Short Stories and Secret Shame September

Fáilte my fabulous, fascinating Bookbaggers!

Oh my gosh hello! It must seem that I have been away more than not this year and that I am a terribly neglectful blogger since I last posted near the end of August! I hate making stupid excuses like work and sickness and a social life because really I know that life gets in the way for all bloggers at some point, and I never judge the bloggers I follow for being absent, but this time I actually have a pretty interesting excuse. My absence over September was a self-imposed necessity to keep my lip zipped because on the 1st I had jury duty and was picked for a three-week-long case.

I did think about posting a quick note to let you know that I would be on a hiatus, but as we were instructed not to post on social media what we were doing, I thought blogging would also be a big no-no. When the case finally finished on the 22nd I thought “Huzzah! I can finally blog!” but I did not factor in that I would be going from listening to people talk while sitting on my butt, back to my regular job where I would likely have a pile of work to catch up on and would be exhausted once I got home.

Then I had the very strange experience of doing just four days of work before we were on term break and I had a week off! Logically this would be a perfect time to catch up on the blog, but I found that once I was able to relax I just wanted to unwind after the bizarre month I had and try to do things I hadn’t had time for like doing my tax return, catching up with the grandparentals after their trip to Bali and shopping for summer pajamas before our Australian weather devolved into the 7th circle of hell (my hometown of Perth especially doesn’t seem to understand what Spring is if the mix of hot days and freak thunderstorms are anything to go by).

I returned to work Monday and since we’re now in the final term of the year it has calmed down enough that I have the time, energy and motivation to finally tell you about my September 🙂

Firstly, I never got around to introducing my new pile which gives a second life to the Short and Sweet challenge, so that’s a good start.

As I said in my last Challenge Update I no longer had any books under 200 pages to continue Short and Sweet, but I did have a large number of short story collections which I have made its own pile. I think that means that Short and Sweet will at least go until the end of the year, but if I enjoy having an anthology of short fiction on the go all the time then I’ll make it a regular thing like I did with comics 🙂

At the moment I have 13 books of short stories that I have put together in the pile (mostly my own, but two borrowed from my mate Scott – the Richard Matheson’s since I loved I Am Legend):

The book of the dead
edited by jared shurin
The Book of the DeadGrimm Tales: For young and old
by Philip Pullman
Grimm Tales Philip PullmanThe Complete Illustrated Lewis Carroll
by Lewis Carroll
The Complete Illustrated Lewis CarrollLiving With The Dead
by Martin Livings 
Living With The Dead by Martin LivingsUnder My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron
edited by Jonathan Strahan
Under-My-Hat Fantastic Wonder Stories
edited by Russell B. Farr
fantastic-wonder-storeis The Girl With No Hands
by Angela Slatter
The Girl With No Hands by Angela SlatterThe Lady of Situations
by Stephen Dedman
The Lady of SituationsMatilda told such dreadful lies
by Lucy Sussex
matilda-told-such-dreadful-lies-webFearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome
edited by Stephen Jones
illustrated by Alan Lee
Fearie-Tales-Stories-of-the-Grimm-and-GruesomeThe Powerful Owl by Candida Baker
powerful owlButton, Button by Richard Matheson
button.tifDuel by Richard Matheson
duelLooking for jake and other stories by China Miéville

looking for jake

I’ve been really slack with reading any stories from The Living Dead zombie anthology lately because I have been reading some cracking books (more on that later) and in fact I haven’t read any since the last update, so I have re-set myself the challenge to read at least one story a week and then maybe I might actually get to pick a new one before the end of the year!

In addition to the revamped Short and Sweet Challenge I also set myself a special challenge for September which I meant to announce at the end of August and then when I didn’t finish in time I though “Well I probably will only have jury duty for a week tops so early September should be fine”….yup, that worked out well past me :/

The challenge involves reading a single book that I call my Secret Shame to friends and family that I have admitted my secret too. I think if you look deep enough every avid reader has one Secret Shame – maybe it’s a genre of books that they don’t want to be associated with, or a bad habit such as dog-earring pages that they don’t want to admit to, and I think for many it would be that sad book at the bottom of their TBR pile or pushed to the back of their groaning shelves.

