Overdue Reads · random · stuff I read

Out with the old, in with the new: Hello, 2014!

The thing about New Year’s Day is that it always comes sniffing around when I’m not ready for it.  But, so long, 2013 – it was nice knowing you.

My goal was to read 120 books – so I read 167 books last year, of course, since I’m that sort of over-achiever.  That made 49,369 pages read (or so, I think a few things didn’t have a page count in GR).

I read books of all kinds, so definitely a different genre spread than last year, and so many great books came out this year that I couldn’t choose just one favorite book this year: When Women Were BirdsCloud Atlas, Eleanor and Park, Fangirl, A Sport and a Pastime, No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, The Secret History, Night Film, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Once Upon a Tower, and Sex Criminals (easily the best comic I read this year).  As to least favorite book, that one goes to Joshilyn Jackson’s Someone Else’s Love Story which I loathed with the fire of a thousand suns and wonder why I didn’t give it one star (if you want to know why I finished it, I had to review it for Brazen Reads).  I had one official DNF, Big Girl Panties, because I really couldn’t get past the “hero’s” i-can’t-be-seen-with-an-unattractive/overweight-person-because-it-will-make-me-look-bad attitude (sad, because I got it for review from Avon, but I really didn’t want to waste my reading time).

Speaking of Avon, I had some bookish adventures this year.  I lived up to my resolutions of “Be brave” and “Take a vacation” by taking an overnight trip to see Eloisa James and Tessa Dare at Anderson’s Bookshop (PS: we did not coordinate our clothes, haha).

I went all by my little lonesome and had a wonderful time at a pre-event meet-and-greet at a chocolate cafe nearby and met some of the lovely ladies from the Eloisa’s Ambassadors Facebook group.  That same day I found out that I had been accepted into the Avon Addicts program, which I had applied to on some wild-haired whim, thinking I’d never get accepted in a bazillion years.  Such a great group of ladies, editors, and authors!  It threw my romance reading-and-reviewing schedule into a tizzy, from which it still hasn’t recovered but I’ll catch up.  My third bookish adventure involves book subscriptions.  I decided to try on the new streaming/lending ebook service, Oyster, once it came available for iPad – it has a gorgeous interface and a ton of books to borrow for only $10/mo.  This has the backlist that my local public library can’t afford so it’s so worth the price.  I also subscribed to Melville House’s Art of the Novella series and it’s been fabulous so far.

The one project I didn’t do so well with was my Overdue Reads project and other ongoing projects I have (see the tabs up there? Those).  Although I tried to be more focused with my reading it was still all over the map, very mercurial, and my reviewing is shamefully behind.  To that end, here are my new resolutions:

1.  Be mindful in my reading and bookish purchases – I do not need to purchase every, single book I come across, which is a serious vice of mine.  I cannot single-handedly keep the book industry floating (that has to be the subconscious urge, I’m sure of it).  I already own a ton (literally, I’m surprised the house joists are holding firm) of books and therefore need to read or start/dnf what I already have rather than purchase more books to join them on the unread shelves.  I also need to stay more current with my reading projects so those actually move forward and be smarter at managing my “start-itis” with books (and knitting).  I have challenged myself to read 130 books this year.

2.  Be timely on reviews – reading a book will always be more enticing than writing a review, but I have so many unwritten/half-written/not-even-started reviews that I have some major catching up to do.
3.  Drink more water.
4.  Move more (the Fitbit is helping, but I need to be better at going to the gym).
5.  Cook for myself – ongoing, but I did much better in 2013.  I didn’t eat nearly as much fast food.  Coffeehouse lattes/mochas are still a weakness, though.
6.  Be brave.
7.  Take a vacation (I have plans….).
8.  Relax.

Happy New Year, everyone!!

ETA: It was actually 168 books in 2013 (with 49,401 pages read) – I had missed getting the date on the third issue of Sex Criminals. Oops.

random · stuff I read

Well, hellooo there, 2013!

Here I am again, looking down the barrel of another year.

Ugh, that sounds way more depressing than I meant it to come out but, howevermuch I avoid it, a New Year it is and, hence, a time for me to reflect on goals both reading/blogging and personal.

On the book front, I challenged myself to read 120 books in the 2013 Goodreads Challenge.  I figure 120 is a good compromise between the 110 I used as my goal last year and the 191 I actually ended up reading.  That’s the easy-to-set-up goal.

The harder-to-set-up goal is currently going by the moniker “Read the Books I Meant to Read Challenge”.  Inspired by Carrie’s challenge to read one book per month she’s meant to read (and others are reading with her) I am going to do something similar.  I live in a house with a re-donk-ulous number of books and I haven’t read a good chunk of them.  Oh, I mean to, of course, since I purchased them, but I just haven’t got around to reading them yet.  So the “Read the Books I Meant to Read Challenge” will consist of a list of books I’ve been meaning to read “for some time” (this is flexible) with the plan to read and finish at least one of them per month.  I haven’t sussed out the stack of books/shelf of books/entire bookcase filled with unread books as yet but when I do I’ll set up a separate challenge/project post for it.

