Tuesday, November 19, 2013

2014 Challenge #1: Reading Outside The Box

Every year I sign up for a ton of challenges, and then every year I forget about 'em a week after New Years hits. For 2014 I'm striving to do this (and a lot of things...) different. I'm choosing ONLY challenges that I think will strengthen me as a reader and writer, and I want to choose ones that will actually require some thought on my part.

With all of that said, I'd like to introduce you to my first Challenge of choice...

Reading Outside The Box

This challenge is being hosted by The Cheap Reader. The goal of this challenge is to broaden reading habits by exploring new genres and mediums within literature. The challenge requires the completion of 25 books, one for each box on this grid.

My Reading List: 

I've spent the past few days deciding what books I want to read for the various categories. I'm going to share the books, links to their GoodReads pages, and why I'm reading them below. Where there might need to be an explanation of the category, I'll give that too.

1. Read A Clunker (This must be a book of at least 600 pages.)

The Firebrand
by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Date Finished: (waiting)
Most of the books I've chosen are completely new to me series and / or authors. This is a little different. I found a copy of The Firebrand at a second hand shop when I was about fourteen and became completely obsessed with it. It was shortly after I got into Breek Mythology, and although the thing is HUGE I spent days reading it. But I never read *all* of it. I would read chunks of it, the way I might go and find favorite sections of one of my normal mythology books. Now that I'm older (and *slightly* less scared of a big book?) I want to read this from start to finish and see if I love it as much in its entirety as I recall loving the pieces I read when I was younger. 

2. Read A Graphic Novel 

Hades: Lord of the Dead
by George O'Connor
Date Finished: (waiting)
Graphic novels are not my forte, so when I went on GoodReads to choose one for this challenge, my goal was to find something that really sparked my interest. Some people who've followed my blog for a while may know that the story of Hades and Persephone is what got me into Greek Mythology (which in turn is one of my biggest influences as a writer). So when I looked up Graphic Novels 2013 and saw this, my mind was made up pretty quickly. The great thing about choosing this book is that not only will I get to enjoy it, I'll also get to share it with my niece. 

3. Read A Mystery

Naked In Death (In Death #1)
by J.D. Robb
Date Finished: (waiting)
I may have taken a little liberty with this selection. I'm not 100% sure whether this challenge calls for a strict Sherlock Holmes / Agatha Christie type mystery, or whether anything under the more general mystery / suspense heading will be fine. However, I am pretty excited about my book choice and this is something I didn't even know existed until I went to look up a book for the challenge, so I consider that a win. I like the fact that the book seems to have a pretty strong female lead, and the idea that it takes place in the future. The idea that she is interested in one of the suspects should also keep my attention. We'll have to see once I read it. :)

4. Read A Middle Grade Book 

The Swift Boys & Me
by Kody Keplinger
Date Finished: (waiting)
This is probably one of the quickest, easiest choices I made for this challenge. Kody Keplinger is one of my favorite authors, and someone whose stuff I would consider "auto-buy". So picking her first foray into middle grade fiction for my middle grade book is a no-thought-required decision. The plot for this sounds interesting and is definitely different than other stuff on my list, which will allow it to both stand out and provide me with further variety (which is the goal of this challenge). I also want to take a moment to say that I think this cover is super cute. I hadn't realized the book had a cover yet until I went to get the info needed for this post. 

5. Read A Self Published Novel

If Only We
by Jessica Sankiewicz
Date Finished: (Waiting)
The fact that this is on the list shows just how far behind I am right now. Between weather, stress, and procrastination a book I should have had read weeks ago is getting listed for 2014. But enough of that. I've read the sample for If Only We and I have extremely high hopes that it will be able to stand next to the rest of the books on this list no problem. Blending contemporary and time travel elements, it seems to have some unique ideas, an interesting premise and a ton of potential. 