Mine would be in the latter category:

Secret shame september

Back in 1997 when I was a shy, odd and exceptionally nerdy 11-year-old in Year 6, I had a brilliant teacher called Mr Stein – a sort of aging hippy who was passionate about books, music and the environment and was by far my favourite teacher throughout school. However, at the start of the year I did not have this opinion. All of us new Year 6s had been told by the older kids that Mr Stein was the worst – really strict, grumpy and a man who would not put up with mucking about – and being the nervous little mite I was, I was terrified that I would be in the class with this monster instead of with the second Year 6/7 class. When I saw my name on his door my heart sank, but it took maybe a day to realise that the older kids had greatly exaggerated and while Mr Stein was strict and certainly wouldn’t suffer fools, he was a fair and engaging teacher and only made trouble for kids who attracted trouble in the first place.

Because I was such a shy and nervy kid I often did badly at the start of the year before I got my confidence up and even if my work was top-notch I was always behind in social interaction and class participation, but Mr Stein – unlike some teachers before him – endeavoured to break me out of my shell by encouraging me to get involved in areas that interested me, like creative writing and environmental issues. By the end of the year I had improved noticeably, so much so that I won the “Most Improved” award for my class. Mr Stein chose the books for my prize – a dictionary of nature, and Watership Down by Richard Adams which if you are a Bookbagger from way back you will know is still one of my favourite books. Since, as he predicted I adored the book and it hadn’t been too much of a struggle despite being a little above my age level, he loaned me his own copy of another Richard Adams novel called Shardik.

Shardik was a different kettle of fish than Watership Down as it was an adult fantasy, but I gave it a go anyway. I never really got past the first few chapters as the language was more advanced and I hadn’t quite gotten into Fantasy at that point (at least beyond children’s fantasy/adventure), but every time I asked Mr Stein if he wanted it back, he told me to keep trying. Somehow in the midst of Year 7 I not only gave up trying to read it, but I forgot to give it back and Mr Stein never reminded me. For years after I kept meaning to read it and then return to my old primary school to give it back, but it never happened and eventually in resided at the very back of my bookshelf, behind another layer of books – out of sight, but not forgotten. If I was close enough to someone and the subject of old books on TBR piles came up, I would spill my Secret Shame and swear once again that I would read it, but again it never happened.

Then a few months ago I acquired a small additional bookshelf from what my mum calls Le Verge (that often magical collection of odds and sods people put by the road in front of their house for pickup by the council or perusal by treasure-hunting locals) to help tame the overflow from my other shelves, and during a cull I found Shardik again, tattered, musty and forlorn amongst dozen of past op-shop and library discard purchases, many of which went in the donation box.

ShardikAt that point I decided that I would finally read the poor thing (even though I may not be able to find Mr Stein and return it to him after) and since September was approaching I thought Secret Shame September had a great ring to it – my love of alliteration at play once more 😛

Since the book has a little under 60 chapters I set myself the very ambitious goal of reading two chapters a day, but since it is so fragile it is a purely read-at-home-while-cradling-gently-so-it-doesn’t-disintegrate sort of book and thus I’m still making my way through. I’m about half-way now (chapter 32) so not doing too badly. Like I said above I have been distracted by some pretty awesome books recently (which I may even share with you in a separate update-ish post since I don’t want my returning one to be too giant) so I haven’t read any for a little less than a week, but I’ll try to read a bit more sometime this week.

I think that’s sufficient for now Bookbaggers, but I’ll leave you with a few fun things to make up for my disappearance 🙂

Firstly I took this quiz during Banned Book Week and posted it to the Book Polygamist Facebook page:Which banned book are youI got Slaughterhouse-5 by Kurt Vonnegut which I had never read, so I thought why not buy it and read it for Banned Book Week? I didn’t end up getting it until the last day of Banned Book Week and I didn’t start it until the 1st of October, but it was so good and such a short read (177 pages) I polished it off over one weekend.

