Category Archives: Challenges

New art and a new reading challenge

I got a new stretched canvas for my office. The office is the only place in the house that I let myself put anything I choose on the walls, theme, coordination or quality be damned. If I like it, I’ll have it.

Not to suggest that this Icanvas print isn’t quality of a sort, but the rest of the house tends to run toward large, heavily framed prints. It’s not a great photo, but Mizuki by Audrey Kawasaki is what’s above the bed for example:

Though I’ve shrunk it so it doesn’t compete for attention with the canvas that is the point of this post, that frame is almost 30×30 inches (please never let it fall on us in our sleep). So, an unframed whimsical print of science fiction books is a departure from the norm. But I so loved it when I saw it that I insta-bought it, even though I didn’t really have a place for it. (In fact, I wish I’d bought the bigger size.)

After I moved Kawasaki’s Where I Rest out of place (this* one –>), I sat staring at the books and telling my husband how happy I was to see Binti and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet included among such giants as Asimov and Le Guin. But also how I was distressed that Martha Well’s All Systems Red (Murderbot Diaries) isn’t included. It 100% deserves to be. In fact, once noticed, its absence sapped a little of my love of the print away. I mean, look, I even tweeted at Icanvas about it.

Hey @icanvas_art, if you’re going to include #Binti and #thelongwaytoasmallangryplanet in this stack of classic sci-fi (which I totally agree with) you gotta get #Murderbot in there too! I’d even buy a second copy. ūüôā pic.twitter.com/aaEuuR7Pzu ‚ÄĒ @rbnsnzsr

This led me to a second thought. If I was so happy to see Binti and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet included, and was desperate to get Murderbot added, why no excitement for The Martian? It was published in 2014, so it’s basically just as contemporary as the others. Part of it might have been that it’s written by a man and I’m always rooting to see women included. But Dune, by Frank Herbert, is one of my all-time favorite books (even if it by a man). So I decided it wasn’t the gender issue. It was simply that I haven’t read it!

All of the books included here are well known, familiar to me, science fiction. Suddenly I had to stop and think how many of them I love by virtue of being sci-fi cannon and how many I had actually read. Before that very moment I’d have told you of course I’ve read all the classics. But once I was really thinking about it, I realized that couldn’t be true. I hadn’t read The Martian, for example. So, off to Goodreads and my reading list I went. And shock followed.

I started Left to right:

  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: a favorite, read
  • The Martian Chronicles: Ray freaking-Bradbury, NOT READ
  • Brave New World: read in high school
  • Binti: started this whole process, obviously read
  • The Martian: NOT READ
  • The Left Hand of Darkness: read it last year when Le Guin died
  • The Diamond Age: What!? owned but NOT READ
  • Solaris: also NOT READ
  • The Foundation Trilogy: thank god, read the whole series
  • The Time Machine: Wells. freaking Wells, and NOT READ
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep: NOT READ
  • The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet: read
  • Hyperion: read
  • Neuromancer: read and loved
  • Dawn: by Octavia Butler! NOT READ
  • Dune: a favorite, read
  • Starship Troopers: read
  • Ender’s Game: read
  • Childhood Ends: NOT READ

Eight‚ÄĒalmost half of the books‚ÄĒI discovered that I’ve not read. This is a travesty that cannot be allowed to stand. I mean, for one, If I’m going to hang the picture on my wall (even if just my office wall), I should be able to point to it and know I’ve read them all, but also I’m a sci-fi/fantasy junkie and THEY’RE SCI-FI CLASSICS. How did I let this happen? Obviously, I’m going to fix it. It’s July. I have five months until the end of the year, and by that point I will have read these eight books that I have somehow grievously neglected in my life.

I don’t think I’ll bother coming back and linking reviews here. But I am setting it as an official reading challenge for myself. I do so love to have a plan. Wish me happy reading.


