Monday, January 15, 2018

Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2018

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl, who is now hosting Top Ten Tuesday!

In case you missed it, here's how I did with my 2017 bookish goals! I've decided over the years that making ten big goals is a little overwhelming, so I'm trying to make more of my goals smaller and more achievable this year.

1. Read the His Dark Materials series.
I read the first two books in the series in middle school and never read the third one, which means every time there's a list that's like, "Have you read His Dark Materials?" I can't check it off because I've only read 2/3 of it. And I like checking things off!

2. Read the whole Chronicles of Narnia series.
This is another one where I read the first two books (I think in college) and then moved on to other things. I might ask a friend to do this read/reread with me.

3. Finish the Hercule Poirot books.
I've read 31 of 37, and it feels definitely doable to read the last six this year. Then I have to decide whether to tackle her standalones next or one of her other detective series.

4. Reread the Belgariad and Mallorean series on audiobook.
These were some of my favorite books in middle school and high school, and I got my now-husband hooked on them in college. But I haven't reread them in over a decade! Since I recently recommended these to a friend looking for audiobooks, I thought it might be fun to reread them on audio.

5. Read something my sister recommends.
I like this goal from last year, so I'm going to do it again this year!

6. Read some of the unread books on my bookshelf.
I had this goal a few years ago, when I successfully read almost everything on my shelf that was on my TBR list, but then I realized I had some other books — like data visualization manuals I had put on my PaperBackSwap list a long time ago and just received recently — that weren't even on my TBR list. It's increasingly difficult for me to find time to read hard copy books, so I'm not going to attempt to read everything, but at least a few.

7. Get roughly 50% of my 2018 reads from my TBR list and 50% from elsewhere.
I continue to struggle with balancing getting through the books I've been wanting to read (or feel like I should read) and having the flexibility to pick up books when I first hear about them. This year I'm going to continue tracking what I read off my TBR, so I'll have a total count to see how I do with this goal.

8. Read at least three books published in 2018.
I am terrible about not reading new releases until years after everyone's stopped talking about them. The one year I pushed myself to read a bunch of new releases so I could vote in the Goodreads Awards, the books I read were either 1) terrible and I didn't want to vote for them or 2) weren't even on the list. So that's no longer my goal, but I do still want to keep up a bit more than I usually do. I think three seems like a manageable number to shoot for this year.

9. Read some 2017 releases.
In the spirit of the above goal of not letting too much time pass, I plan to read some of these 2017 releases I wish I'd read by now.

10. Promote the Best of the Bunch linkup more.
I'm keeping this goal from last year because I didn't really do anything with it. Maybe this year I will!

What are your bookish goals for 2018?

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What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

Dead Man's Folly by Agatha Christie: I liked this one, even if the solution had some of Christie's excessive complexity. It's not a favorite, but it was a solid addition to the series.

Moloka'i by Alan Brennert: This is the story of Rachel Kalama, separated from her family at age seven and exiled to the island of Moloka'i after a diagnosis of Hansen's disease (leprosy). This isn't a book I'd go out of my way to evangelize, but it was an enjoyable read. If you like happy endings, particularly improbably, sickly sweet ones, you'll probably like this one as well.

Sophie's Choice by William Styron: I can understand why this book is a classic, but I disliked all the main characters, and the titular choice had been spoiled for me years ago so it felt anticlimactic. I can see and appreciate the good in this book, but I don't think it's aged well. It's an interesting ethical dilemma wrapped in a lot of unnecessary dross and writing that teeters between beautiful and pretentious.

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios: Although this is in many ways a predictable YA romance, it's also something new: It's set in a rural town (not the suburbs or city) and deals with a teenager who's come back wounded from Aghanistan. If angsty teenage romance makes you run the other way, I would not recommend this book, but for those who don't mind revisiting the drama of high school love, this is a good read.

