Some of Bev's Favorite Quotes...



Attention All Challengers! S0....life here on the Block has been, shall we say, challenging since I got back from vacation. I cam back to work to no computer (not hooked up after our office move) and my laptop at home has gone on strike. It looks like the Check-in Posts for the Just the Facts & Mount TBR challenges will wind up happening at the end of July instead of the regularly scheduled mid-point. But they are coming. Stay tuned!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 Year in Review



Another reading and blogging year has come and gone and it's time to look back at the highlights and see what kind of year 2015 was here at My Reader's Block.
Challenges remain one of my biggest passions (after reading, which comes after collecting, of course). Over the course of the year, I signed up for 42 challenges but I didn't manage to complete every one of them. Two perpetual challenges got the better of me--but I'll be back after you, Century of Books and One Million Pages, so look out in 2016!  I started with my very own Vintage Mystery Challenge and was busy signing up right till the end--joining Michelle's Christmas Spirit Challenge in November to carry me through to the New Year. 

Of course there was also a bit of hosting going on here at the Block, too. The most popular are the Vintage Mystery Challenge and Mount TBR. I'm so grateful to everyone who joined me in the Reader's Block Bingo Hall for another round of mystery bingo. Up next in vintage mysteries is a year-long scavenger hunt. So, if you like mysteries and pay attention to the covers, then this might be for you. Check it out at Vintage Scavenger Hunt. The Color Coded and Read It Again, Sam Challenges were also popular. I also tried my hand at a Reading Challenge version of Password. That wasn't quite as popular as I hoped, so I'm shelving that one for the moment. It's possible I'll change it up a bit and give it another try in the future. But the overwhelming favorite remains the Mount TBR Challenge with participants in the blogging world as well as on GoodReads. Thanks to everyone who joined me in my own personal brand of challenge-madness!  

It seems to be a recurring theme...but I continue to regret my loss of blog-browsing time. Someone stole a few of my hours somewhere--or I'm just slowing down as I get older [did I really say that?]--and I apologize to all my friends out here in the blogging world.  I'm still peeking in on most of you--but it's more of a fly-by, I'm afraid, with very little commenting.  I did manage to get through nearly all of the reviews--especially for the Vintage Mystery Challenge, the challenge that is nearest and dearest to my heart. I want to send a shout-out to the bloggers who make this such a great place to visit and chat and read: Sergio at the Fedora, John at Pretty Sinister Books, Yvette at In So Many Words, Kerrie at Mysteries in Paradise, Curtis at The Passing Tramp, Steve at In Search of the Classic Mystery, Noah at Noah's Archives, Rich at Past Offenses, Freda at Freda's Voice and Cheryl and Gina and all the others that I'm having an almost-senior moment and forgetting. You all continually feed my reading and/or challenge addictions and help my never-ending TBR pile to grow.

 Thank you once more to all of the wonderful people out here in the blogosphere--those who follow and just take a peek now and then, those who comment, and those who have become close blogging buddies--especially those of you who share my love of vintage mysteries; I have appreciated your knowledge and insights on my favorite genre. I also appreciate the Golden Age of Detection group on Facebook. It has been wonderful getting to know new folks there as well as getting to know of my blogging friends a little better. We have also started a Tuesday Night Blogging Club (modeled after Christie's Tuesday Night Club)--where we get together and blog about various Golden Age authors. That's been a special treat in 2015 and I look forward to more Tuesday meetings in 2016. Thanks as well to all who sponsored the many challenges which helped feed my reading/challenge habit--they were all great fun!  I hope you all have a fabulous New Year!   

And my year-end stat totals:

Total Books Read: 164
Total Pages: 37,873
Percentage by Female Authors: 40%
Percentage by US Authors: 56%
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors: 5%
 

3 Australian
2 Canadian
2 French1 Swedish

Percentage Mystery: 76%
Percentage Fiction: 93%
Percentage written 2000+: 15%
Percentage of Rereads: 8%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100%
Number of Challenges fulfilled: 42 (95%)


The Best Reads of 2014 (no rereads allowed)

Five Stars: 
The HItchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

The Last Question by Isaac Asimov  
Xenogenesis Book 1: Dawn by Octavia Butler
Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie
Harlan Ellison's The City on the Edge of Forever (Original Teleplay) by Ellison, Adapted by Scott & David Tipton
Strange Wine by Harlan Ellison 
Game Without Rules by Michael Gilbert  
Call for the Dead by John le Carré
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen 
    
Four & 1/2 Stars:

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
The Golden Age of Murder by Martin Edwards
The False Inspector Dew by Peter Lovesey 

Four Stars:
 Too Many to List--40 over all



And, finally, the overall P.O.M. Award Winner for best mystery of 2015 [excluding rereads] goes to two books that surprised me mightily. I'm not usually a spy thriller kind of girl. But both Game Without Rules by Michael Gilbert and Call for the Dead by John le Carré were clear winners this year.