*
Yes, I'm totally vain enough that I spread out those two in the back so they could be seen, and there is another on the wall above. They'd been stacked together to be re-hung. I have a new one at the framer's (and a small one waiting to be framed by me) and I'm going to make a collage wall of them. I'll add a picture when it's done. But, though you can probably guess Kawasaki is my husband and my favorite artist, she's not the point of this post. But once I'd posted one, I just ran with it. 

Reading challenge: Characters of color on covers

In my little corner of the internet there has been a resurgence of the argument that people of color aren’t put on book covers because it adversely effects the sales of the book. And because America (I can’t speak for the world) really isn’t a post-race culture, no matter how much some people would like to argue that it is, there is unfortunately probably some truth to this argument. And it will likely remain so until the day it isn’t. I don’t have the answers to how we get there, but I do know that, as a reader, buying, reading and reviewing books with characters of color on the covers is a step in the direction of proving to publishers that they are as safe a bet as anything else.

Unfortunately, I’m not rich. I can’t run out and buy all the books. (How I wish I could buy all the books!) What I can do is make a point of reading and reviewing book I already happen to own that have non-white characters on the front.¬†Below is the list of such books. It doesn’t include anything I’ve already read or that I request from the library (though I’ll add the latter to the challenge retroactively, along with any I find that I’ve missed).

Now, the choice of these books was problematic in as many ways as you can imagine. For one, I simply scrolled through my Goodreads bookshelves and took from them the books that had obviously non-white characters. I’m sure I missed some. I’m sure that if I’d marked other versions of some books not included, they might have been included, and conversely wouldn’t have included some I did. What to do with images that were clearly meant to be from one culture, but the model was white? Does it count if the book is a biography and the publisher had no choice but to put the person on the cover of their own book, or if the book is set in a largely homogenous time/country, like feudal Japan. What if it is a picture of an often objectified and exotified group, like Geisha? What if I strongly suspect the actual text will turn out to be a White Savior story, or problematic in some other fashion? And lastly, I had to make a visual judgement, sometimes on nothing more than a shadowed, headless torso. I just plain ¬†might have gotten some wrong. When in doubt, I chose to be more inclusive than less. I took the same route when faced with characters of color in obviously secondary position on a cover. Hopefully, it’s the intent that counts here.

There are 78 books in that list (I’ll put links at the end of this post) and, while that might seem like a lot, it is pulled from a very large pool.¬†I own a lot of unread books. Many of them don’t have people on the front at all, but of those that do, they are largely white people. So, no special props for me because I happen to own 78 books I’m simultaneously saying are comparatively rare.

This first challenge post really isn’t anything more than a reference point for myself and a chance to invite others to both join me and discuss the idea. What do you think, small drop in a big pond but worthwhile, performative, interested in joining me?


Links:

Trapped on Draconica
Incoming Alert
The Good Negress
Would it Be Okay to Love You?
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
The Dragon’s Passion
Underworld: Sex, Drugs, and a Loaded Gun
The End of Eden
The Dark Horse of Shanghai
Project SNOW¬†¬†—- ¬†Review
Degranon
From the Ashes
Shatterproof ¬†— ¬†Review
Prince Charming Wanted (Indian Maidens Bust Loose)
Alpha Moon
Khe
Purgatory Reign
Strength to Let Go
The Girl With Two Names
The Brotherhood of Merlin —– ¬†Review.
From Far Away To Very Close: Seda’s Story
Keeping Score
Empress Orchid
Damned If You Do: The Complete Collection
Hotsuka’s Story
The Art of Three
Dreaming on an Arabian Carpet
I Love It Rough
I Like ‘Em Pretty
Tiger Lily
Halcyon: The Complete Steampunk Trilogy
The Burning Sky
Kiss Me to Spring Time
Human Property Hanging in the Family Tree Yields a Harvest
I Got You
More Than Words
The Beast of Callaire
The Powers of Callaire
Melokai¬†—- ¬† Review
Lost in Space
Of Beasts and Bonds
Moonlight ¬† — ¬†Review
Between the Lies
Psycho Save Us
Their Eyes Were Watching God
New Leaf
Third Vampire Shadows
The Drowning King
Earthrise . ¬†— ¬† Review
The Turnarounders and The Arbuckle Rescue
The Disassembled Life of Duncan Cole
M.C. Higgins, the Great
Black Like Me
Infinite Hope
Crimes of the Heart
To the Edge of the Sky
World Whisperer
The Handoff
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea
The Orphan Fleet
The Reluctant Sacrifice  Review

