Fresh Start

As much as I love yearly recaps, I am not usually one for new year’s resolutions. But this year I am going to take advantage of the new year and try a fresh start here.

I recently realized that I may have accidentally quit book blogging. My last real review was nearly two months ago. I can’t even muster up enough blogging mojo to write a mini-review.

But that’s okay. I am a different person than I was when I started this thing. I am a mom and that takes up a tremendous amount of my time. And in whatever free time I have, I have shifted some of the priority from reading to other activities, like photography.

So here is what I am going to do. Because I think having a PLAN will help me.

  • I will do my best to resume Sunday Salons where I will discuss what I am currently reading.
  • I am going to write one review a week. I will post it on Monday.
  • I am committing to Wordless Wednesdays, so expect regular photo posts.
  • On Fridays, I am going to talk about something health-related: food, running, dance, yoga etc. I need to be held accountable.
  • I will continue to do a monthly recap. Because I like those.
  • The remaining days of the week will be free days. I will most likely not post anything. But if I want to, I can blog about anything I feel like blogging about. An extra book review maybe? Some more photos? My current views on parenting?

I am going to try my hardest to stick to this for the first three months of 2014. I want to really give it a try. This blog needs to shift topics a little if it is going to survive and I really would hate to see it go. Honestly. This is the direction I’ve been going so I’m just taking it a little further.

If  I do go missing here for some period of time, please look for me on twitter or instagram. I rarely go missing there.

Do you have any blogging plans for 2014?

My Reading Year In Review

I couldn’t let the end of the year pass without at least one recap, right?

My Seven Most Loved Books in 2013:

And Ten Runners Up:

And my husband’s favorite books of 2013 (his actually has an order):

  • 7. Symposium by Plato
  • 6. Death in Venice by Thomas Mann
  • 5. A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin
  • 4. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  • 3. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
  • 2. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
  • 1. Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

A (Very) Few Book Stats:

  • Books Read: 62 (down from 80 in 2012)
  • Audio: 33
  • Print: 29 (including 8 ebooks)
  • Ben’s Books Read: 60 (Michelle with the win!)

Note: I usually do an extensive stats post (2012|2011|2010|2009|. It takes a long time to prepare (especially since I never keep up with my spreadsheet during the year) but I love the result. However, I don’t have hours to spend recreating a reading spreadsheet this year, so as sad as this makes me, these stats are going to remain unknown. Likewise, my favorite books of 2013 lists above were not given the level of thought and creativity which I usually put into them. They are simply a compilation of the books I gave 5 and 4.5 stars to, respectively. If anyone is still reading this blog, bear with me here. And stay tuned for tomorrow’s post where I talk about the upcoming year.

How was your reading year? Are you ready for 2014 for a fresh start like me?

New Look

You came here expecting this:

Right?

Well here is my story.

So yesterday afternoon, I started thinking about changing my blog theme. By the time I went to bed, I’d picked a theme and customized it just a bit, and here we are, not too many hours later, and I’m using the theme. Patience is a virtue which I do not possess.

I didn’t promise a good story.

When I implemented my old theme, it was after hours and hours of customizing the CSS. This one, with a couple exceptions, is pretty much right out of the box. Maybe that makes me unoriginal. But there are only so many hours in the day and I’d rather not spend very many of them playing with computer code. There are still a few quirks to work out (for example, I can’t figure out how to change the color of hyperlinks within the actual body of a post and I have no idea why it made all of my book covers gigantic). But this is basically it. For now.

I am pretty sure this theme was meant for a crafty blogger – a quilter or a sewer – and I am definitely not crafty and have no intention of sewing anything in the near future. But I think it’s cute, so there you go.

As my blog has changed over the past year (as I’ve embraced my new role as a new mom and reading isn’t always a priority), I felt like I needed something new. I may shuffle some pages around and add some new ones, but things won’t be changing too much. You can still expect sporadic book reviews mixed in with baby pictures.

 Thoughts?

Top Posts of 2012

I am trying a new type of wrap-up post this year. One that is focused more on blogging than reading. These were the top posts – by traffic – on my blog this year. I would have liked to track them by comments because I think that’s a better metric, but page hits is much easier. Enjoy.