Americanah by Chimananda Ngozi Adichie: This was a reread for me, and while I continue to appreciate the sharp observations on race in America, the characters irritated me this time around. I prefer Adichie's nonfiction to her fiction.

Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie: I would not give this book to a child, not only because it's racist AF, but because it's pretty dark, with people casually murdering people left and right. I did enjoy seeing how the book compared and contrasted with the Disney movie and the stage version. If I weren't familiar with those versions I think I would have enjoyed the book much less and just found it a bizarre, dark little classic.

After Dark by Haruki Murakami: This was a book club pick I wouldn't have picked up on my own, knowing what I know about my dislike of magical realism and Murakami's writing, but it ended up being OK. It's written very cinematically and gives you a feel for what the wee hours of the morning in Tokyo are like — I just could have done without the seeming pointless side plot where a character gets sucked into a parallel reality via her TV.

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie: On the whole, I'd say this is one of the better Poirot mysteries, if you don't mind that Poirot doesn't appear until 2/3 of the way through the book, and if you can overlook the racist elements that pervade most of Christie's work. Aside from that, there are enjoyable characters, red herrings, all the things I like about Christie's mysteries.

What have you been reading this month? Share over at Modern Mrs. Darcy!

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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Review of 2017 Reading Resolutions

It's that time again! My 2018 reading goals will be going up soon, but first I need to take a look back at my 2017 goals. Here's what I wanted to do, and how I did.

1. Read fewer than 50 books from my to-read list.
Success! I only read 43 from my to-read list. I actually started to wonder how many of my books really came off my to-read list in previous years, as it might not be as many as I thought. I decided to keep tracking the books I read off my main to-read list again this year, as my list can sometimes feel like a bottomless pit and it's good to see the progress I've made.

2. Read some books over a thousand pages.
I read Don Quixote, Bleak House, and Infinite Jest, and I'm partway through The Stand. I also read some books on the longer end that weren't over the 1000-page mark, including Vanity Fair, The Three Musketeers, and The Brothers Karamazov.

3. Catch up on some classics.
I got through a ton of these, including The Picture of Dorian Gray, Crime and Punishment, Sophie's Choice, The Sun Also Rises, and Stranger in a Strange Land, plus the extra-long ones listed above.

4. Read something my sister recommends.
This year my sister picked You by Caroline Kepnes, which was a weird book that I can't say I really liked, but I appreciate that she got me out of my comfort zone a bit. I'd take another recommendation from her this year!

5. Make use of my personal reading area.
I did a pretty good job of this in the first half of the year, but I've gotten away from it. Mainly that's because I've been trying to get to sleep earlier, which means as soon as my son's asleep I get ready for bed, so that's cut out most of my evening reading time. My reading area is also right next to the bedroom door, so even if it's my husband's turn to do bedtime I can't read because I can hear them talking. Weekend naptime is my other downtime to read and I was taking a class on Saturday afternoons the last few months. We'll see if I can get back to reading in my special reading chair more regularly this year.

6. Read books on my new Kindle Voyage.
I've definitely used my Kindle a lot more this year since getting the Voyage for Christmas in 2016. We took a week-long trip to Mexico in May and it was glorious to have all the books I could want in one slim case. I still read on my phone more than on my Kindle since I don't bring my Kindle with me everywhere, but I like reading on the Kindle when I can.

7. Read book club picks more than a week in advance.
I did really well with this in 2017! I didn't always get them read a full week in advance, but having that goal meant that I didn't have any more situations where I was scrambling to finish the book the morning of. The downside is that sometimes my memory's fuzzy if it's been a few weeks since I finished it, but I've usually written enough key points in my Goodreads review that it doesn't matter.

8. Host a book club meeting in the first half of the year.
Success! I hosted in March. There's enough of us in the club that I shouldn't have to host again until late summer or fall of this year.

