ve realised it’s because I’m not really that happy. My relationship is brilliant, so brilliant that I’ve been on such a high from that, that I haven’t really noticed how unhappy I am in other aspects of my life.

Job – I hate it , with a passion. I hate getting up and going to work, and I’ve never had that before. Money – for the last few months, and the next few weeks, we’ve been totally broke. Which obviously has been getting me down. Weight – I’m too fat, which you know, has been making me eat more. Exercise – I’m not getting enough.

Now that I’ve identified these, I’m making a plan to get them back to a good place. For instance I talked to my boss last week about moving up, and he agrees I’m ready, so we need to find a position that’s available and talk my way into it. I’m making plans for the other areas too.

What I’m hoping is that when I’m happier myself, it will lead to me writing more because I won’t want just come home and slump in front of the TV all night. And there was you thinking this way nothing to do with writing weren’t you!

Have a great week everyone. Those of you starting ROW80 tomorrow – good luck. Or, and there’s a Twitter party on 5th October for ROW80 – all day (ET time, Eastern Time is that? US timezone anyway) under the hashtag #ROW80. Go have a look, join the party. Yay!