Top Book Reviews*

Top Non-Review Bookish Posts

Top Non-Bookish Posts

Did you see anything you missed the first time around?

*Interestingly, these are all print reviews. No audio.

BBAW Interview Meme

I completely missed the Book Blogger Appreciation Week memo this year. I couldn’t figure out why people were appreciating me yesterday.

But when I realized it was BBAW, I headed over to the website to see what was happening and stumbled upon this list of questions for those partnerless in the interview swap. Figured I’d play.

Do you snack while you read? If so, favorite reading snack? Not usually. But I love a cup of tea with a book.
Do you tend to mark your books as you read, or does the idea of writing in books horrify you? I don’t mark my books but that is more out of laziness. If I like a quote, I usually note the page in a note on my phone so I can find it again come review-writing time.
How do you keep your place while reading a book? Bookmark? Dog-ears? Whatever handy “bookmark” I can find. Usually a library receipt. 
Fiction, Non-fiction, or both? Fiction, generally. 
Hard copy or audiobooks? Both!
Are you a person who tends to read to the end of chapters, or are you able to put a book down at any point? I can put a book down mid-sentence. Which is handy now that I have a baby.
If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away? Usually. Yay, smartphones. 
What are you currently reading? Print = Fallen in Love by Lauren Kate; Audio = Messenger of Truth by Jaqueline Winspear; Ebook = Gone Girl
What is the last book you bought? A bedtime book for Evan. For myself? Probably Shine by Jeri Smith-Ready. I haven’t been buying books lately.
Are you the type of person that only reads one book at a time or can you read more than one at a time? See my answer to what I am currently reading.
Do you have a favorite time of day and/or place to read? I love reading on weekend mornings. But that’s a thing of the past for now. 
Do you prefer series books or stand alone books? I appreciate both.
Is there a specific book or author that you find yourself recommending over and over? It goes in phases for me. I’ll recommend one book to everyone for awhile.
How do you organize your books? (By genre, title, author’s last name, etc.?) By genre. Within fiction, by author’s country.

I Heart Book Bloggers [BBAW]

BBAWThere is no way I can create an exhaustive list of everyone who makes this whole book blogging thing brighter. We are a supportive group and we don’t shy away from proclaiming our admiration on any given day. You all already know I love you, right?

But one of the great things about book blogging is that there are always new players. They might be new to blogging or they might just be new to me. I am finding new bloggers all the time. It often starts with a random conversation on twitter about a book or a song or tv show and then the next thing I know, I am talking to this person every day, reading their blog, and picking up books they recommend.

So my take on today’s BBAW topic is to highlight a few bloggers who are new to me since last September.

  • Jen from Makeshift Bookmark (@makeshiftjen): Jen started her blog last fall but you would think she’s been around forever. She makes me laugh, understands my Michigan football obsession, and gives me AMAZING YA recommendations (like Shade/Shine).
  • Jamie from The Perpetual Pageturner (@pageturnerjamie) and The Broke and the Bookish (@brokeandbookish): I am pretty sure we first bonded over music the night I was drunkenly playing Apples to Apples while home for Christmas. See, that’s how memorable Jamie is.
  • Ginger from GReads (@greadsbooks): While we have been at least acquaintances for some time, it wasn’t until recently that I realized Ginger and I have similar taste in almost everything and should be BFFs. So now we are.
  • Sandy from You’ve Gotta Read This (@youvegottaread): I met Sandy in person at the UCF Book Festival in April. Now hers is one of the first blogs I read when I actually sit down and read blogs. Plus she is an awesome commenter.
  • Heather from Raging Bibliomania (@zibilee): Like Sandy, I met Heather at the UCF Book Festival. She is the Best. Commenter. Ever.

You should all know these ladies. If you don’t, you’re welcome. They are all awesome and have been a positive addition to my book blogging experience.

[Note: It’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week. I will be participating in a few of the daily topics this week.]