9. Comment on other book blogs more often.
I did really well with this in the first half of the year, and then in June Delicious Bookmarks stopped working, which is where I saved all the links for the pages I commented on so I could go back to look for replies later. I'd already switched all my other bookmarks to Diigo but kept my comment tracking in Delicious, and I don't want to have two separate Diigo accounts so I need to find a different site. I just haven't put in the work to find a replacement yet. Any suggestions?

10. Promote the Best of the Bunch linkup more.
This is the one thing I didn't do a great job with this year. One thing I did do was start enforcing that people who submit a post have to have a link on that post to the Best of the Bunch linkup, so no one gets free publicity for their blog without also publicizing the linkup to their own readers, but so far this has just resulted in people not linking up rather than adding a link on their own post. If you have any ideas of how to get more people to join in, let me know!

How did you do with your book-related resolutions in 2017?

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Monday, January 8, 2018

Top Ten Books Published in 2017 I Wish I'd Read by Now

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This week's topic is "Ten Books I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn't Get To." I've been pretty disciplined with my reading lately — I started off 2017 pursuing my goal of reading whatever I wanted, and then halfway through the year I kind of freaked out and started marching my way through the classics and bestsellers I felt like I should have read by now. Of my Spring TBR, Summer TBR, and Fall TBR, I got through all but four books, one of which I'm reading now and one that I chose to abandon. While I was clearing out my backlog, though, certain new releases kept popping up that I wish I'd taken the time to read when they came out. Here are the ones I most wish I'd read in 2017.

1. Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman
I keep seeing this on everyone's lists of books they loved in 2017, and it has a 4.33 rating on Goodreads after more than 54,000 ratings, so it's clearly resonated with a lot of people.

2. The Fact of a Body by Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich
I'm always interested in books that challenge me, and the blurb on this one — that the author was staunchly anti-death penalty until she started working on a specific murder case — fascinated me. I like that's a combination of a true crime mystery and a memoir.

3. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
This seems to be the most polarizing book of the year, and I want to know which side I'm on! I recommended it to a friend who was looking for his next Audible read because I'd read about the audio version using over 100 different voices, and he still isn't sure if he loves it or hates it but is already listening to it for a second time.

4. Pachinko by Min Jin Lee
I honestly know very little about this book except it keeps getting high ratings from people I trust, so I'm interested to check it out.

5. Reading People by Anne Bogel
I read Bogel's blog, Modern Mrs. Darcy, religiously and listen to her podcast, What Should I Read Next?, so I've heard about her new book constantly, but I didn't make it a priority to read last year.

6. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
YA fantasy isn't one of my favorite genres, but it seemed like everyone was losing their mind over this book when it came out last year, and it still has a 4.39 rating on Goodreads almost a year and 21,000+ ratings later.

7. This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
This is one that Anne Bogel has recommended many times, and although she has declined to spoil what the "family secret" in the book was, I read about it elsewhere and now am even more interested in reading this.

8. Warcross by Marie Lu
This has been described as a more diverse Ready Player One, which I am all about.

9. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
This is another one that everyone seems to be raving about. I really need to make it a priority to get my hands on this one.

10. Who Thought This Was a Good Idea? by Alyssa Mastromonaco
I already have a hold on the audiobook for this one, which I've heard is well narrated by the author and a fairly quick "read."

Which books did you wish you'd read in 2017?

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Monday, January 1, 2018

Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

As I said in my wrap-up of favorite books, I did a lot of rereading this year (more than usual), and I also made a lot of progress through the complete set of Hercule Poirot mysteries. But there were plenty of great books by authors I hadn't read before, and I'd be happy to read more by any of these authors!

1. Angie Thomas
I loved The Hate U Give, and I definitely want to read her next one, On the Come Up!

2. Cynthia Hand
YA can be very hit or miss for me, but The Last Time We Say Goodbye was written with care and complexity. It looks like her other works are fantasy, which isn't usually my jam, but I might give one a try.