This leads onto my next bit of fun which is another Thug Notes video:

Lastly, it’s Mental Health Week here in Oz and our public broadcast station the ABC is doing an initiate called Mental As…, showing a series of programs related to mental health in an effort to promote awareness, stop the stigma of mental illness and raise money for mental health research. As I have an anxiety disorder and most of the people in my life have struggled with mental illness at some point in their lives or have loved ones that have (and don’t we all really?) this event is important to me and I was keen to watch the programs, particularly Felicity’s Mental Mission, a doco by Felicity Ward which aired Monday. There are a few short clips on YouTube from the show, but I thought I’d share with you the hilarious, but poignant song by comedic musical duo Sammy J and Randy:

If you are in Australia (or elsewhere but you know how to get around all the technical stuff which stops you from watching geographic-specific videos) you can watch the full show on iView until the 5th of November.

I think that’ll do for now, O wonderous Bookbaggers 🙂

Stay tuned for a run-down of all the books I’ve read since I last posted (at some point soon) and some Notable Quotables which I’ve been collecting, but until then:

Don’t be afraid to ask somebody R U OK? even if you think they’ll give a stupid answer…

don't be lasagna

or have a extreme reaction…

post-51047-Doctor-Who-shut-up-gif-Imgur-s-Puqd

and a hug is always nice, even if it may be one-sided at first…

doctor-who-deep-breath-peter-capaldi-clara-hug

And if you or someone you know are struggling with mental health issues there are tonnes of organisations and associations out there that can help such as Lifeline and Beyond Blue (Australia), Mental Health America or NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness (USA) Mind or Rethink (UK). These are only a couple of examples of organisations in the countries that most view this blog, but other international organisations can be found on The Centre for Global Mental Health website or by Googling something like “mental health help *insert country/city/town/desert island/etc.*”.

Cya next time Bookbaggers!

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The Long and the Short of It – New Challenges to Beat the Rut!

Hello my effulgent, ethereal Bookbaggers!

Recently I divulged a deep dark secret to you all about my book polygamy – books and I are (or were) in a rut and it was going to take some work to pull out of it. I also gave you a teaser about a possible challenge (or as it turns out challenges!) which I hoped would facilitate healing the rift a little. Perhaps just talking about the rut helped because that afternoon I finished the last story in Metro Winds by Isobelle Carmody and it was so good and left me with such hope for my bookish relationship that I jumped right into a challenge before I had even worked out the rules!

In all fairness, I have been mulling over (*cough*procrastinating*cough*) two possible challenges for a while, one which would help me get back into the two titans on my reading pile – The Sending by Isobelle Carmody and Brisingr by Christopher Paolini – and one which would address the collections of short stories I often neglect, and get me onto a few short books/novellas that have been highly recommended to me. All I had worked out so far was that collectively I had over 1000 pages left in The Sending and Brisingr, I wanted to try to read one short story a week, and I wanted to throw out my usual method of choosing books and pick a book under 200 when I next finished one.

I had already established that I had three books on various TBR piles which were under 200 pages – Highrise by J G Ballard, which Sarah has wanted me to read forever; A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, which I have been meaning to read for years; and I Am Legend by Richard Matheson which my workmate Scott proclaimed essential reading – and then I discovered that one of my library books – The Game by Diana Wynne Jones – was also part of the under-200 club, which of course I was tickled pink about because that meant I had a candidate from each pile (Highrise being on the Borrowed-From-Others pile since Sarah lent it to me; A Clockwork Orange on the Books-I-Own-But-Have-Yet-To-Read pile; and I Am Legend on a second pile I have made of my own unread books since the old one was getting too tall, which I’m just calling the New-Books-Bought pile)!

I decided right then and there that I was starting the challenge so I collected the contenders, separated their names out of the Jar-Of-Choosing and picked a slip at random.