The Inimitable Jeeves [Audiobook Review]

The Inimitable JeevesTitle:The Inimitable Jeeves
Author: PG Wodehouse
Narrator: Jonathon Cecil
Genre: Fiction
ISBN: 1572705426
Pages: 272
Audio: 6.2 hours
Year: Originally published in 1923
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4.5/5

My Thoughts:

The Inimitable Jeeves is a short-story collection but the stories are somewhat connected so it reads more like a novel than some of other Jeeves collections. Most of the stories involve Bertie’s pal Bingo Little who just can’t help falling in love with every girl he meets. Many hijinks and much hilarity ensues.

I never get sick of Jeeves. As mentioned in my other reviews, no matter how similar the plot structure is (Bertie and/or friend get into trouble, Bertie makes it worse, Jeeves comes to the rescue), I always find them entertaining.

And, once again, I recommend these stories on audio. They are so much more entertaining when listened to.

If you have yet to meet Bertie Wooster and his butler Jeeves, you are truly missing out on something special. Go to your library. Now.

[Note: I am skipping the “Others’ Thoughts” and “Buy It Now” sections for audiobook week only. They will return soon.]

 

Join the fun and head on over to Devourer of Books for all of the Audiobook Week goodness.

Nurturing Relationships = Join Twitter

Today’s topic is about nurturing relationships in this lovely little book blogging world. I’m putting a little bit of a different spin on it and using it as a chance to convince all of you nonbelievers why you need to be on Twitter. Because I really think that Twitter is where I nurture relationships. I find that I can sometimes go days weeks without checking Google Reader and during those periods the only way I stay connected outside of my own blog is through Twitter. It’s easy to check while you are anywhere and it doesn’t have to be a huge time commitment. When I am not reading blogs in my reader, I still click through links via twitter and read blogs that way. I chat about books and not books and anything I feel like chatting about. Someone is always game.

Which brings me to my biggest point: you get to meet the most AMAZING people. And it often starts with something really innocent and unremarkable. Some examples:

NOTE: I have many twitter friends that I love and talk to every day. These are the people that I specifically remember bonding with over a particular subject early on in our twitter friendship. And that one little conversation led to the solid blogger friendship we have now.

Jen/ Devourer of Books /@devourerofbooks
We bonded over: Books based in Ann Arbor.
Result: She is pretty much my best friend. Which makes my husband insanely jealous.

Jen / Makeshift Bookmark /@makeshiftjen
We bonded over: Michigan Football.
Result: She makes me read super awesome YA books.

Jamie / Broke and Bookish and The Perpetual Page Turner / @brokeandbookish
We bonded over: Music
Result: She cracks me up every day. She might be #1 on my Must Meet IRL List.

Jennifer / The Literate Housewife / @lithousewife
We bonded over: The Decemberists and being Michiganders
Result: I cheated here. Jennifer and I were friends long before the bonding at issue. But I think it took our twitter friendship to the next level and I now consider her one of my very best blogging friends.

Lessons:

(1) Twitter is TOTALLY worth it
(2) I really like people named Jennifer (+ a Jamie)
(3) One little conversation can spark a more meaningful friendship.

AND, for those of you who still aren’t convinced, you get to talk to authors and publishers and bloggers all day long. And when a favorite/famous author tweets you, you get to squeal with delight like the fangirl you are. Yes, I am talking to you R.L. Stine. You made my day a few weeks ago.

Join Twitter. Use Twitter. Follow me.

Interview with Lisa from The Little Reader [Armchair BEA]

I signed up for Armchair BEA ages ago. Then I forgot to check the site until last week. It was then that I realized I missed the Interview Swap signups and and assignments. Since this was my favorite part of BBAW, I really didn’t want to skip it. So, as always, I turned to twitter. And Lisa from the little reader came to my rescue. Which thrilled me even more because I love Lisa and I am so glad that I get to feature her on my blog today (you can find my interview on her blog). So enough from me for the day, meet Lisa.

1. How did  you become a book blogger?

i started a personal blog years and years ago on LiveJournal and found myself writing the occasional book review (which my friends mostly ignored, the poor fools). i stumbled upon a few more serious book bloggers, thought it was a great idea, and decided to spare my friends from any further babble about books. with a little bit of help from my book bloggy friends, i started a separate blog just for bookish stuffs at the little reader in early 2010.  although i had no idea what i was getting myself into, it’s been a lot of fun, and i wouldn’t have done a thing differently.

