March Update Reading Challenge

Just over two months in and I’m ahead of schedule. I’m now reading my 23rd book, of the 100 books that are my unofficial target. I’m a little bit ahead schedule with page count, too, compared to the previous years (except for 2013, which was my best year so far). Which means I’m doing well.

My ongoing series list was long at the start of the year. I did manage to finish a couple of them, mostly those where I had to read the latest release which had been published in the last couple of months. Last month I noticed there were four series that I had almost finished, three had only one book left to read and one series had two books left. So I devised a mini challenge to get these four series out of the way. I made a reading list, allowing for a free choice read after finishing two books from the reading list. At the moment I’m working on the last book of the list. After finishing it I only have four active series on my list, five if you count the Commonwealth Saga.

After finishing the challenge I’ve decided to focus on reading more stand alone books. I’ve got a lot of those on my Kindle at the moment and because I’ve been focussing on series so far this year that list is growing. I also want to tackle my “interesting series” list. Which is over 20 books long, consisting of first books of series that I might possibly like. My aim is to have an active series list that has about 7 series on it and I want to make it more diverse than it has been, where most series were either crime or mystery series (often combined with other genres). I know from experience that I won’t be continuing with those series on the list after the first book, in recent years I’ve become more more selective about what I want to read.

So Far So Good

So far this year I’ve managed to finish four series. Which is good, but I want to do better. With just five more books I can finish four more series. So I’ve devised a mini-challenge to finish them before the end of March. I’ll start with book 9 in the Body Farm series, followed by the latest Sigma Force book, then I’m allowed to choose a non-series book (or try out a first book in a new to me series). I’ve chosen to read the third Cormoran Strike book next, followed by the latest Body Farm book and then I have another free choice book. I end my series marathon with the final book in the Bill Hodges trilogy.

I still have the second book in the Commonwealth Saga duology to read, but that’s a 1200+ page book, and I know I need to be in the mood for both the sci-fi genre and a long book to be able to get on with it, which is why I didn’t include it in my marathon.

By choosing this order and allowing a free read every two books I hope I’ve mixed it up well enough not to burn out. All books are either crime or thriller or both but in different styles.

The next challenge will be to select new series to read. I’ve noticed that it has become a lot harder for me to find series I want to continue with. I did discover the PC Peter Grant series, the first book was very good, so that’s been added. I’ve got 20 other first-in-series on my Kindle. My aim will be to get a good mix of different genres and styles, because I think I got stuck in a rut last year because I had (and still have) series ongoing that were very similar in genre, style or setting.

Reading Challenge – January

The first month of the year has passed and I made great progress with my reading challenge. Mostly thanks to a vacation of a week, it was too cold to go out much, plus I had the flu, so I didn’t have the energy to do much than potter about in my apartment.

With just 20 minutes to spare I manage to finish 12 books, with a total of 3933 pages. Which is over 400 pages over average for January. I manage to finish 3 series, which is great. I only read 2 stand alone book, but I need to take care I don’t burn out on series. I started three new series; one I’m not going to continue with, another one is a graphic novel series, but the second book hasn’t been released yet and the third was the first book in the PC Peter Grant series, Rivers of London, which was my favourite book of January and it’s been added to my ongoing series list.

In February I usually read a lot less, but looking into more detail I see that is because I often start a really long book during the second half of the month, which I don’t finish until March (where my average page count is quite high). I do have one 1200+ page book on my soon to be read list, I’m now curious to see if I’m in the mood to start that in February. Otherwise I hope to finish another two series (Cormoran Strike and Sigma Force) this month, but I’ll see what I’m in the mood for to read.

Reading challenge 2017

Another year, another reading challenge. Last year I did the theme challenge, but I noticed that towards the end of the year I was getting burned out on that challenge. So I’ve decided that this year’s challenge will consist of only two things: have fun and get some longer ongoing series finished. On Goodreads I’ve entered a reading goal of 100 books, but that’s more for the fun of keeping track.

I’ve got several series where I need to read only one or two books to finish them, I will focus on those first. Then I can start some new series. Last year I’ve read a lot of first books in series, but only few I found good enough to continue with. So I’m expecting that finding new series will be harder than in the past.

Mid January I’m going on vacation for a week. It’s going to be a lazy vacation; I’ve booked an apartment at a vacation park and have not much more planned than to read, watch films, bake cookies and play some games on my new laptop. Hopefully the gaming doesn’t distract me too much from my reading and I can get my reading of to a good start.

Reading challenge 2016: results

Another year has ended, which means that another reading challenge has also ended.

For 2016 my reading challenge was to read more than 40000 pages, each month pick a theme from a pre-made list and read at least 4 books related to that theme and, as always, do not forget my ongoing series.

Statistics for 2016:
Books read: 119
Pages read: 41904
Themes finished: 13
Books abandoned: 2
Series finished: 23
New authors: 46

Not bad. However, the series finished statistic is a bit misleading. I also counted series as finished when a new book came out in a series I was already up to date on. I didn’t do too well with series that were already ongoing at the start of 2016.

