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The Reading Challenge Challenge

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Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward gearing up for a mid-century reading challenge. Photo by Gordon Parks, Getty Images.

I do not need a reading challenge to encourage me to read books. My problem is the opposite — I read so much that dust bunnies become dust rabbits and beget dust bunnies of their own, so much that three days out of five, I can’t leave home without a generous helping of Visine for my weary eyes.

Yet I am intrigued by the idea of reading challenges, if only for my romance reading, because I too often read in the same genres and tropes over and over; my diet of vintage Gothics, antique Harlequins and Traditional Regencies has yet to become stale, but I sometimes wonder what I am missing by not broadening my reading horizons.

Now the reading challenge itself has fallen victim to a trope of my own: indecision. Buy a car, buy a house — I can make major decisions in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Ask me to choose a restaurant, a purse, a new shampoo or a reading challenge, and you’d think the fate of the world lay in the balance.

So here are a few of the 2015 reading challenges I’ve found as I consider this momentous decision. The challenges themselves are endlessly fascinating to me, though I suspect that if I embark on a reading challenge at all, it will be some mish-mash of all these.

Wish me luck and hope that I manage to settle on one before the cows come home in 2016….

15 Flavors: Submitted by PWM in MI to All About Romances’s “The “Official” Fabulous Fifteen Reading Challenge” Discussion Board:

PWM’s reading challenge is based upon the AAR Special Title Listings updated in 2014.

1) Green Romances- Read a romance where the characters care about the environment and are actively engaged in protecting it. (i.e.: conservationists, park rangers, birdwatchers, biologists, architects, scientists, engineers, and green activists.
2) Fairy Tale Romances- Read a romance based the plot of well-known fairy tale.
3) Point of View – Read a novel told primarily through the eye of one narrator, including first-person point of view, romantic diary fiction, or a romance from the male point of view.
4) Rakes & Rogues-Read a romance where the hero is a known rake, a ladies’ man, a bon vivant and possibly a libertine. Or read a romance where the hero is rogue, a scoundrel, a man considered dangerous (perhaps he is a smuggler or is thought to have murdered his first wife), and a man who may be acting outside the law.
5) Adventure Romances-For this list, think Romancing the Stone: Read a romance where love and adventure all mixed up together.
6) Friends in Romance-Read a romance not only focuses on a love story, but also the strong ties of friendship that exist between people. This may take the form of a friendship that leads to romance, or a romance of which a deep friendship is an essential part. It may take the form of strong non-romantic ties to a person of the same sex, or the form of a platonic friendship between a woman and a man.
7) Royalty-Read a romance which includes a lead or integral secondary character who is either real or fictional royalty, meaning them (or their close relatives) rules a state.
Cool Secondary Romances-Read a book that has a strong romance between secondary characters.
9) Held Captive- Read a romance where the heroes and heroines in these books hold each other captive with more than the bonds of love.
10) Amnesia…Or Not?-Read a romance where a character suffers or appears to be suffering from amnesia.
11) Spies, P.I.’s, & Warriors – Read a romance where the hero or heroine is a spy, P.I.’, warrior, cop, or in the armed forces.
12) Imprisoned!-Read a romance that have heroes and heroines who, guilty or innocent, were convicted of a crime or taken prisoner and so spent time imprisoned or exiled. Character my also currently be incarcerated.
13) Best Enemies-Read a romance where the hero and heroine loathe each other.
14) The Limelight-Read a romance featuring heroes or heroines who are in the performing or creative arts, such as actors, singers, artists, best-selling novelists, and dancers.
15) Two-Hanky Reads-Read a romance that have been rumored to make the reader cry, not just a tear or two, but those that tend to be cathartic and intense.
16) War- Read a romance where war is an important factor in the plot. Whether the characters are in battle, on the home front, living in occupied territory, or reliving the war in PTSD, their lives have been permanently altered by the experience of war.
17) Cross-Dressing & In Disguise-Read a romance involving lead characters in disguise, women who dress as men, men who dress as women, and lead characters who ugly themselves up to be unappealing to prospective mates.
18) Perfect First Spouses-Read a romance with a hero or heroine who had “perfect” first relationships. Those relationships may have been in actuality wonderful or merely perceived as wonderful by the new love interest.
19) Young Adult Fiction-Read a y/a novel with strong romantic elements.
20) Pirates, Sheiks & Vikings-Read a romances featuring Pirates, Vikings, and Sheiks.

