Literary Mayhem Challenge: Failed

I-Tried-But-FailedAbout a year ago, I wrote this blog about a reading challenge I had been given. My partner gave me a book by Henry James, The Ambassadors, but he only gave me the book because he knew that for the most part I find James to be rather dry. I still have respect for his writing, but getting through one of his novels takes endurance and stubborn dedication. Nevertheless, the challenge was set – I would have one year to read this book, and I would have the opportunity to challenge my partner to read a book, provided I could find said book and give it to him.

How did I do? As you can tell by the picture, there are far more pages to the right than there should be. That’s right, despite my best efforts, I failed.


What Happened?

I seriously did have the best of intentions. When I read books, I usually read 2-3 at a time. In other words, I have two or three options of what to read to accommodate my changing moods. As I have said in previous posts, I usually have a novel, a collection of short stories, and something nonfiction. When I added the James book to the mix, it gave me four options of titles to read.

My game plan was simple. The book has 384 pages. I told myself that if I read at least 20 pages a week, then I would be done far before the deadline. I could even miss a few weeks and still be able to finish within a year. Additionally, I figured once I got about a third or so into the book, which is when most of James’s books gain momentum, I would read faster and finish more quickly.

For the first two months I did fairly well in terms of dedicating time to reading from James’s book. I didn’t make my 20 pages a week, though. Instead, I settled for at least having one of my reading sessions per week dedicated to James’s book. Unfortunately, due to life and other responsibilities, I wasn’t reading his book every week as I had set out to do. At some point I told myself I would get back on track in no time. Famous last words. The weeks passed by, and the book stayed on my to-read shelf, unread past page 40.

I’d almost forgotten about the challenge until I noticed the book late last month – it’s amazing how you can ignore something on your bookshelf when you have so many other lovely books to read. I had remembered that I wrote the challenge start date on the inside cover. When I opened up the book to check that date, I realized that my year would be up by the end of June.

When I realized the deadline for my challenge was upon me, I briefly thought about dropping everything just to get this book read, but that simply wasn’t going to happen. I may have tortured myself during grad school and even during my undergrad studies to read through novels at lightning speeds, but I wasn’t about to do it again. Instead, I accepted my failure and decided to write about it here.

What Have I Been Reading Instead?

So if I haven’t been reading Henry James once a week over the past year, you might be interested to know what I have been reading. What follows is a list of what I have been reading along with a few BRIEF reviews:

Craft Books

As a professional writer, I’m always looking for tips and tricks to improve what I do and how I do it. Even though I hold a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in English, my coursework has only prepared me for research, editing, and writing. That’s only half the job these days. For everything else – e.g., marketing, finding clients, business management, client negotiations, social media, platforming, book launches, and other promotional duties – I’ve had to learn it all on my own with the help of amazing articles, blog posts, and books. Here are some of the books I have been reading this past year:

100 Ways to Improve Your Writing, by Gary Provost

Make a Real Living As a Freelance Writer, by Jenna Glatzer

I really enjoyed her practical approach. I even wrote a blog about her amazing research strategy, which you can check out here.

102 Ways to Earn Money Writing, by I.J. Schecter

The Quick Start Guide to Building Your Writer Platform, by Kimberley Grabas

Her book is fairly informative, and she also has incredibly helpful blog posts/articles out there. It’s definitely worth it to sign up for her newsletter.

Fun Reading – Graphic Novels

Yes – I’m a geek girl who reads graphic novels, and I LOVE them!

Promethea (Books 4 & 5), by Alan Moore

I had already read the first three books earlier in 2014, so by the middle of last year I was hooked! Alan Moore certainly takes a more literary approach to this particular project, which I adore, but I know a lot of comic book fans found the subject matter heavy. I willingly admit that parts of Promethea read like a gorgeously illustrated dissertation, but I see nothing wrong with that ;0)

Marvel 1602, by Neil Gaiman

In case you don’t know, I respect and idolize Neil Gaiman. While browsing in a comic book shop, I came across this story, which places the more well-known Marvel superheroes in the Renaissance era. Yeah – this Renaissance/medieval scholar did a little happy dance all the way up to the cashier!

Son of M, by David Hine and Roy Allan Martinez

JSA: The Golden Age, by James Robinson and Paul Smith.

As an alternate universe storyline, I really admire the psychological perspective the authors are taking here as they ask what happens to superheroes when the war is over. Unfortunately, my geek points only take me so far, as I am not a comic book aficionado, so a lot of the Golden Age heroes are characters I’m less familiar with. As a result, parts of this graphic novel were difficult to follow, because it would go back and forth between the character’s superhero name and their alternate identities, so I found myself repeatedly asking, “Who is this again?” At one point I gave up reading the book, because I really wasn’t invested in the characters. As I said, though, I enjoyed the premise and the concept, and I applaud the authors for how they presented it.

