My new Spotlight feature highlights anything within the bookish world that I feel deserves a spotlight for a few minutes – publishers (or more specifically, imprints!), new or old favorite authors, bookish people/bloggers, covers or cover trends, topics/genres within books, and anything else that should be on your radar.
Calendar of Crime Challenge
I thought it’d be really fun to put a spotlight on the Calendar of Crime reading challenge, hosted by My Reader’s Block. You can read their post about the 2020 challenge HERE for more details and to sign up, but I wanted to highlight why I think this is such a worthwhile and intriguing challenge. If you’re someone like me who LOVES researching things, plotting highly specific TBRs, and enjoys scheduling their reading, you have to take a look at this challenge.
The basic idea of this challenge is to read at least one crime-related book a month (mystery, thriller, police procedural, cozy mystery – you name it) that fits one of the prompts on the Calendar of Crime. Each month has a number of challenges that you should follow for your mystery book of choice.
“To claim a book, it must fit one of the categories for the month you wish to fulfill. Unless otherwise specified, the category is fulfilled within the actual story. for instance, if you are claiming the book for December and want to use “Christmas” as the category, then Christmas figure in some in the plot. Did someone poison the plum pudding? Did Great-Uncle Whozit invite all the family home for Christmas so he could tell them he plans to change his will?”
You don’t have to read a book that meets one of the challenges within that month, but you know I will probably do that! If you’re feeling Christmas in July, read a book that meets one of the December prompts in July instead. You just need to complete a prompt from each month, at some point in the year.
There’s a Wild Card category that allows for you to have a freebie mystery book pick during your birthday month! That’s September for me, so I can go ahead and read any mystery/thriller during that month instead of the other prompts. There’s a fun alternate challenge for each month too (the months that aren’t your birth month) that is broadly based on a theme for the month.
For a simplified list of the monthly challenges, here’s what each month offers you:
- This month is in the title
- The author was born in this month
- The primary action of the book takes place in this month
- Centered around *insert major holiday of this month* (ex: Valentine’s Day in February)
- Centered around any other holiday within this month
- Book was originally published in this month
- Book title has a word starting with the month’s letter (ex: word with F for February)
- Month-related item on the cover (ex: for February: hearts, a couple, bow and arrow)
- Wild card selection if its your birthday month OR a different theme (see calendar)
Why I Picked It
Like I said initially, if you’re someone like me who loves planning out their reading and MAKING the TBR even more than FOLLOWING it most of the time, this is such a fun challenge! I’ve been meaning to read more mystery books because I usually really enjoy them, so I was quick to sign up for this. It took a lot of time and research to figure out what my possible TBR could be, and offered a lot of really interesting options for me to read and expand what kind of mysteries I enjoy.
My Approach to the Calendar of Crime Challenge
Now that you know all the deets, here’s how I personally approached this challenge. I knew there were SO many book options for each month but I’m fairly picky about what kind of mysteries I read, so I went through each month and figured out options based on each category. I put the titles in a spreadsheet.
1. Month in the title
I searched my Goodreads TBR with the month names as keywords. There weren’t a lot of mystery options with them, so I came up with these two: The June Boys by Courtney C. Stevens and Killing November by Adriana Mather.
2. Author’s birth month
I thought the easiest way for me, personally, was to scroll around a bit and find my favorite mystery authors, then look up their birthdays. Some authors definitely didn’t have that information randomly through a Google search, so I had to get creative and stalk their Twitter accounts a little! (Basically just searched their username and “birthday” to see when people were wishing them HBD.) I don’t read mysteries that widely so it made sense to just target those I know and like already. Here’s what I came up with:
Ally Carter: January
Gretchen McNeil: February
Maureen Johnson: February
Brittany Cavallaro: March
Kate Brian/Kieran Scott: March
Sara Shepard: April
Laurie Elizabeth Flynn: July
Agatha Christie: September
Natalie D. Richards: September
Sheryl Scarborough: September
Jennifer Lynn Barnes: October
Alyson Noel: December
3. Primary action takes place in the month
This was a little harder because I would need to figure out exactly when certain mystery books take place. Sometimes it’s a little obvious from the title or cover, but most of the time I had to check out the plot. I thought that the best way to handle ones like this (you’ll see this method referenced later) was to combine my mystery/thriller shelf with my jazzed-up-for-this shelf on Goodreads and find some of the mysteries I was MOST excited for. Unfortunately I couldn’t specifically find out what month a lot of these books took place in, even if it was kind of alluded to in the synopsis (summer or school year for example), so I decided to basically leave this one alone until I find a good mystery book, start reading it, and just match the month up. The most likely months here, IMO, would be the summer months, September (back to school), or October (generally spooky).
4-5. Holidays in the month involved in the book
Each month has one major holiday listed as #4 and then #5 lists any other holiday during that month (like using Hanukkah when it happens). The best option here (which was a gut instinct to make it easier on myself) is to use December for The Candy Cane Caper by Josi S. Kilpack, since it obviously involves Christmas in some capacity.
6. Book’s original pub month
I did this a little bit when I was browsing synopses for prompt #3 about the primary action taking place during the month. It was easy to go through the 38 books I was really excited for and quickly check the pub months on the listing first. Next, I went through a lot of my mystery/thriller list and fleshed out some more spots based on other books on the TBR. I sorted it by pub year, then it automatically also sorts by month in order. There were some books publishing in 2020 that I knew I’d want to read immediately, mostly in January, February, and April.