PWM’s challenge list features several tropes/characters/plots that I tend to avoid (pirates, sheiks, Vikings, perfect first spouses, amnesia). It’s also so very very easy — I can just use the challenge and the AAR Special Title Listings to cross-reference and choose books from time periods/genres I don’t usually tackle. Too easy, probably. 

 

15 Winners: Submitted by Karat to All About Romances’s “The “Official” Fabulous Fifteen Reading Challenge” Discussion Board:

Says Karat: “Since the first AAR Annual Reader Poll in 1997, a total of 15 authors have won the Best Romance/Favorite Romance of the Year award. Read 10, 12 or 15 books written by these authors, or fitting the following criteria:”

1. Suzanne Brockmann
Winner books: Over the Edge (2002*), Out of Control (2003) and Gone Too Far (2004)
Read a book where the hero or heroine is a SEAL / special ops / FBI agent / security specialist, or where there is a secondary romance. Or read a book that finishes a story arc that started in previous books in a series. Or read a romantic suspense.

2. Loretta Chase
Winner books: Mr. Impossible (2006) and Last Night’s Scandal (2011)
Read a book set in Africa or the Middle East, or where the h/h is a scholar, or where the h/h met as children.

3. Joanna Bourne
Winner books: The Spymaster’s Lady (2009) and The Black Hawk (2012)
Read a book set in France, or where the h/h is French, or where the h/h is a spy. Or read a book were the h/h are reunited after some time apart.

4. Mary Jo Putney
Winner book: Shattered Rainbows (1997)
Read a book set during or right after a war, or a book where the h/h is in the military, or where the h/h is injured or ill.

5. Susan Elizabeth Phillips
Winner book: Nobody’s Baby But Mine (1998)
Read a book where the heroine is or gets pregnant, or where the hero and heroine have a child together. Or read a book where the h/h is an athlete or a scientist.

6. Nora Roberts
Winner book: Sea Swept (1999)
Read a book where the h/h is a boat racer, ship captain or is in the Navy. Or read a book where the h/h is a social worker. Or read a book where the h/h suddenly becomes responsible for a child.

7. Robin Schone
Winner book: The Lady’s Tutor (2000)
Read a book where the h/h is a tutor, a teacher, a professor, etc. Or where the h/h speaks one other language besides English, or the h/h was raised in a foreign country.

8. Adele Ashworth
Winner book: Winter Garden (2001)
Read a book set in a coastal town, or a book whose title has the words “winter”, “summer”, “autumn”, or “spring” in the title

9. Jennifer Crusie
Winner book: Bet Me (2005)
Read a book where there is a bet or a dare involved. Or read a romantic comedy.

10. J.R. Ward
Winner book: Lover Awakened (2007)
Read a book with a tortured hero, or a book where the h/h is imprisoned, or the h/h has a twin. Or read a Paranormal book.

11. Jo Goodman
Winner book: If His Kiss Is Wicked (2008**)
Read a book where the h/h is an investigator, or where the h/h is a poor relative, or has to live with an uncle, aunt, cousin, etc. Or read a book where the h/h has amnesia.

12. Elizabeth Hoyt
Winner book: The Serpent Prince (2008**)
Read a book where someone is seeking revenge, where the h/h is a prince/princess, or any other member of the royalty. Or read a book where the chapters have small prefaces (famous literary quotes, fictional journal excerpts, fairy tales, etc)

13. Jennifer Ashley
Winner book: The Madness of Lord Ian Mackenzie (2010)
Read a book where the h/h is considered mad, or a book that is part of a series where each book is about a different family member. Or read a book by an author who writes under multiple pen names.