Fun Reading – Novels

Map of Time, by Felix J. Palma

I remember reading the back of this novel at the bookstore, and the blurb mentioned that the story somehow connects Jack the Ripper, H.G. Wells, and Bram Stoker in a book about time travel. Absolute brain candy – I’m in! Honestly, a fun read with nice twists.

The Bullet-Catcher’s Daughter, by Rod Duncan

TheBulletCatchersDaughter-144dpiAs a costume-crafter, I have been watching the rise of Steampunk and Victorian outfits all over Pinterest and everywhere else for the past several years; I get so much delight and inspiration from watching how others have translated these aesthetics into gorgeous garb. Alas, a lot of the Steampunk literature I’ve read has not been nearly as satisfying. This book, on the other hand, provided a far more pleasant Steampunk experience.

I think I enjoyed this novel more because it focused on the people in the storyline instead of all the gizmos. The bulk of the Steampunk literature I have read has often included far too much exposition about technology. I don’t mind the characters explaining it, but if it has nothing to do with the plot or with character motivations, I don’t understand why it’s included. This is just my own personal rant on the genre. Duncan’s book does a nice job of including Steampunk elements, and the characterization was beautiful. I think he could’ve tied up the ending a little differently, but it did work for the story.

Huckleberry Finished, by Livia J. Washburn

Red-Headed Stepchild, by Jaye Wells

I’ve been trying to read more books in the genre in which I write – supernatural fantasy/supernatural horror. This book is the start of the Sabina Kane series by Jaye Wells. I made it to page 70 before I practically threw it out the window. The main character whines incessantly! Every character around her is 10 times more interesting. Plus, while I am not a prude and don’t mind some eroticism if it fits the book, I don’t understand why supernatural fiction has become a playground for poorly written smut with random supernatural elements tossed in as if it were an afterthought.

Storm Front, by Jim Butcher

The start of the Dresden Files – a far superior supernatural series! Butcher finds an excellent balance of making the supernatural elements intrinsic to the plot, yet he still makes these supernatural characters relatable. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series.

Jaludin’s Road, by M. Todd Gallowglas

The Book of Madness and Cures: A Novel, by Regina O’Melveny

Fun Reading – Short Story Collections, Anthologies, and Amusing Nonfiction

0728_gaiman3-624x583M is For Magic, by Neil Gaiman

The Art of Neil Gaiman, by Hayley Campbell

Trigger Warning, by Neil Gaiman

Refer to my earlier note about my obsession with Neil Gaiman ;0)

Life of the Dead, Edited by Martin T. Ingham

One of my short stories is in this anthology, so I felt I should read the other stories that mine had been placed with. And in case you’re wondering, I did link the title so you can purchase this book yourself – wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

Work-Related Reading

There are times when I read novels in a professional capacity. For a few clients, I’ve written or edited in-depth educational study guides for certain titles. I also have fellow writer friends who let me read early drafts of their work =0)

Gargantua and Pantagruel, by Francois Rabelais

g and pThis lengthy satire about giants living among men was written in the 16th century. Technically, it’s a collection of five books. Most professors only require students to read the first two books, and occasionally some professors may have more advanced students read the third book. Books 4-5 read like a drunken parody of Homer’s Odyssey, but with far too many preachy rants. In fact, most people don’t even believe that Rabelais wrote the last two books, and it’s questionable as to whether he wrote the third. I read all five books for the client, and I can definitely recommend the first three. The last two are interesting in different ways, but they really go off on a tangent that just happens to bring the characters from the first three books along for the ride.

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell

mitchell-cloud-atlasWhether or not you believe in reincarnation, the construction of this book and the relationship between the characters presents a gorgeous and thought-provoking narrative. I admit that I watched the movie prior to reading the book, but after reading the book, I now understand why the movie was so long. Hollywood did cut out a good portion, and they altered characters to make the reincarnation theme more prevalent, but I think their interpretation got most of the main points across. The book truly is a masterpiece, though, so don’t settle for just watching the movie.

The Tinker’s Daughter (working title), by Jonathan Armes

Part of the reason that I couldn’t drop everything I was doing to read Henry James’s book was because I had already committed myself to going through Jonathan’s lengthy manuscript. It’s a Steampunk-fantasy book that I think will easily become a trilogy.


2 thoughts on “Literary Mayhem Challenge: Failed

    1. Hey Sarah—He knows I’m a determined/stubborn person, so he was confident I could get through the dullness that is James. Besides, I’m the one who started the idea that this should be a contest, so I’m partly responsible for this mayhem. I never found him a book to challenge (punish) him, and I think if I had, it would have motivated me more effectively.

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