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now
A Woman’s Nails
Stranded with the Navy SEALReview
Anytime Soon
Almost Black
Schoolgirl Apocalypse
Exiled, Malcom
Black Beauty
Shadow Unit 1
Boss
Girl in the Glass
The Geisha and The Monk
Fall of Sky City
Carolina Daemonic
Hope in the Hood
Blood Awakening

Added to the challenge:

From Scratch¬†— ¬†Review
Tangled
Tender Secrets
Shadowshaper¬†— Review
Drunk on Men
The Glass Admiral¬† — ¬†Review
Black Gold
Happy Hour at Casa Dracula¬†— Review
Dhata Mays¬†— Review
A Princess in theoryReview¬†— Review
The Black God’s Drums Review

Renamed: The Oddly Satisfying Exercise in Futility Challenge

Every now and again, out of boredom or necessity or pure whimsy I set myself odd little reading challenges. That’s part of the joy of having a book blog, I can do that. And I’ve done it again.

I have a book hoarding problem. I just do. Usually I can limit it to ebooks, so it’s not too disruptive. But at the moment, my physical book shelves are stacked two deep and literally overflowing. My office is becoming a bit of a death trap. So, I have to read some of them.

The problem is that my Kindle is so easy to schlep around. Plus, I’ve promised myself that once a book is read I won’t keep it unless it is signed or an absolute favorite. So, though I always want to read, I sometimes don’t want to do the thing that means I have to give the book away afterwards. I know, it’s weird. But I keep bringing books into the house, so now I have to set some free.

I mean, that was part of the point of building a Little Free Library in my front yard. Well, that and it’s just cool. I have no excuse to not be filling it with finished books.

This brings me to my challenge. I went through and pulled out all the itty-bitty books. I don’t usually pick up novellas, but I have several. And I know reading them won’t clear as much space as reading some bigger books. But I figure each of them should only take a couple hours to read, so it’s a good way to do a bit of a clear-out without committing weeks to the task. (Nope, I’m not rationalizing this at all.)

There are 18 little books there. Most, though not all I won and it’s a pretty diverse pile. There’s some bizzaro in there, as well as some inspirational stuff, a memoir, some non-fiction, humor, short story collections, horror, poetry, lit fict, political satire, even a freakin’ play.¬†I figure I can finish one a day for the next few weeks, along with my normal reading and feel like I’ve accomplished something significant. (Hush, that’s what I’m going with.)

In case you can’t read all the titles, the stack includes:

Anyhow, between these, the book bundle I’m currently reading (Carole Cumming’s Wolf’s-Own), the bundle I’m listening to (Sarah Noffke’s Vagabond Circus) and the Netgalley books I’ve committed to for the next couple months, not to mention I need to read review request book, I aught to be kept busy in the near future.

I think I’ll start with B. R. Sanders book, because I’ve loved everything I’ve read by them so far. But beyond that, I’m open for suggestions on what I should move up or down the pile.


Not pictured, but added to the challenge after the fact (because I keep getting more books):


Edit May 5, 2018: I set this challenge and then it quickly fell off my radar. If anything, the stack has grown, as I’ve added to it. (See the 8 unpictured books.) So, I’m starting again, recommitting to finishing it. Below is the new stack (what’s left of the first and what I’ve added to it since, but not read before the second picture). The vertical ones, I’ve pulled out because it turns out that they’re all poetry.

I won’t re-list anything above and the few that I read before taking this second picture will have to do without visual evidence of their existence. But, here are the additions.