Michael Gilbert's short story collection Game Without Rules is the best collection of stories devoted to espionage and counter intelligence that I have ever read. The most amazing thing about these stories by Gilbert is that even though they are short, they pack a heck of a wallop. Each story could have been expanded into a novel--the themes are so rich and story-worthy--but Gilbert's economy and deft descriptions make it possible to tell the essentials in an action-packed short without losing any of the important points. Straight, to the point storytelling with believable plots and characterization make for a prize-package of reading.

Le Carré reeled me in with his descriptive story-telling. A "toad"-like man may not have been my ideal spy when I began, but I was completely convinced of his abilities and his reality by the end. The picture of post-war Britain that le Carré paints is brilliantly rendered--I looked up from my book in the final chapters fully expecting to see the fog swirling round me and to hear the river traffic below the bridge. The story itself reads less like a spy-thriller to me than a more traditional mystery. Smiley is following up clues in the best Scotland Yard fashion. I absolutely will be on the look-out for copies of the other Smiley books.

Decemeber Wrap-up & P.O.M. Award




Well, here we are...the final monthly wrap-up and P.O.M. Award for 2015. I've enjoyed another year of tracking reading progress and statistics for all things bookish on the Block. And I've also enjoyed contributing to Kerrie's Crime Fiction Pick of the Month. Here's what happened here on the Block in December....
 
Total Books Read: 14
Total Pages:  2.781 (not quite enough to make my goal of 40,000)
Average Rating: 3.46 stars
Top Rating: 5 stars 
Percentage by Female Authors: 50%
Percentage by US Authors: 64%
Percentage by non-US/non-British Authors:  0%
Percentage Mystery:  79%
Percentage Fiction: 100%
Percentage written 2000+: 7%
Percentage of Rereads: 0%
Percentage Read for Challenges: 100% {It's easy to have every book count for a challenge when you sign up for as many as I do.}  
Number of Challenges fulfilled: 42 (95%)

I'm a little disappointed that I didn't complete all the challenges and didn't make my goal of 40,000 pages. But it's still been a good year.  And now for the P.O.M. Award in Mysteries.


As mentioned above, Kerrie had us all set up for another year of Crime Fiction Favorites. What she was looking for is our Top Mystery Read for each month. Of the fourteen books read in December, eleven were mysteries. Here are the mystery-related books read:


The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay (4 stars) 
The Corpse & 3 Ex-Husbands by Sue McVeigh (3 stars) 
The Monday Theory by Douglas Clark (3 stars) 
The Chuckling Fingers by Mabel Seeley (3.5 stars) 
Game Without Rules by Michael Gilbert (5 stars) 
Cold Poison by Stuart Palmer (3 stars) 
The Valley of Fear by Doyle graphic novel reworked by Ian Edginton & I. N. J. Culbard (4 stars) 
Body of Opinion by Susannah Stacey (3 stars) 
Three Doors to Death by Rex Stout (4 stars) 
The Labor Day Murder by Lee Harris (3 stars) 
The Cashmere Kid by B. (Barbara) Comfort (2 stars) 
Just looking at the star count, it's no surprise that November's POM Award winner is my only 5-star winner:




Game Without Rules (1967) is the best collection of stories devoted to espionage and counter intelligence that I have ever read. The most amazing thing about these stories by Gilbert is that even though they are short, they pack a heck of a wallop. Each story could have been expanded into a novel--the themes are so rich and story-worthy--but Gilbert's economy and deft descriptions make it possible to tell the essentials in an action-packed short without losing any of the important points. Straight, to the point storytelling with believable plots and characterization make for a prize-package of reading.

Next up...A look back at the year's stats and the declaration of 2015's over-all P.O.M. Winner.





Reading Challenge Addict: The Final Tally


So....like last year (when I signed up for 47 challenges), I went just a teensy bit overboard in the challenge department in 2015. I knew that I would and I signed up for the top level:

Out of This World: 16+ Challenges (Entered & Completed)


I met that goal, quite a long time ago. But how many did I actually sign up for this year? Forty-four. But this year, my eyes were bigger than my challenge capacity--I didn't quite finish them all. And it was the perpetual challenges that were my down fall. I failed to complete two challenges. I was supposed to read 50 more books that would qualify for the other half of my Century of Books Challenge. This is a "set the limits yourself" kind of challenge and I was determined to read all the books within in two years. That didn't happen. I still need to read 13 more books (nearly all pre-1930) to fill in the rest of the century. So, I'll be adding that one to my list for 2016. Hopefully, I'll be able to finish off those last 13 books next year.