I liked the theme challenge, but I found that over the course of the year I felt it kept me from reading what I really wanted to read. Because I managed to cross off two themes in one month multiple times I was able to take both September and December off from this challenge, which was a good thing.

I was surprised at the number of new authors, I think the theme challenge encouraged me to find new authors. Some were okay, but I also found a couple of new favourite authors. Such as Tamara Thorne, Alistair Cross, Amy Cross, Jussi Adler-Olsen and Michael Richan. Not bad for a just one year.

Reading Challenge 2016: update

Just over five months into the year and I’m overdue on an update about my reading challenge progress for this year.

When looking at the statistics I’m going well. I’ve currently finished 57 books, so I’m well passed the half way point of the 100 book challenge I set myself on Goodreads. I’m also almost at the half way point of my challenge of reaching 40000 pages, just 400 pages to go.

My theme challenge is also going well, I’ve finished 6 themes so far. This means I’m one theme ahead of schedule. I’ve added two more themes: wishlist (where I have to read 4 books from either my Amazon or Goodread wishlist that I added before June 1) and Calibre (which I can only read books I already own for a full month).

So far this year I’ve haven’t given up on any books, there were a couple of close calls but I was intrigued enough to finish them. My favourite series, so far, this year is Jussi Adler-Olsen’s Department Q. The first two books were slow read, but the third and fourth I read quickly. I’m doing okay with finishing series, but that’s mostly due to reading the latest releases of series I was up to date with. This month I’m hoping to finish the Odd Thomas series, just one short story and one full length novel to go.

This summer I also want to reread Stephen King’s It, it’s been a long time since my last reread. It will fit in both with the Calibre and Old Time Favourites theme, so I’ll be able to finish two themes in one month again, probably in July.

Next week I’m on vacation, I’ve booked a cottage and I’m calling it my reading retreat. So hopefully I can get even more ahead than I am now. In July and August I’m also dog sitting for several weeks, and from experience I know that I read more than I normally would during those weeks.

Reading Challenge 2016 – Goals

The start of a new year also means the start of a new reading challenge. The last couple of years I didn’t do any real challenges beyond the 100 books challenge and read 4 long books. This year I wanted to have a real challenge, but not one that would put me off. I’ve learned that I don’t do well with prescribed reading; I tried the challenge where you have to read a book published in each year since you were born and I found that too constricting and gave up.

Last summer I set myself the challenge of reading 4 horror books in one month. That would leave me with enough other books to read to mix it up a bit. This year I will do something similar; I’ve made a list of 20 themes (if I think of more I will allow myself to add those), each month I will choose one theme and I will have to read at least 4 books in relation to that theme. Books of over 800 pages will count as two books for this challenge and books of over 1200 pages will count as three books, that way I won’t shun longer books.

In addition I will have the usual goals of trying to keep the number of series to a reasonable amount. For the Goodreads reading challenge I opted to read 100 books this year, but for my own challenge I want to read at least 40000 pages.

Although not really a challenge but more something I want to pay attention to at the beginning of the year is my active series. There are several I didn’t read a lot of book of in 2015, so I want to pick up pace on those.

And last, but not least, I want to have fun. Books I don’t like I won’t finish and series that start to go downhill (for me) I won’t continue.

Reading Challenge 2015

With just a couple of hours left until 2016 begins it’s time to see how I did on this year’s reading challenge.

I’ve managed to finish 113 books this year, totalling 40447 pages. Less than in 2013 and 2014, but certainly not bad. Because of this I added the extra challenge for next year to try to read 40000 pages again.

I did manage to read 4 book of over 700 pages. Until previous years, though, I had to consciously pick them since this year I seem to have enjoyed shorter books. I abandoned 3 books this year, which was a shame, but they couldn’t keep my interest.

Another trend in 2015 was that I tried out quite a few new series, 19 to be exact. Some I abandoned after one or two books, other I have finished and one I still need to read one book for to be up to date. I didn’t do as well with the longer active series, which will be a point of focus for the beginning of 2016. Plus I also need to pay some attention to books released in 2015 of series I was up to date with.

Unlike last year I didn’t have two week long lazy vacations during which I managed to read a lot. However, in just over a week I will go away for a week and I’m planning to read a lot and have a good start for my 2016 reading challenge.

Chromecast 2 review

I can remember that I watched dvd’s on portable dvd player in bed. After that I switched to my notebook when I got a bed table (one of those on wheels that stick out over the bed) and quickly bought a tv and media player. Over time I bought a set top box for digital tv with a hard drive (so I could record) and last year I bought a blu-ray player which could also be used to watch Netflix. Switching between them was a bit of a hassle (although it got easier when I got a HDMI switch) and the blu-ray player was really slow with loading Netflix.

Last week I bought the new Google Chromecast, hoping that it was quicker with Netflix and with the added bonus of being able to play YouTube videos. I had my doubts about practicality; wouldn’t the battery of my tablet or phone go down faster and I wasn’t sure how I would like not having a dedicated remote control. But since the little device was only €39 I thought it was worth the chance.

