2017 First Quarter Stats

I know it's not a contest to see how many books I read in a year, but I still love to track it. In case you're interested, here's how my reading year has been going.

Books read by month

Average books read per month in 2017 to date: 13

Average books read per month in 2016: 12

TBR by month

2017 Goal: To get my TBR list under 300 books

Books by type

How is your reading year going so far?

October 2016 Quick Lit

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review. That adds up to a grand total of two books this month! Despite weather that is perfect for reading under blankets I'm just not getting it done. My nerdy spreadsheets that I use to graph my average books read per month show me that is normal for this time of year. I guess this is my reading off season.

When I first started reading Everyone Brave Is Forgiven by Chris Cleave I kind of felt like I have read this same World War II story several times over the past two years. But then I got sucked in and ended up loving it just like all of the other World War II stories. This one takes place mostly in London during the blitz, and does a good job of showing what it did to people as time went on.

I started reading the Little House series again, starting with, of course, Little House in the Big Woods.  This book is more instructional than story driven, but I did enjoy all the descriptions of old time food preparation. It made me want to fill my basement with pumpkins and mason jars.

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October 2016 Audiobooks

Life According to Steph

This time of year seems like a constant sprint/marathon combined. Meaning I have to go to meetings and practices a lot and talk to people. Meaning I am not able to dream away my time while listening to audiobooks as I would prefer. However I did make my way through two mysteries.

I always thought I wouldn't be able to follow mysteries on audiobook, but turns out I quite like them. Just goes to show you're never too old to try new things.

X is the latest in the Kinsey Milhone series by Sue Grafton. This wasn't the best in the series, but I liked how this book continued the story of some of the characters from the previous book.

With only two letters left in the alphabet I'm strongly considering starting over again at 'A' before the series ends. These books started in 1982! Can you believe it?

When I tried to read Still Life by Louise Penny in print I didn't get past the first 15 pages. I heard so many people rave about these books though I decided I needed to try again, this time on audio. I'm so glad! I'm not sure if it was the country setting on the back drop of a fall hurricane, or the delicious way pastries are pronounced with a French accent, but I too am now in love with these books. I'm anxiously waiting for it to be my turn to listen to the next one on Overdrive.

I started listening to It by Stephen King this month as part of a spooky Halloween reads challenge. However it is 44 hours long, so I may not have a review until next Halloween!

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I am an instragram addict

I joined instagram a month or so ago, and I am an addict. It's all of the pictures I love from pinterest without all of the annoying instructions making me feel like I should be doing things.

I love the hashtags - my favorite is #readingoutside. I also love the pretty pictures of books next to tea cups. When I'm having a bad day at work (every day lately) I can look and be calmed instantly. Plus there are lots of clouds and sunsets.

I know I'm years behind on this, so if you're already on instagram please leave your name in the comments. I'd love to follow as many of my bookish friends as possible.

August Quick Lit

New bikes for the kids have given me a good excuse to sit on the curb while reading a book.  (Pictured here: wolf by wolf by Ryan Graudin)

New bikes for the kids have given me a good excuse to sit on the curb while reading a book.

(Pictured here: wolf by wolf by Ryan Graudin)

I have been reading a wide variety of stuff lately - just whatever suits me at the time, really. It's too hot to stick to a list!

The Royal Nanny by Karen Harper was an interesting book, made all the more interesting because it's based on a the true story of the Nanny who took care of King Edward VIII and King George VI. It's a little longer than needed, and is sure to force interaction between the Nanny and all the major political figured of the day (the Tsar, Churchill, Teddy Roosevelt, etc.) Recommend for fans of royal baby pictures and The Royal We. (I got this book from Library Thing in exchange for a review.)

I wanted to read Jaws by Peter Benchley this summer, but forced myself to wait until after our annual trip to Cape Cod. I needn't have waited, as the movie is way more scary than the book. I kind of thought the book was just meh, actually. Plus a lot of the 1970's language is offensive. I know they didn't live in such an enlightened time as us, but it's not really worth it for a sub-par book.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin was about a motorcycle race in a world that would have existed if Hitler had won the war. If you try not to think about the details too much this is a really good book. I'm looking forward to the sequel due out in November.