The other problem challenge was the Read One Million Pages Challenge. I've set a personal goal of 40,000 pages a year on that one. I'm a little over 2,000 pages short on that one. I just didn't read as many chunky books this year--and I read about thirty fewer books overall. I hope the reading numbers aren't taking a permanent downward trend.

Overall, it's been a fun challenge year. I signed up for some challenges that I'd never done before and most of them pushed me to read books out of my comfort zone. But--next year, I'm hunkering down with my personal TBR stacks and have made a New Year's Resolution that I will only sign up for challenges which I can fulfill using my own books. With about 1600 of my own books that need reading, I really need to focus. Fellow addicts need not fear, however. My own stacks give plenty of scope for challenges--I've already signed up for 19 in the New Year and I'm sure there are more to come.


If you'd like to take a peek at the my 2015 challenges, then check out the tab along the top or click HERE. Eventually, I'll move the 2015 list to the "Previous Challenges" tab.

Challenge Complete: Christmas Spirit Reading Challenge


November 23, 2015 – January 6, 2016

This reading challenge is hosted by The Christmas Spirit. For full information and to sign-up, please see this post.

As usual, I signed up for the lowest level:
--Mistletoe:  read 2-4 books
Thanks to Michelle for hosting this every year!
 
This is my last reading challenge for the year. Now to tally things up for my Reading Challenge Addict Challenge.
 
Here are my reads:
1. Auggie Wren's Christmas Story by Paul Auster (11/25/15)
2. The Santa Klaus Murder by Mavis Doriel Hay (12/2/15)
3. "Heilige Nacht" by Michael Gilbert [in Game Without Rules] (12/13/15)
4. The Angel Doll by Jerry Bledsoe (12/29/15)
 

The Cashmere Kid: Review

The Cashmere Kid by Barbara Comfort is a cozy mystery set on a Vermont goat farm. Tish McWhinny is a septuagenarian sleuth who has been called on to help her "sort-of niece" Sophie as she begins her dream of raising goats for Cashmere wool. Sophie has just set up shop with a load of girlish goats and her imported billy...William the Conqueror, a valuable pedigreed stud who's going to make Sophie rich. 

The trouble begins when the Conqueror disappears and then a neighbor is murdered in broad daylight with a golf club. Did Simpson see who took the valuable goat? Or are there other nefarious deeds afoot? Tish is determined to find Sophie's goat and discover the murderer. She is helped by her friend Hilary, an eighty-year-old curmudgeonly widower, Sophie's brother Sandy, and the tobacco-spewin', self-proclaimed goat expert Newt. She's up to her arthritic knees in mud and suspects and must wade through gold-seekers, nude fun and games in the barn, toxic-waste dumpers, and a goat-lifing scam artist to discover the truth.

I have to say that this just didn't do much for me. There's an awful lot of info on goat farming and the habits of goats--which may be interesting if one has a hankering to know about such things, but really isn't vital to the story itself. The characters aren't all that engaging either and the plot is full of holes. I don't think I'll be looking for other titles in the series. ★★

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Women Challenge

Sponsored by PeekaBook


Rules:
* anyone can join;
* you don't need a blog to partecipate: if you are a non-blogger please leave a comment with a link (if you review elsewhere) to your review or with the list of the books you read and the level you choose;
* audio, e-books, bound books and re-reads are ok;
* create a sign up post on your blog and post the link in the Linky below (scroll down please, it's at the end of the italian translation);
* challenge goes from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016;
* here you can link for your reviews.
 

Levels:
Level 1: BABY GIRL - read 5 books written by a woman author
Level 2: GIRLS POWER - read 6 to 15 books written by a woman author
Level 3: SUPER GIRL - read 16 to 20 books written by a woman author
Level 4: WONDER WOMAN - read 20+ books written by a woman author


I am quite sure that I will read at least 20 books by women in 2016, so I am signing up for Wonder Woman.

1. Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
2. Murder at Arroways by Helen Reilly (1/7/16)
3. The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1/9/16)
4. Four Against the Bank of England by Ann Huxley (1/25/16)
5. Which Doctor by Edward Candy [Barbara Alison Boodson Neville] (1/28/16)
6. Who's Calling by Helen McCloy (1/31/16)
7. The Clue of the Judas Tree by Leslie Ford (2/6/16)
8. The Doberman Wore Black by Barbara Moore (2/9/16)
9. The Silver Anniversary Murder by Lee Harris (2/17/16)
10. The Spiral Staircase by Ethel Lina White (2/20/16)
11. The Black Rustle by Constance & Gwenyth Little (2/22/16)
12. Make Death Love Me by Ruth Rendell (3/1/16)
13. A Lesson in Secrets by Jacqueline Winspear (3/13/16)
14. Elegy for Eddie by Jacqueline Winspear (3/15/16)
15. The Old Battle Axe/The Obstinate Murderer by Elisabeth Sanxay Holding (3/17/16)
16. Leaving Everything Most Loved by Jacqueline Winspear (3/24/16)
17. The Third Encounter by Sara Woods (4/1/16)
18. The Indigo Necklace Murders by Frances Crane (4/13/16)
19. The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas (4/21/16)
20. Death in Cyprus by M. M. Kaye (4/22/16)
21. Line Up for Murder by Marion Babson (4/28/16)
22. Powder & Patch by Georgette Heyer (5/4/16)