The four contenders eagerly waiting to be chosen

The four contenders eagerly waiting to be chosen

The book picked was The Game, which I thought nicely fitting as Metro Winds was also a library book and I was pretty certain it would also do it’s job of rut-breaking because A. It’s not only short, but is technically a children’s book so simple in language and structure, the literary equivalent of wearing training wheels; B. The blurb and cover are quite alluring; and C. Diana Wynne Jones. I was completely right as I zipped through The Game in two sittings (would’ve been one if I hadn’t started it on the way to work) and was all inspired to get to another short read!

This time I asked my mum if she could pick one of the three remaining slips (as she didn’t know what the colours meant she would be completely impartial) and lo and behold she chose Highrise 😀 I started it yesterday on the way home from work and 30-odd pages in I’m already intrigued and from what Sarah has told me I should ready myself for a disturbing ride 🙂 (pretty sure putting a smiley face after that means I’m about 10% psychopath)

As I’m already onto the second book in the challenge let’s make it official:

Short and Sweet challenge badge

And these are the rules I’ve scrounged up:

  1. Whenever a book is finished choose from the nominated contenders with under 200 pages
  2. Continue until all books under 200 pages are finished
  3. In addition, read at least 1 short story a week (currently from The Living Dead anthology)
  4. Update progress once a week

As I said above the contenders (that is the ones left 😛 ) are:

a clockwork orange

Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

i am legend

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

If I discover any others in the under-200 club lurking on my bookshelf or piles, I’ll add them to the list 🙂

As for the challenge to rekindle my romance with The Sending and Brisingr:

1000+ pages of epic fantasy challenge badge

The rules I’ve set myself for this challenge are:

  1. Read at least 50 pages of The Sending and/or Brisingr each week
  2. I will try to read at least 1 chapter from each book, but failing that at least a few pages of one and the rest from the other – basically I want to read a bit of both every week not just the 50 pages from one while the other is neglected
  3. The challenge will end when I’ve finished both books… since collectively they have 1065 pages left, if I keep to my quota it’ll take me about 22 weeks (which considering I love the number 22, is pretty neat-o 🙂 )
  4. I’ll do an update once a week along with my progress in Short and Sweet 
  5. *UPDATE 06/06/14 – I’m now aiming to read at least 100 pages each week, 50 pages from each book*

As with past challenges you are welcome to join me and tweak the challenge in whatever way works for you, and feel free to nab the challenge badges to use on your blog/site/face/whatever.

Stay tuned for an update in my progress, but probably not next week as I will be enjoying my short Easter break, a mixture of fun (friends from Sydney are visiting and I’m going to Swancon) and stuff I’m trying to fit into office hours while I’m off work (dentist, nutritionist, and exercise physiologist appointments). In fact, even though I’ve jumped the gun with one of the challenges I hear by officially start them on Monday the 21st and will do my first update the Monday after (or at least some time that week 😛 )

On that note, I bid you farewell for the moment Bookbaggers and leave you with a gif of ferrets stealing shit, coz why not? 😛

ferrets stealing stuff

A New Challenge and a Sneak-Peek at Challenges for October/November

Greeting my phenomenal, enchanting Bookbaggers!

I have come to you on this fine day (not literally as it is quite wet and wooly where I am at the moment!) to introduce to you a new challenge that I have invented/semi-started, and two which are coming up in the next two months.

Firstly, I decided to set myself a new challenge to help me along with two books I’m reading at the moment –Catch 22 by Joseph Heller, which I have been reading most of the year (and is the main reason behind this challenge) and World War Z by Max Brooks, which I have only been reading since July (which is still not great considering its a really interesting book, but much better than the start date of Catch 22 which is January O_O). Since they’re both war-based books (albeit ones which are a bit unconventional) I thought I’d do a war-based book challenge:

war & pages

I had planned to make a challenge badge on Photoshop or something anyway, but then I discovered PicMonkey, a (mostly) free photo editing site which many bloggers use for making snazzy banners and the like 🙂 It’s so fun and easy to use I will probably use it for all my badges and stuff from now on, and you may see more challenges as an excuse for making new badges ;P

Anyway, back to the challenge! As with my previous challenges anyone is welcome to join me and use the challenge badge, but for myself I have set these rules:

  1. Each week read a minimum of 50 pages from Catch 22 and/or World War Z
  2. The 50 pages must include at least one chapter of Catch 22 
  3. The challenge ends when I have finished both books (from my estimations gleaned from how much is left in each book this will be in about 11 weeks if I stick to the page quota)
  4. I will post a challenge update once a week chronicling the number of pages I read and how I’m going in general

I trialled this challenge a little last week to see what would be a reasonable amount of pages to read, and 50 seems perfect. I haven’t really read any this week so far, but in my head (its an interesting place – make yourself at home!) the challenge has officially started so hopefully I’ll read some this afternoon and over the weekend and I’ll post my first update next week.