6. Listen To An Audio Book

A Game Of Thrones
by George R.R. Martin
Date Finished: (waiting)
My brother has been bugging me about A Game of Thrones for MONTHS. He wants me to watch the series, but I *hate* watching stuff before I've read it. So that means I'm going to read the book first. But this book is a freaking behemoth, so I'm going to do something fairly new for me. I'm going to listen to it! I'm both excited and nervous about this because this year will be the first where I am adding any audio books to my reading and it could either totally work for me, or it could fall flat on its face. The other major reason I've picked to get this in audio book form is because if it's good I can share it with my dad, who will probably love it but who is not a big reader. Should be interesting. :) 

7. Read A Novel In Verse 

To Be Perfectly Honest
by Sonya Sones
Date Finished: (waiting)
I've never read anything modern written in verse, so I'm pretty excited about this part of the challenge. This book looks like it should be interesting and fun. I didn't want to pick something really heavy or serious for this. I studied poetry in university and loved that, but as much as I adore T.S. Elliott and W.B. Yeats, I'm not sure how well talking about them here would really go over. Besides, I think that something like this will have a different structure still from a volume of unrelated poems. Who hasn't lied about something at some point in their life? It's a mistake most people make at some point. It should be interesting to see how reading this turns out.

8. I Accidentally Watched The Movie First

The Princess Bride
by William Goldman
Date Finished: (waiting)
This is another of the reading opportunities that lead to me deciding to do this challenge. Every year since I started this blog I have meant to read and review The Princess Bride. And every year I wind up not doing that. Well, no more! The movie is totally fabulous and I wanna know if the book can measure up. It actually feels kinda weird typing that. So often people feel that a movie can't hold a candle to a book, and most of the time I'm kinda neurotic about reading something before I watch it. I'm curious to see how much of an influence having seen the movie a zillion times will have when I start reading. 

9. Read A Fantasy Novel 

Seraphina (Seraphina #1)
by Rachel Hartman
Date Finished: (waiting)
I am on a dragon kick. I really, really want to read stories that have dragons in them--preferably as major characters and done in such a way that they are sentient creatures with feelings, motives and real characterization. I don't actually remember where I found out about this book. But when I saw fantasy listed for this challenge I immediately knew Seraphina would be the book I picked for this category. Dragons? Singing? A prince? Sounds right up my alley, doesn't it? I have a feeling this will be one of the easier reads I will have to complete the gameboard at the top of this post. 
10. Relive the Magic (Re-read a book you loved during childhood)

by Roald Dahl
Date Finished: (waiting)
This one was close. The other book I thought of reading was C.S. Lewis The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. But I've read that book several times, whereas I've only had the BFG read to me once and that was back in grade 4. I recall really loving the story, but the memory is a fuzzy, hazy thing. So I figure it's time to grab a copy off Amazon and read it for myself. I'm pretty excited about this. I wanted to read it last year (and this year) and never got to it. That changes in 2014. 

11. Gathering Dust (A book that's been on your shelves a long time)

Catching Jordan (Catching Jordan #1)
by Miranda Kenneally
Date Finished: (waiting)
I started reading this back in fall 2012 but I ended up injuring my wrist and I couldn't hold a book. My wrist finally did quit acting up, thank goodness, but I never did get back to Catching Jordan, even though I had been enjoying it. Losing my spot in a book like that was just as frustrating as losing a chapter in a book I'm writing, or having the power go out when I'm playing an RPG. But I think I'm finally far enough past it that I feel reading from the beginning again will be worth it, so I just had to list this as my Gathering Dust read. I've heard a lot of good things about this book and this series, so I'm excited to jump in. 

12. Read A Young Adult Novel 

Scorched (Scorched #1)
by Mari Mancusi
Date Finished: (waiting)
This was one of the easiest and hardest books I had to pick for the challenge. My blog is mostly focused on YA and NA since that is a lot of what I read and write. But picking a book to represent my love of YA? Eek! I wanted to pick something unique and something I feel should get a moment in the spotlight, so I went back to that Dragon obsession I mentioned earlier. Scorched is out, but I don't get it til Christmas because Jay is buying it for me to be read on my new Kindle Paperwhite. I have extremely high hopes for this book, which is a blessing and a curse. I guess we'll soon find out how well it measures up. 

13. Try A Classic 

Pride and Prejudice
by Jane Austen
Date Finished: (waiting)
No free spot on this bingo card! Nope-nope. Instead we have "Try a classic" staring me in the face. Eep. Can I read them? Yes. Do I like them in theory? Yes. But have I touched even one since I left uni? Hell no. However, I've heard it said that any romance author worth her ink has to read Pride and Prejudice, so I'll give this a go. This is probably going to be one of the hardest books I've chosen for the challenge because reading a classic requires a certain mindset and while I can *understand* and *like* them in theory, I've only ever enjoyed reading one. (Wuthering Heights. Big surprise there, right?) I've always associated classics with an assignment due date or my aunt offering me $10 to finish them. (I'm looking at you, David Copperfield. And the answer's still no.) Of all the books on my list, this is the most likely to make me fail. 