3. Diana Wynne Jones
Even though Howl's Moving Castle didn't rise to the top of my books for the year, I found it charming and enjoyable. I'd like to reread it with my kids, and maybe read the other books in the series as well.

4. Helene Wecker
The Golem and the Jinni was another one that wasn't an absolute favorite of the year for me, but it was well-written and just generally well-designed. I'll be interested to see if she writes another book as popular as that one.

5. Kristin Hannah
Even though I didn't love The Nightingale the way that everyone and their mother seems to have, I could still appreciate how well done it was and would try another one of her books.

6. Michelle Alexander
I wonder if she will try to tackle another work as ambitious as The New Jim Crow, but if she does I will read it. It's hard to find a nonfiction work this comprehensive that's also organized so clearly.

7. Mira Jacob
The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing was her debut novel, and hopefully it won't be her last!

8. Nina LaCour
It took me way too long to get around to reading Everything Leads to You. She has several other highly rated books, though my Goodreads friends didn't necessarily love them, so we'll see when I get around to trying them.

9. Octavia Butler
It took me a little bit to get into Kindred, but then I was sucked in and astounded by its brilliance. I very much want to read Parable of the Sower.

10. Tana French
I finally started on the Dublin Murder Squad series this year, reading In the Woods, The Likeness, and Faithful Place. I have a love/hate relationships with each of these books, but I already have a hold on Broken Harbor.

Which authors did you first read this year?

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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Best of the Bunch: December 2017

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in December.

Well, I only read four books this month — I'm working my way through The Stand on audio and Sophie's Choice on Kindle, both of which are taking a while. But I did have a 5-star read this month!

The New Jim Crow was absolutely phenomenal, if you can use such a term to describe a book so devastating. With masterful organization and clear prose, Alexander lays out the case that the War on Drugs has created a "racial undercaste" that aligns with the cultural stereotype of the "criminalblackman," disenfranchising an entire swath of the American people in much the same way that the Jim Crow era did. With statistics, quotations, and step-by-step logical arguments, she confronts head-on one misconception after another about our current state of mass incarceration: that it's due to rising crime rates; that the War on Drugs was a response to the crack epidemic; that the racial disparities are due to different rates of law breaking; and on and on. The reality she lays out is acutely painful, but it's a necessary read for any American — we should not be content with this status quo.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

Monday, December 18, 2017

Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings

I'm linking up with The Broke and the Bookish for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Ever since doing the KonMari method a few years ago, I've been really picky about what books I own. I'm trying to work my way through the handful of unread books on my shelf so I can decide whether to keep them. Otherwise I pretty much don't get my own copy of a book unless it's one I've read and loved so much that I want to go back and reference it, reread it, and/or lend it to other people. Here are ten that I'd be happy to own but don't yet.

1. Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
I think everyone should read this book, so it would help if I had a copy to lend out.

2. The Happy Sleeper by Heather Turgeon and Julie Wright
Although these techniques didn't really work with our toddler, I'd like to give them a go with our next kid, when it's still early enough to teach them good sleep habits.

3. How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen by Joanna Faber and Julie King
This book is chock-full of practical advice and scripts — I need a copy for reference.

4. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Another one I want everyone — at least in America — to read.

5. The Mysterious Benedict Society boxset by Trenton Lee Stewart
I adore these books and want the complete set for my kids' bookshelf.

6. Room by Emma Donoghue
This is one my favorite books of all time, but I don't own a copy.

7. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Same as above. This made the cut for my ideal bookshelf print, so it ought to be on my real bookshelf.

8. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Another book I love that I don't yet own.

9. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal
This is another one that has so many tips, in this case for positive habit formation, that I'd like it on hand to reference.

10. Winter of Fire by Sherryl Jordan
This isn't necessarily one of my favorites, but it's out of print now and I'd like to own a copy for when my kids are older. It has some important messages about race and history told through a fantasy story.

What books would you like to own?

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