  • Kaleidoscope, by Chip R. Bell
  • The Slave, by Anand Dilvar
  • Morningstar, by Ann Hood
  • Tuesday With Morey, by Mitch Albom
  • Escape Routes, by Johann Christoph Arnold
  • Another Fine Mess, by Pope Brock
  • Consciousness Archaeology, by Maximus Freeman
  • Welcome to my Chair, by Lee Holland
  • Loving Violet, by Steven Lewis
  • You Can’t Kill the Dream, by And Yanks/Daniel Brannan
  • Bring Out the Dog, by Will Mackin
  • Undivided Lives, by Robert Lampros
  • Unmarked Trails, by Jane Flink
  • My Amazing Transformation of¬†Love, Courage, and Wisdom, by Marty Cole
  • The Best Chronicles of Rubem Alves, by¬†Rubem Alves/Glenn Alan Cheney
  • Sweet Justice, by Andrew Smith
  • My Diary, by Annan Jazz Von
  • Memory in Silhouette, by T. L. Cooper
  • Life in the Slow Lane, by Ruth Anderson
  • The Purity of Jazz…, by James R. Campbell
  • District and Circle, by Seamus Heaney
  • A Mother’s Love, by Mia Henry
  • The Corpses of the Future, by Lynn Crosbie
  • Dead Monochrome Doggerel, Dominique Cypres

Edit July 22, 2019: Don’t laugh, but in a marked departure from what I’d intended to do (and in fact have been doing), I’m updating this again. Several books I’ve bought or won, read and reviewed recently (such as Take a Chance on Me, Kill Me Now, ¬†The 5th Gender, Silver Moon, Persepolis, Spring, The Nose from Jupiter, The Long Walk to Water, and Diamond Fire)¬†would have fit this challenge and I could have added them. But after the third edit, I told myself I wasn’t allowed to add to the stack anymore, or it really would never ever get done. However, I ordered new bookshelves, which will be delivered today.¬†

This means that I’ll finally have more room for my books. The shelves, most of which are double lined, will finally be reduced to a single row. I’ll be able to actually see what I own. So, in preparation to the larger task of reorganizing my books (I have wanted to do this for SO LONG), I’ve started pulling and categorizing books. And in and amongst all of this, I decided I might as well grab all the new smallish books out and add them to the existing small-book stack (which may become a small-book shelf. (I mean, giving this challenge up might be easier, but I’m a stubborn cow when I want to be.)

So, here’s the new list of small books. The left-hand pile is the carryover, the middle is poetry, and the right-hand stack is what I just added.

As above, I won’t re-list anything that already is, and I can’t guarantee that once I really get into the meat of moving books, I won’t add more. But as of right now this is it. 

  • My Little Ikigai Journal, by Amanda Kudo
  • Good Body, by Eve Ensler
  • Only Dead on the Inside, by James Breakwell
  • You Can’t Kill the Dream, by And Yakstis & Daniel Brannan
  • Just Ella, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
  • The Housekeeper and the Professor, by Yoko Ogawa
  • Guesswork, by Martha Cooley
  • Hank, by Claudette A. Peck
  • My Journey Through War and Peace, by Melissa Burch
  • Twenty-First-Century Jim Crow Schools, by Sanders, Stovall & White
  • Zan-Gah, by A. R. Shickman
  • The Driftwood Diaries, by Ava Wilson
  • Queen Moxie, by Hank Quense
  • Upsize Woman in a Downsize World, by Deborah Lynn Darling
  • Bedside Book of Bad Girls, by Michael Rutter
  • There is a Generation III, by WH Buzzard
  • Stone Sisters, by Sarah Ward
  • Infinite Hope, by Anthony Graves
  • Not Quiet So Stories, by David S. Atkinson

Several of these are actually sequels in series. So, I imagine I’ll have to find and read first books before I get to them. But, as has been the case for about two years now, these are the lists of books I intend to read. If you remember, I initially set them aside because I thought I could get them read quickly. That had turned out to be a joke. But I’m committed now. Wish me luck