2. Where is your favorite place to read?

definitely the beach. the light breeze and sunshine, combined with the sound of the waves is my absolute favorite.

3. Where is your favorite place to blog?

i’ve recently gotten in the habit of carrying a notepad with me everywhere, which means i’m always brainstorming about bloggy stuff.  when it’s time to get to it, i mostly write from my desk at home, but i do love taking my laptop to a quiet little corner in a coffee shop with a book and a cup of hot tea.

4. If you could only read one genre for the rest of your life, what would it be?

if you’d asked me this a year ago, i would have said literary fiction. but, something happened somewhere and i’ve become obsessed with non-fiction lately. i don’t know if i can say that my reading tastes have matured, but they’ve certainly evolved.

5. How do you balance blogging and reading with your self-described “hobby problem?”

well, that’s funny actually, since i’m just coming back from hiatus. i’m apparently not so good at the balancing thing because when life got too crazy with grad school, i had to take a break from blogging. as a grad student and triathlete, it’s sometimes difficult to find time to eat and sleep, let alone read or write.  but, to help balance it out a bit, i have learned to incorporate audiobooks into the spaces where it will fit, like when commuting on the bus or training for longer runs. also, since i am in the English grad program (albeit not in literary studies or creative writing), i do occasionally find that i’m able to incorporate some of the same topics i’m studying into my blogging.  really, my main goal is to keep it fun and interesting for me and my readers. otherwise, what’s the point?

6. Do you have a few favorite bloggers?

Vasilly, at 1330V: one of the sweetest bloggers and best twitter buddies around! and for me personally, her reading tastes are just superb. she’s always introducing me to great books, readalongs, and other bloggers.

Mark, from Absorbed in Words: he doesn’t write often, but it’s always worth the wait when he does.

Dolce Bellezza: she writes beautiful and elegant reviews, has wonderfully eclectic tastes, and hosts the Japanese Literature Challenge each year.

7. What do think would be the best part of BEA if you could attend?

the best part would most definitely be getting to meet the people that have had such a huge impact on me and my reading.  with time zone differences and the geographic barrier of massive body of water, living in hawaii makes me feel so distant from the blogging community sometimes. it would be great to just put faces to the many wonderful bloggers that i’ve met and gotten to know over the last couple of years.

8. What kind of reader were you as a child?

insatiable. i remember vividly those library reward programs where you read books to accumulate stickers to earn free personal pan pizzas at Pizza Hut.  yeah, i ate a lot of pizza as a kid.

9. What is the best book you’ve read this year?

Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (review)

10. Should I move to Hawaii?

yes! i’m from florida originally, so i can confidently say that moving from florida to hawaii is absolutely a great idea.  oh, unless you like doing things that require money, because in comparison, jobs pay less and the cost of living is higher than most other places in the country. but, for people who can live a simple life (or for those that are independently wealthy, in which case i’m accepting sponsors), then yes, it’s an amazing place to live and play.

Thank you, Lisa, for stopping by the blog today. Don’t forget to check out the little reader.

Pull Up a Chair for Armchair BEA

Armchair BEAHello, fellow Armchair BEA participants. While many of our friends have traveled to New York City this week for BEA, I know we are going to have some fun on our own from the comfort of our homes (trust me, our backs and feet will be so much more comfortable than theirs) (also, we don’t have to worry about trying to hail a cab from the Javits Center – a virtually impossible feat).

For those of you who are new to the blog, welcome to my books. my life. I read a little bit of everything but I would say my main genres are literary fiction and dystopian and paranormal YA (I like to think the lit fic balances out the YA). I review everything I read but not necessarily in a timely manner. Have a look around, read about me, or check out the books I’ve read this year.

I did attend part of BEA and the Book Blogger Convention last year. You can read about my experiences here, here, and here. This year is full of other traveling so my work schedule and bank account just wouldn’t let me swing it.  I hope to attend again next year, but until then, I am happily Armchair BEA-ing with you.