14. Julie Anne Long
Winner book: A Notorious Countess Confesses (2013)
Read a book where the h/h is a member of the church, or where the h/h is a noble.

15. Sherry Thomas
Winner book: The Luckiest Lady in London (2014)
Read a book where the h/h has to marry for money, or the h/h is viewed by society as the ideal gentleman or a perfect lady. Or read a book where the h/h is interested in astronomy.

I find Karat’s challenge interesting, though I would probably go by the alternatives rather than the winning authors/books (yes, I know that I’m supposed to expand my horizons, but I have read a number of the winning books, and of them, only Mary Jo Putney’s Shattered Rainbows would come near to an award with me). 

2015 Monthly Keyword Challenge By Bookmark to Blog

Kim at Bookmark to Blog has several interesting challenges, one of which is the Monthly Keyword Challenge

JAN- Bird, Girl, Ever, Silence, Bad, Truth, End 
FEB- Key, Water, Lie, Chase, Heir, Once 
MAR- Kind, Face, Power, City, Blue, Night, To 
APR- Dream, Prince, Long, Wind, Rose, The, Rock 
MAY- Ash, Road, Thief, Bend, In, Far 
JUN- My, Together, Whisper, Win, Soul, Sleep
JUL- Sun, Unto, Energy, Fate, High, Look
AUG- Fall, Boy, Glass, Heart, Lost, Now
SEP- Color, Touch, Life, Day, How, Sweet
OCT- Ghost, Home, Beach, Away, Test, Number
NOV- Rise, Holiday, And, Little, Call, Dark
DEC- Space, Mirror, Over, Flower, Trap, Cold

According Kim’s instructions, the title you choose does not have to be exact, but can be a variation on one of the keywords.

I would die of dithering. For a foot-dragger like myself, attempting a “keyword challenge” would result in hours spent trawling Amazon and Goodreads for the keywords to no discernible result. 

I’m also little skeptical of this challenge for romance reading, simply because I find that like covers, book titles often have little to do with the books themselves where romance novels are concerned. 

2015 Monthly Motif Challenge By Bookmark to Blog:

Another of Kim’s challenges, the Monthly Motif Challenge: 

JAN Book to Movie or Audio (A book with a movie or audio book version.)
FEB– Award Winner
MAR–  Genre Jumble (A book in a genre that you’ve never tried or are unfamiliar with.) 
APRMystery, Murder, and Mayhem
MAYLibrary Love (A book chosen from your local library’s displays — I love this one, naturally.)
JUN–  Take A Trip (A book set in a different country different or by an author from another country.)
JULStanding Up (A book in which the main character stands up for themselves, stands up against an enemy, or stands up for something they believe in.)
AUG– Alternate Reality (A book set in the future, on another planet/dimension. Dystopian titles also apply.)
SEPFurry Friends (A book with an animal as an important character.)
OCTGoblins, and Ghost, and Ghouls, Oh My!
NOV– An Oldie but a Goodie (A book published prior to or set prior to 2000.)
DEC– That’s a Wrap (Kim’s recommendation is to finish a series or read the next book in an series you never finished; I’d probably just read one of the rare books I did not finish…)
Kim recommends combining the Monthly Motif Challenge with the Keyword Challenge. 

 

PopSugar’s 2015 Reading Challenge:

I don’t know that I have ever dipped my toe into PopSugar, but this infographic showed up in my Tumblr feed, and i thought it was worth including:

 

I think this list could easily be adapted to romance reading, especially if you explode the idea of romance to encompass more than just the romance genre. There are so many “romances” like Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Taming of the Shrew that we should have read in school but didn’t, many fictional or non-fictional memoirs that are romantic, and plenty of banned romance novels to choose from. There are even a few Pulitzer’s that feature strong romances; Anne Tyler’s Breathing Lessons, Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove (well, that might be a bromance, but what the hell) and The Optimist’s Daughter by Eudora Welty come to mind.

So I’m off to ponder the pros and cons of reading challenges. I will likely bury myself in another Mary Burchell or Jane Donnelly M&B while I’m considering it 😉

 

 

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Author: J.E.

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

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