On the personal front, I really need to get myself in shape, physically, mentally, and financially.  My goals for the year are (unfortunately, they’re really vague, and since I learned in my self-improvement crazy-train reading, vague goals are hard to fulfill so they still need work):
1. Drink more water.
2. Get more sleep.
3. Move more.
4. Improve my money management (step 1: finish getting everything into Quicken)
5. Relax.
6. Take a vacation.
7. Be brave.
8. Cook for myself (I have discovered that my kitchen is cleaner when I’m actually cooking in it, random).

I should write those down and leave reminders in multiple places.  Really.

The first step:  I’m drinking coffee and staring at an empty water bottle.  I should fill the water bottle.

random · stuff I read

Bye-bye, 2012 (and where I reveal how many pages I read)!

2012 was an odd-ball year for me. 

I simply could not read to task.  I couldn’t make plans to read certain books – they either had to hit my fancy or not.  This year, my fancy leaned toward…

…romance novels.  Almost to the exclusion of everything else.  I read my way through Eloisa James (nearly everything she wrote), Mary Balogh’s Bedwyns, Julia Quinn’s Bridgertons, Smythe-Smiths, and Bevelstokes, and discovered Tessa Dare, Sarah MacLean, Caroline Linden, Miranda Neville, Sophia Nash, and Elizabeth Hoyt.  I even tried out the grand-dame of historicals Georgette Heyer (and if you can get Richard Armitage to read it to you so much the better).

I think this had to do with the fact that all I could do was worry about my mom.  I couldn’t guarantee that her chemo and radiation would do the trick (so far, so good – the MRIs are clear, cross my fingers and toes) and I couldn’t fix it so all I could do was read.  I used to read romance novels in junior high and high school because Mom usually had a few laying around the house.  While we don’t read to the same taste (she usually read contemporaries while I prefer Regency historicals followed by other historicals) I found that being able to read a 250-300 page romance novel with an almost gold-plated, guaranteed Happy Ending in the two hours between coming home from work and falling asleep not only helped me relax but delivered a weird sense of accomplishment.

So much so that I read 191 books this year when I only meant to read 110:

That is 63,496 pages.  HOLY CRAP ON A CRAP CRACKER!!!  Almost twice as much as last year when I read 102 books.

I guess having an ereader really does make me read faster.  As far as the breakdown of books goes I did like almost everything I read this year (5 stars being “amazing”, 3 being “it was OK/readable”, and 1 star being “sucked hardcore”):

Likely the best book I read this year is either The Fault in Our Stars by John Green (which just tore my heart out) or One Good Earl Deserves a Lover by Sarah MacLean (and since it’s not pubbing until the end of January 2013 that’s sort of cheating).  The worst book I read this year was The Husband Hunt by Lynsay Sands – if I hadn’t pre-ordered the ebook I would have lit the damn thing on fire (see reasons why here).  One book is unrated (The Duke Diaries) because I haven’t decided where my opinion lies yet – it’s for a review in March 2013 so I have time for a re-read.  Nothing was officially DNF’d this year, so that was good.

Speaking of reviews, I started reviewing romance at Brazen Reads this year!  The brainchild of Pam, Brazen Reads is a collaborative blog where romance of all types is reviewed.  I concentrate on Regency and historical so drop on by if you’re interested.

I also tried on graphic novels for size this year.  DC Comics had a buy-2-get-1-free sale from late August to mid-November so I decided to rectify a “blind side” in my reading life.  I started with Watchmen, Fables #1: Legends in Exile, and Sandman #1: Preludes and Nocturnes.  I had read Watchmen back in high school in a hopeless attempt to impress the boys in drumline (snare players are uber-cool) and didn’t really like it.  This time around I was much more able to appreciate the art and storytelling.  Fables was a great intro to an alternative fairy tale world but Sandman just about blew my mind.  I’m halfway through the series now.  Neil Gaiman is a national treasure (since he lives stateside but is still a Brit I guess we’ll have to share him).

The downside of all the reading I did is that I am hopelessly behind in reviews.  Almost shamefully.  I’ll catch up don’t worry.

Have a safe and happy New Year, everyone!

OMG and WTF · random

Petition: Remove Broun from House Science Committee

You know, I don’t usually get terribly political. Too much bickering.

But this petition – I think this is important. Science literacy in this country is terrible. We do not need people like Broun who are unable to separate their religious ideologies from rational, scientific concepts to sit on a House Science committee that promotes science.

Please visit the Change website link and sign the petition – they need 150,000 signatures.