The first version of the Chromecast looked like a big USB stick, that you inserted in an HDMI port on your tv. From what I’ve read some people had problems with it when the HDMI port was awkwardly place and there wasn’t enough space for the Chromecast. This new version looks like a small hockey puck, it’s connected to the HDMI plug by a short cable. Like the previous version it also comes with a USB cable and a USB adapter for power. If your tv has a (free) USB port you can plug the cable into it, or you can use the adapter.

I got it on Saturday and in the evening I set it up, which only took minutes (looking up my wifi password took longest). And that night I happily switched between watching YouTube videos and Netflix. On Sunday morning I disconnected the blu-ray player, leaving it in case I ever want to watch a dvd or blu-ray.

On Sunday I also checked out various websites to see what the must-have apps are that you can’t do without when you’ve got a Chromecast. Most of them mention an app called Plex. It’s an app that you install on the device you use with your Chromecast, in my case my tablet, and then you install the app either on your computer or your NAS (if it’s powerful enough). You let it index the media files you want to be able to access (videos, music, photographs) and you can stream it from  your computer or NAS to your Chromecast.

This meant I could also unplug my media player. I bought a new USB 3 external hard drive, copied all my media files onto it and now I can play all my films and tv series on my Chromecast. I just have to make sure my computer doesn’t go to sleep. If you want to use a NAS to play your files you have to take into account that you’ll need a more powerful (and more expensive) one. The Chromecast can’t play a lot of video formats, if you play something that isn’t supported Plex will convert it. This isn’t a problem for a computer, but a simple NAS might not be powerful enough (on the Plex website is a list of which NAS are supported and which quality videos those are able to convert).

As an added bonus Plex looks very sleek and it makes it very easy to find the film or episode you want to watch. When loading your media library you have to choose which folders you have save your tv series in and which you use for films. It automatically downloads the film poster and a description. Tv series are automatically get subdivided into seasons. You can also use Plex to play your media on  your tablet and if you get the Plex Pass (subscription or a lifetime pass) you can even download media from your server/computer to your phone or tablet for offline viewing.

I was afraid for quick battery drainage, but that fear was unfounded. You use your phone or tablet to tell the Chromecast what to play and the Chromecast takes over whatever your streaming, it doesn’t go through your phone or tablet. I also don’t mind using my tablet as remote control. It’s easy and it offers a lot more options than a conventional remote control.

There are two downsides to Chromecast. First of all, it doesn’t work if you haven’t got an internet connection. So if you go somewhere, e.g. on vacation, and you haven’t got internet or if it’s very slow you’re out of luck. Also, even if you want to use it on a network which redirects you to a website to log in (like in hotels) your out of luck. Which is why I decided to put all my media files on an external HDD. When I go on vacation and I know the Chromecast won’t work I take my external HDD and my small media player with me. That way I can still watch offline.

Second, the Chromecast only remembers the last wifi network you logged into. Our home is big with several thick walls. I’m one story and two thick wall away from the nearest wifi repeater and I’m lucky to get a weak signal. I do have an ethernet connection and I created my own wifi network with the help of an access point. I did name my network differently than the wifi network downstairs. If I hook my Chromecast up to the tv in the livingroom or in the store I have to enter the wifi password for that network. When I take it upstairs with me I have to enter my own password again. I can understand why Google did this; they want to motivate people to buy more Chromecasts. However, it would have been nice if it was able to store a limited number of networks, 3 or 5, so you can more easily take it with you to friends, family or work.

Reading challenge 2015 – progress

It’s November already. This means that the reading challenge for 2015 is starting to wrap up and the challenge for 2016 is on the horizon.

This year has been good. Not as good as 2013 and 2014, but still not bad considering I’ve been spending more time on other hobbies. My main challenge of reading four book of 700 pages or longer has been completed. Interestingly, in previous years I’ve read a lot more longer books than this year. Which means that I’ve picked the right challenge.

At the moment I’m, according to Goodreads 11 books ahead of schedule (for 100 books), I’m currently reading my 97th book of the year. And the average length is 368, which is lower than last year but about the same as in 2013 and more than in 2012.

What I haven’t managed to do is keep the number of active series down. I’ve read quite a lot of first books in series this year and decided not to continue with most of them but lately I’ve been starting series I like. There are several series that only have three or less books in them before I’m up to date with the series, so I’ll be focussing on those for the remainder of the year.

In previous years I always had one genre I seemed to prefer. This year that isn’t really the case, though lately I’ve been reading a lot of ghost stories and horror books. The trend this year seems to be reading books by new to me authors, of the 97 books I’ve read 42 new authors.

I’ve already decided on a challenge for 2016; each month pick a theme and read at least four books related to that theme. I’ve already set up a page for it with more details. I also want to do both more updates on my progress and start writing reviews again on this blog, something that didn’t happen this year.