14. Read An Award Winner

Outlander (Outlander #1)
by Diana Gabaldon
Date Finished: (waiting)
I can't even remember how long ago I decided I wanted to read this book. I've heard such totally fabulous things about it, and it really seems like it could be my thing. (It also potentially has one of my biggest reading peeves, so we'll have to see how that is handled. Claire is married... *is concerned*) I have a tendency to get a little angry at characters who cheat. I'm HOPING I can deal with that here, since Claire (I'm hoping...) does not know how to get home and must get on with her life / deal with the world she's been thrown into. This is going to be a unique experience for me. (Kyden and Kesyl are already arguing about the book and I haven't read it yet. Damn I love those two.) 

15. Read A Biography or Memoir

Until I Say Good-Bye: A Book About Living
by Susan Spencer-Wendel
Date Finished: (waiting)
I can already hear some of you going "Wait a minute! What the hell is the queen of happily ever after doing reading a book like this?". Next to Pride and Prejudice this will likely be my biggest hurdle for this reading challenge. I've read the intro on my kindle already (wanted to make sure this will work for me) and while I think there will be a remarkable and uplifting message here, I don't think there's any way to skate around how much courage and strength it had to take to decide to live this way, or to write this book. I do not envy myself the task of reviewing this when I finish, because it's not the type of thing i'd normally read and it's not fiction. Admittedly, though, that is part of the allure. 

16. Read A Science Fiction Novel

Ready Player One
by Earnest Cline
Date Finished: (waiting)
The gamer geek in me took one look at "Science Fiction", one look at the blurb for this book--a story I meant to read ages ago--and pretty much screamed "Hell yeah!". I met my boyfriend, Jay, playing an MMO and to this day that is one of the other things I do just as much as I read or write. So a book about someone using a virtual game to literally change their fortune is both a bit of a geeky dream of mine, and also something that hits very close to home. It's also another male POV, something I'm pretty sure is a little lacking on this list so far. One thing's for sure: Ready Player One sounds different than anything else on the list, and different from other stuff I've reviewed on the blog. That's good enough for me. 

17. Something Loved By Others 

Pushing The Limits (Pushing the Limits #1)
by Katie McGarry
Date Finished: (waiting)
Oh my God, this one was an absolute no brainer! There are probably some of you looking at this and blinking like you're hallucinating. ("Wait. Kat really hasn't read that yet? Really? I remember she bought it the week it came out. What the heck, Kat?") I loaned it to a friend, got it back a few months(!!) later and by that point had totally forgotten about it. Not only that, I have Dare You To sitting on my shelves as well, because I had somehow forgotten I hadn't read Pushing The Limits. (Yikes. That says so much about my library..err, bookshelves.) In a way I'm kinda glad I've held off. It means I got to escape the hype, and it also means that if I love this book, too, I can move on to the other books in the series which have released. 

18. Read A Piece Of Historical Fiction

The White Queen (The Cousins War #1)
by Philippa Gregory
Date Finished: (waiting)
Some of you may have noticed that a lot of my choices for this challenge have been GoodReads Choice Award nominees. Well, this started there, too. I was drawn to The White Princess, but when I saw that it was part of a series, being me, I just had to find out how to start from the beginning. I love history, but it's been a damn long time since I sat down and read a historical novel. I actually can't begin to express how eager I am to read this book. I want to do the 1-click on Amazon and start. right. now. I also think it will make for a really neat contrast to A Game Of Thrones, since (if memory serves me) George R.R. Martin's series was inspired by the War of the Roses, too. 

19. Lost In Translation (A book originally written in another language)

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education And Was Shot By The Taliban
by Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb
Date Finished: (waiting)
The book's original title is Gadis Kecil di Tembus Peluru Demi Sekolah. I chose this book for several reasons. (1) I write a blog aimed largely at reviewing books intended for teen girls. Imagine if we lived in a country where those girls could not get the education required to be able to read them? (2) I want to read a bit more non fiction than I have been reading and this really grabbed my attention when I looked at the GoodReads Choice Awards list. (3) I think this will be a little more manageable than my other strong draw for Lost in Translation, The Count of Monte Cristo. (C'mon, guys, it's 1276 pages long. Eek!) A potentially weird choice for this blog, but that's part of why I'm excited to read it. (Although saddened that we live in a world where this can happen.) 