Now for the challenges of the future (WoooooOOoooo!) 😀

Recently I was contemplating my various TBR piles and lamenting that I have books which have been in a pile for ages, but also lots of new books I really want to read. Then something just clicked in my brain (possibly in the part which loves alliteration and puns in challenges :P) and two new month-long challenges were born:

Old Books October challenge badge

(more PicMonkey fun in action!)

Old Books October is fairly self-explanatory and simple, but as you all would know by now I don’t really do simple when it comes to choosing books, so here are my rules for the challenge:

  1. The 2 books on each pile that have been there the longest go in the draw. This includes ones which have been on and off the pile due to library due dates and the like. Basically the 2 which have been marked as TBR for the longest are the contenders
  2. In addition to the 2 longest-on-the-pile books, any book (or graphic novel) on any pile which was originally published before the year 2000 also gets entered into the draw
  3. The eligible books from each pile get put in the jar and will be chosen using the current system – when I finish a book the new book will come from the same pile (i.e. if I just finished a library book than I’ll choose a new library book), If I am already reading one from that pile (as is often the case as I read 4-6 at a time and there’s only 4 piles – library; borrowed from friends; books I bought; and graphic novels) the new book will be picked from the pile with the most books
  4. A Comic Companion will still be chosen with each new book but they will also be chosen using the above rules
  5. If the chosen book is one of the 2 longest-on-the-pile ones the next oldest will be added to the draw for next time
  6. The challenge will begin on the 1st of October and end on the 31st

I have already worked out which ones are the contenders for each pile and I will post the list when the challenge officially opens 🙂

As a sort of companion challenge I also created:

New Books November challenge badge

(oooo yeah! PicMonkey is the shit :D)

The rules I’ve set for New Books November are pretty similar to the ones for Old Books October, only backwards-ish:

  1. The 2 books on each pile that have been added the most recently go in the draw. This only includes books added before the start of November, any books added after the challenge starts will be put on hold until it ends (I am also going to try to not add any new books over the whole October/November period, or if I do they will have to wait!)
  2. In addition to the 2 newest-on-the-pile books, any book (or graphic novel) on any pile which was originally published in 2013 (i.e. no reprints/new editions of older books) also gets entered into the draw
  3. The eligible books from each pile get put in the jar and will be chosen using the current system – when I finish a book the new book will come from the same pile (i.e. if I just finished a library book than I’ll choose a new library book), If I am already reading one from that pile (as is often the case as I read 4-6 at a time and there’s only 4 piles – library; borrowed from friends; books I bought; and graphic novels) the new book will be picked from the pile with the most books
  4. A Comic Companion will still be chosen with each new book but they will also be chosen using the above rules
  5. If the chosen book is one of the 2 newest-on-the-pile ones the next newest will be added to the draw for next time
  6. The challenge will begin on the 1st of November and end on the 30th

I have also already worked out the current contenders for this challenge, and they will also be posted when it officially opens 🙂

Besides these new challenges I have decided that I will continue to use the Jar O’ Books method of choosing (as you may have gathered from my rules) for the rest of this year as its great fun 🙂 Who knows – I may even keep it as my regular process as it takes much less time than the old one and is just as random, if not more.

Keep your eyes peeled for my next update and other goodies, and it the meantime:

Keep your eyes on the books!

He he I’m enjoying playing around with new sign offs that are pop-culture based (this one is obviously an X Files reference) but i am open to any other suggestions for a more permanent one to replace “Happy Reading!”. Let me know your suggestions in the comments or via bookpolygamist(at)gmail(dot)com

Do you challenge me Sir?