2016 Vintage Scavenger Hunt Headquarters


Here you will find the link to the original challenge post.  Also, each month I will enable a Monthly Review Link where posts for that month can be linked up.  The link will be open a few days into the next month.  If you miss posting a review to its particular month, then feel free to add it to the next.  Periodically, I will add a check-in link for bonus prizes. The Scavenger Hunt Wrap-Up Link will go live towards the end of the year. Please hold all wrap-ups until that time. Thanks!

Good luck and Happy Hunting! 

Original Challenge Post  2016
Original Challenge Post 2017

January Reviews
February Reviews
March Reviews
Check-in #1
April Reviews 
May Reviews
June Reviews
July Reviews
Check-in #2
August Reviews
September Reviews
October Reviews 
Check-in #3
November Reviews
December Reviews

Scavenger Hunt Wrap-up

2016 Mount TBR Headquarters




Welcome to the Mount TBR Climbing Headquarters.

Here you will find the link to the original challenge post.  Also, each month I will enable a Monthly Review Link where posts for that month can be linked up.  The link will be open a few days into the next month.  If you miss posting a review to its particular month, then feel free to add it to the next.  There will also be the usual Quarterly Checkpoints that will go live every three months.

Good luck and Happy Climbing!




February Reviews

March Reviews

Mountaineering Checkpoint #1 

April Reviews 

May Reviews

June Reviews

Mountaineering Checkpoint #2

July Reviews

August Reviews

September Reviews

Mountaineering Checkpoint #3

October Reviews

November Reviews

December Reviews
Final Checkpoint

A-Z Mystery Author Challenge







I'm always excited to get an email from Michelle saying that her A-Z Mystery Author challenge sign-up is ready to go.  I just got it tonight.  You all have to know that I love me some mysteries!  And I love trying to fill out the alphabet with mystery authors. 



Rules: A-Z represents the LAST name of the author in the mystery, thriller, suspense, cozy, noir, etc. genre. Read as many or as little as you want. Post your links at her site for your Challenge post and your reviews! (click link above to take you there).  Challenge Runs until December 31, 2016.
 This year, I'm going to change it up a bit. I usually set my commitment as the letters A-M. This time, my goal is half the alphabet--any 13 letters. I'd love to do all of them, but X is such a difficult one (especially if I stick to my goal of reading only books on my own TBR stacks) I always have to cheat and just have an X somewhere in the name. I also had a bit of trouble with a few other letters in 2015, so we'll see what happens in the coming year.  
 
I'll fill in the books as they come. Commitment fulfilled 3/3/16. Still Reading!

A: The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji (7/3/16)
B: Hardly a Man Is Now Alive by Herbert Brean (1/16/16)
C: Which Doctor by Edward Candy (1/28/16)
D: One Foot in the Grave by Peter Dickinson (4/18/16)
E: Hunt with the Hounds by Mignon G. Eberhart (1/3/16)
F: The Clue of the Judas Tree by Leslie Ford (1/6/16)
G: The Case of the Black-Eyed Blonde by Erle Stanley Gardner (4/12/16)
H: The Silver Anniversary Murder by Lee Harris (2/17/16)
I: The Paper Thunderbolt by Michael Innes (5/29/16)
J: Servant's Problem by Veronica Parker Johns (8/4/16)
K: Red for Murder by Harold Kemp (1/13/16)
L: The Black Rustle by Constance & Gwenyth Little (2/22/16)
M: Who's Calling? by Helen McCloy (1/31/16)
N: Unhallowed Murder by Simon Nash (8/20/16)
O: The Mirabilis Diamond by Jerome Odlum (7/31/16)
P: The Day He Died by Lewis Padgett (3/3/16)
Q: Design for Murder by Erica Quest (8/20/16)
R: Murder at Arroways by Helen Reilly (1/7/16)
S: Chili Con Corpses by J. B. Stanley (4/28/16)
T: The Limehouse Text by Will Thomas (4/13/16)
U: The Bachelors of Broken Hill by Arthur W. Upfield (2/24/16)
V: The Chalk Circle Man by Fred Vargas (4/21/16)
W: The Girl in the Cellar by Patricia Wentworth (1/9/16)
X: A Death for a Darling by E. X. Giroux (8/19/16)
Y: The Fifth Passenger by Edward Young (2/10/16)
Z: The Warsaw Anagrams by Richard Zimler (7/17/16)