20. Read A Romance Novel 

Tangled (Tangled #1)
by Emma Chase
Date Finished: (waiting)
Are you surprised to hear that this was one of the hardest categories for me to choose a book in? I read, and have read, a ton of romance. No doubt I'll read a ton more in 2014. But I wanted to make sure that my pick for this challenge would be a book that would truly stand out. I tried using Listopia to find something, but that just brought up a ton of YA and NA stuff. Then I went to check out the nominees for the GoodReads choice awards (yes, *again*) and Tangled immediately jumped out at me. A romance novel from the "hero"'s POV? Sounds just quirky enough to draw my attention. After reading a few quotes in the reviews I was pretty much sold. I don't know if I'll LOVE this book, but it shouldn't be boring. 

21. "Read" A Picture Book

My Dog The Paradox
by Matthew Inman, The Oatmeal
Date Finished: (waiting)
This category totally made me go "huh?" when I saw it. And I'm still not sure if the challenge meant for me to pick a *childrens'* picture book, because if so, this is not it. But it does focus on a topic I love--dogs--so I think it will (hopefully) fill the requirement nicely for me. I'm honestly still not sure what I'm suppose to get from a 32 page booklet of comics. It's a format that is totally Greek to me. But that is part of the point, so I guess I'll roll with it. 

22. Give A Book A Second Chance

Keturah and Lord Death
by Martine Leavitt
Date Finished: (waiting)
This is the last time I'll feature this book before I actually read and review it. I swear. I've meant to fully read Keturah and Lord Death since 2011. I bought it in my first bunch of books I purchased to review on this blog. And I think I read five pages before going "Nope." because I was not in the mood for it at that time. The decision has bothered me a great deal since. This is one of *those* books, the kind of book that sounds like I should feel like it was written for me. So I think it's fitting that I give it the Second Chance opportunity that it deserves. One way or another, I will find out whether or not I love this story. It's time to quit worrying about that and read the darn thing. 

23. Read A Piece of Contemporary Fiction

The Husband's Secret
by Liane Moriarty
Date Finished: (waiting)
What, no contemporary YA or NA? Nope. I already have several YA novels on my reading list and the goal of this particular challenge is to branch out, not just to give myself a cookie for reading stuff I would have read anyway. It's gonna be a little weird reading about older women, or maybe what I should be saying is women who are at a different stage of life than I am? I'm in my thirties, but the idea of stuff like kids, marriage, etc. is almost like a laughable parody to me. It's so far from my own experience that fighting villains or using magic powers actually seems more believable and real. The Husband's Secret will likely be one of the harder reads here for me--it's not a book I would normally choose, but it did catch my eye on the GoodReads choice list, so I guess I'll give it a try. 

24. Read A Non-Fiction Book 

Adulting: How To Become A Grown Up In 468 Easy(ish) Steps
by Kelly Williams Brown
Date Finished: (waiting)
I'm 31 and I still live with my parents. This is not where I envisioned myself when I sat across from guidance counselors back in high school. I cannot cook. I don't know the first thing about banking. And, to put it bluntly, my two dogs and the plants at our house are all equally fortunate not to be dead. I am extremely well educated in everything absurd and impractical, but the moment real life tries to intrude on my self designed reality, everything goes straight to hell. When I write I spend more time researching how to cook a stir fry or drive a car than I do how to wield a sword or the finer workings of some third century magical system I want to borrow from. I thought I was alone in my cluelessness, but now I'm not so sure. Will "Adulting" be enlightening, amusing, or insulting? We shall soon see. 

25. Read An Adult Novel 

First Grave On The Right (Charlie Davidson #1)
by Darynda Jones
Date Finished: (waiting)
I totally love it when paranormal and humor meet, and I've been wanting to read this book for ages, so here it is. Paranormal is a genre of fiction I return to time and again and I like it in all--YA, NA and Adult--flavors. I was torn between this or Halfway To The Grave, but considering how heavy some of the stuff I picked for this challenge is, First Grave On The Right won out thanks to the humor angle. Plus I'm about to write Carita and Lucian's book, so I'm trying to read as much grim reaper inspired fiction as possible--I don't want to do something that's been done, and I won't be able to touch it once I start writing. I think this makes a nice wrap for the challenge.

So, are you thinking of taking part in Reading Outside The Box? Have you decided what you're reading yet? Feel free to link me to your post or to share whatever reading challenges you are hoping to complete in 2014. 


  1. Yay! I love that you have things already planned out. The Princess Bride totally rocks. :) Hope it all goes well for you!

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