7. Book title has a word with same letter as the month
I simply went to my mystery/thriller shelf and sorted it by title. Yes, that involved 300 books listed, but I very briefly browsed to get a few book titles that I’m excited for based on each month’s letter. You don’t need the first word in the title to have the letter but it was just easier to sort this way and move things around if needed.
8. Month-related item on the cover
I changed the view of the mystery/thriller shelf to show the larger version of the cover so I could see them better. Then, I went month-by-month on the calendar and scrolled through to put things in the right place. You can see the specifics on the chart above, but the idea is that you’d read a book with hearts, a couple, or a bow and arrow kind of thing on the cover in February, or something Christmassy on the cover in December. August was easiest because the calendar suggests water as something summer-ish, and there are a number of mysteries with water on the cover.
9. Wild card/final option
I did a bit of this when I went through my “jazzed up” books too. Basically each month has a ninth category you can use when it isn’t your birth month, so I paid some general attention to what those were for each month when I went through my top 38 mystery books. I started there, and then browsed my overall list to flesh it out too. Here are the 12 different month-specific wild card prompts:
- January: Snowbound country house mystery
- February: Couple, romance, love triangle plays a major role
- March: Money, fortune, inheritance plays a major role
- April: Church, minister, religion plays a major role
- May: Military figure or mother plays a major role
- June: Father or wedding figures prominently
- July: Takes place in the US or Canada
- August: Summer holiday setting (beach, resort)
- September: WILD CARD for me, Setting = place of employment
- October: Costume, disguise, mistaken identity
- November: Family relationships play a major role
- December: House party or family gathering important to story
As you can see from the italics above, I’ll be using the wild card options in September for my birthday month and July because it’ll be super easy to find any mystery set in the US or Canada.
Now that all of that work was done, time for the TBR! I’m calling it a somewhat likely TBR because obviously new pretties will appear that I’ll squeeze in somehow. I went through all of my analysis up there and matched up which months I could use each prompt for based on the book options.
January – Published in January – ONE OF US IS NEXT by McManus
OOUIN does publish in January – the same January I’ll be reading it 😉 I knew I would not delay AT ALL in reading this book; I’m so excited for this new release and sequel to OOUIL.
February – Author’s birth month of February – THE HAND ON THE WALL by Johnson
I’ve been loving the TRULY DEVIOUS books and have read each one immediately upon their release. This final installment is releasing at the end of January, but I’ll wait until the very beginning of February to read it. That’s the month Maureen Johnson was born!
March – Title of the book has a word starting with “M” – WITH MALICE by Cook
I’ve been sleeping on this book for years, despite the fact that I own a copy. It’s a good time to finally read it, as I can use this as a book title that contains a word starting with the letter “M.”
April – Published in April, title contains word starting with “A” – ALL EYES ON HER by Flynn
Like a few others on here so far, L.E. Flynn is an auto-buy author for me. She started in the contemporary world (loved her debut) and then shifted to a mystery/thriller style. I’m really excited for her newest release, which both comes out in April AND contains “All” in the title (begins with “A”).
May – Published in May, title contains word starting with “M” –
A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO MURDER by Jackson
This is another dual one – AGGGTM both was published in May (2019) and contains a word starting with the letter “M” – “murder.” I was excited for this one and missed it last year. Plus, there’s a sequel coming out that I’ll want to read ASAP maybe.
June – Title contains “June” – THE JUNE BOYS by Stevens
I had to go for the obvious one here because there were like two books on my mystery/thriller TBR that contained a month in the title. THE JUNE BOYS obviously contains the month, so I’m excited to dive into this new 2020 release.
July – Takes place in the US/Canada – OPEN
I’m keeping this one open because I’ll go with whatever mood I’m in! The wild card/final option in July is to read a book that takes place in the US or Canada and honestly, the vast majority of my books do.
August – Cover images relate to the month (water) – LIE TO ME by Ward
The “cover images relate to the month” prompt was kind of challenging until I realized that water was generally included as an option for August. A LOT of crime books involve some kind of creepy water on them, so I thought this 2020 release would work nicely. If not this one, I have a bunch more!
September – Wild card: my birthday month – OPEN
Another wild card option – this time for my birth month! In your birthday month, you can read whatever mystery you’d like. I’m not sure what I’ll go with but I’m excited to keep this one open for now.
October – Primary action takes place during October – OPEN
I think the prompt where the primary action takes place during the month is kind of hard until you start reading the book… I’m assuming I’ll be able to find a spooky, atmospheric read that takes place in October! I may look into the books that take place toward the beginning of a school year, since a lot of action would likely take place in October as a result.
November – Author’s birth month of November – BROKEN THINGS by Oliver
I’ve been putting off this book for YEARS for no reason at all. Because Lauren Oliver was born in November, it’ll be nice to finally read this one and put this prompt to use.
December – Relates to Christmas – THE CANDY CANE CAPER by Kilpack
And finally, December is a pretty easy one, because I can relate it to the Christmas holiday. I’ve been wanting to read this holiday cozy culinary mystery for a couple of years but it’ll be nice to use it here.