Iowa Nice

So it’s Caucus time…bleah.  But in other Iowa news, remember that whole Stephen-Bloom-thinks-we’re-all-stupid-hicks article he wrote?  UI President Sally Mason wrote an open letter and some of Bloom’s colleagues wrote an article for the Gazette.  The ISU journalism director weighed in, too (Bloom just needs to start looking for another job – not go on Brian Williams and act like a condescending jerk and talk about how no one is “getting” his “satire” –  because, tenure or no, he’s in hot water – I never met anyone who actually wanted him for a professor, even before this).  Here’s another response (it drops the F-bomb, FYI).

random · stuff I read

2011: Later, gator!

Well, 2011 has crept out of my life.  The year was chuggling along smoothly with surprising new reads (I finally hopped on the A Song of Ice and Fire bandwagon and remembered that romance novels aren’t quite that bad when I need a reading boost) and surprising talents (I wrote a book – almost done with draft 6 and feeling like I might, just might, let other people read it) when December hit. 

My world shattered into a thousand tiny pieces when my mom was diagnosed with a brain tumor December 4.  Things still haven’t settled after three weeks of crazy but we are moving forward.  The surgeons did a fantastic resection, Mom is recovering well, and the radiation and chemotherapy schedule is set to start January 4.  The path ahead of her is uncertain but she has good doctors and therapists and we’re going to put up one hell of a fight.

In the middle of all this, the poor little book blog gets neglected.  I still haven’t caught up with my reviews.  Oops.  Being a reader I was presented with a dilemma.  I could (a) write my reviews (which takes about 30-45 minutes/review depending on what I have to say), (b) read a book, or (c) edit my own book.  It’s safe to say that (b) and (c) won out, with (c) taking a bit of an edge because I almost didn’t finish the biggest, but simplest, challenge I ever signed up for.

The Goodreads Challenge

I said I would read 100 books this year.  I’ve wanted to do this for several years now and always fell short.  Goodreads’s little challenge seemed well within my reach…until I started writing.  I didn’t read a book for weeks unless you count constant re-reads of my own poor manuscript, quibbling over the placement of a “her”. 

But I did it.  I read 100 books.  In fact, I read 102 books.  *cue trumpets*

I liked most of what I read (five stars is “amazing”, four stars is “I really liked it”, three stars is “it was good/ok/readable”, two stars is “meh/uninteresting”, and one star is “I really wanted to light this on fire” – I have no one star books because those books I usually don’t finish reading and don’t bother to review most of the time):

According to Goodreads the longest book I read was A Storm of Swords (according to me, I think it was A Dance with Dragons, but that’s probably a quibble over format and the ebook format didn’t have any pages listed for ASOS so I had to make do with the MM format just to get page counts).  My favorite book this year is either One of Our Thursdays is Missing, Shatter Me, A Game of Thrones (probably that whole series because I went on a serious binge), or The Wierd Sisters.  I never can decide. 

Also, according to Goodreads I read 32,330 pages this year.  Excuse me while I peel my contact lenses out of my dry little eyes.  I actually read faster on my nooks (yes, I said nooks because there are several…pardon me while I go beat down Mr. Collins) – if I don’t have to turn a real page then I don’t have to move my eyeballs and, somehow, that turns into reading faster.  Craze-balls.

I finally read some Jane Austen off-shoots (thanks to Sourcebooks’ wonderful ebook sales during December – JA’s birthday month) and remembered that, while I really, really still don’t like Austen variations/sequels/straight-up modern re-tellings, I do like clever adaptations (cf: Bridget Jones’s Diary and Clueless).  I find that I enjoy stories that use JA as a jumping off point (like A Weekend with Mr. Darcy) rather than one of her novels as a skeleton.  My reading of the collection Jane Austen Made Me Do It added more evidence for that conclusion.

I did some re-reading, too.  I picked up Thurber’s The Thirteen Clocks (the NYRB Classics re-issue) and read it aloud to my kitty-boys one evening during a storm.  I pulled out my D’Aulaires (also re-issued by NYRB Classics) when I needed some inspiration from Norse mythology  I turned to Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series (with Eloise and Colin and flowery Regency spies) because Letty and Arabella are good friends in a pinch.  And my beloved Jane bolstered me with Pride and Prejudice when I inclined to insomnia due to worrying over Mom.

Other challenges…well, I sorta failed.  The Booker Challenge?  I had good intentions but barely scratched the surface.  I only read one Newbery book (yet to be reviewed).  Only one Best American.  Boo.  Fail, fail, fail.

My trouble is the writing.  What I read seeps into what I write.  Not a bad thing, necessarily (I generally find that authors who cop to the whole “I couldn’t possibly sully my process by reading other people’s stuff” attitude have the most ghastly prose), but when one realizes that she has unconsciously appropriated key words and phrases from well-known authors…and those words/phrases are unique to said authors’ worldbuilding…one starts to sweat just a little.  And stop reading.  (This is where the romance novels come in…they somehow don’t affect the writing and saved my bacon with the Goodreads challenge).

But enough about 2011.  On to 2012!