Salutations my bodacious Bookbaggers!

After being inspired by some of my fellow book bloggers such as Billie (AKA Vasiliki of Book, Owls and Tea) and Angelique (AKA angelicreader of Why I Can’t Stop Reading) I have decided to embark on a couple of reading challenges!

What challenges? Are they ones I can join too?

(you may ask…or I may ask on your behalf).

What great questions! How clever you are to come up with them!

The challenges I’m entering aren’t the fabulous high-profile ones my fellow bloggers are bravely conquering, such as the 2013 TBR Pile challenge; the 2013 Feminists Reads challenge; or Billie’s very impressive 1,000,000 Pages Challenge, but are just two little challenges I’ve set myself to get through a hanger-on book and mix up my reading patterns a little.

You are welcome to join in the challenges too if you like, and I’ve made little challenge badges that you can display if you do want to join me 🙂

So what are the challenges?!

Wow, pushy much? I’m getting there shouty headings!

The challenges I’m starting are:

The Poe.My.God! Challenge

poe.my.god challenge badge

This is basically a challenge to finally finish Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe which I have been “reading” for nearly a year. I say “reading” because I have only embarked on a hand-full of reading sessions with the book and the rest of the time it has done a bang up job supporting the rest of my currently reading pile. It’s not that it’s not a good book – it is Poe after all – but I don’t tend to dip into collections of short stories very often, and I’m not usually in the mood for Poe as while he’s a great author, the language used can be a bit dry and harder to absorb, the book was published using a typewriter-style typeface so it’s not as easy to read as modern books, and it’s a fairly large and heavy hardcover so I can’t really carry it around in my handbag (which is my usual strategy for books I’m struggling with). Over the last month or so I’ve tried to read at least one story a week, but as its a strictly at-home book, and I’m usually too tired to read before bed, I have only done so on weekends when I had spare time. Then after reading a post on Books, Owls and Tea where Billie started a Grimm’s fairy tales challenge and commenting about how it was a great idea, we chatted about the fact that we had both been stuck on Tales of Mystery and Imagination for ages and I decided I wanted to officially challenge myself so that It wasn’t a permanent fixture on my bedside table!

Last weekend I realised I had exactly 20 stories left, and that if I read 4 a week I would be finished before the dreaded 1 year mark (the 14th of May), so I have given myself the goal of reading 4 stories a week, and to try to finish before the 14th of May! This week I have only read one, but I hope to make that up at some point 🙂

The Comic Companions Challenge

comiccompanions-badge

This challenge I started unofficially last weekend when I chose a new book (Married With Zombies by Jesse Petersen) and at the same time started a Graphic Novel since I had so many tasty ones sitting there that I wanted to read. The Graphic Novel I chose was Fray by Joss Whedon (writer), Karl Moline (pencils), Andy Owens (inks), Dave Stewart (colours) and Michelle Madsen (colours and text) as seen in a recent Notable Quotable and soon to be featured in a Micro Review from Planet Procrastination adventure (the one after the next one), and I enjoyed it so much that I devoured the whole collection over a couple of hours. I then decided since I had quite a few unread Graphic Novels sitting there (I currently have the first three Sandman volumes by Neil Gaiman out from the library; a collection of Clive Barker stories made into a Graphic Novel omnibus borrowed from my friend Sarah; and the first volume of Soulless, the manga adaptation of Gail Carriger‘s Parasol Protectorate that I recently bought at Oz Comic Con) every time I start a new book, I will also start a Graphic Novel 🙂

This one doesn’t really have an end goal, but I’ll do it as long as there are Graphic Novels there for me to enjoy – I may even make it a year-long challenge so I can find more wonderful Graphic Novels once my pool runs out.

As I said earlier, any of you are welcome to join me in either challenge and use the above badges if you like, and you’re welcome to fiddle with the “rules” to your heart’s content 🙂

Stay tuned for updates on how my first official challenges are fairing, as well as the regular goodies, and as usual:

Happy Reading!