I've had Off Balance by Dominique Moceanu on my to be read list forever, but it took the Rio Olympics to finally get me to read it. This book has its ups and downs, but was really interesting to a once every four years gymnastics freak like me. I did some background research on Wikipedia, and it seems like a lot of people in the gymnastics industry deny a lot of Moceanu's claims. However given recent news stories about USA Gymnastics and Marta Karoli's handling of the team I see Dominique in a much better light than I may have a month ago.

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

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June 2016 Quick Lit

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

Summer reading is in full swing!

Friday night = book + lawn chair + mojito

Life is good.

I read The Daylight Marriage by Heidi Pitlor because a bookstore I am known to frequent advertised it as similar to Gone Girl. Well, it was similar to Gone Girl because there's a missing wife. However Gone Girl was like watching a train wreck, while The Daylight Marriage actually had characters that were flawed, but you could get invested in them. You actually wanted a happy ending. It was more of a warning than a thriller.

Jane, the Fox, and Me by Fanny Britt was a quick read about a lonely girl in Canada, and her adventures making friends and reading Jane Eyre. I don't usually read comics or graphic novels, but quite enjoyed this one. 

We listened to The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley in the car, and absolutely loved it. If you're looking for a listen for your summer family road trip look no further. It was a great story - likeable characters, interesting for me and the kids, and got us talking about history. Plus the narrator had an accent that made her sound just like Mary from Downton Abbey.

I tried to read The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza a few months ago, and couldn't get into it. Then I listened to the What Should I Read Next follow up show, and decided to give the audiobook a try. Wow, having someone scream out emojis added so much to the story. Crazy in a good way. Pure entertainment.

Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman reminded me of the books I've read by Kate Morton. It had that same sense of gentle mystery to it. This book is 500+ pages, but I read it over a weekend because it was just so easy to curl up with. Perfect lawn chair reading.

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BINGO!

I think this is the best Books on the Nightstand Summer BINGO card I've ever gotten. There isn't a single square that I'm not excited about filling in. As of right now, here's what I'm leaning towards as far as my BINGO reading list.

A mental health memoir: Girl, Interrupted

A dark, upsetting, or sad book: We Need To Talk About Kevin

Written by an author you've met: 168 Hours

Cozy Mystery: All Shall Be Well

Published before 1900: Wuthering Heights

An audiobook: The Knockoff

From the Harvard Classics 5 foot shelf: Pride and Prejudice

That you loved as a child: Baby-Sitter's Club (one of the new graphic novels.)

Set in Australia: Wildflower Hill

With a happy ending: The Little Beach Street Bakery (I'm assuming from the cover. It has a picture of a cupcake with the beach in the background.)

A Newberry or Caldecott winner: The War That Saved My Life

Horror: The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon

Travel writing: My American Revolution

Published in 2016: Eligible

Set at (or near) the North or South Pole: Letters from Father Christmas

Shortest book on your TBR: O Pioneers!

Mentioned on the Gilmore Girls: Ella Minnow Pea

Currently on the nonfiction bestseller list: Rise of the Rocket Girls

That spans multiple generations: The Baker's Daughter

Set in Africa: O, Africa! (I'm disapointed in the selection for this one. Why has no one written a multi-generational historical novel about Africa?)

A retelling of a classic: Northanger Abbey

Nonfiction: Grandma Gatewood's Walk

With a day of the week in the title: The Wednesday Wars

Nonfiction about your hometown or state: Rosemary: The Hidden Kennedy Daughter

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Books I'm actually going to buy

I'm a heavy library user - both out of cheapness, and out of a strong desire not to have my house collapse under the weight of all the books I would own if I had to buy everything I read. That said, there are two books I've decided to pre-order this summer, because I just can't wait for the library.

Just like every other Muggle around I'll be reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child this summer. I'm sure there will be spoilers galore, and I want to binge on this one before I read all about it on Twitter.
I LOVED The Fifth Season when I read it last week, and NEED to read the next installment, The Obelisk Gate, when it comes out in August. It comes out two days after my birthday, so this won't be hard to justify!

Do you still read actual books (not in electronic format?) Are there any you're planning on adding to your shelves this summer?

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What Should I Read Next?

Have you ever played with the site What Should I Read Next? I just heard about it today, and spent some time exploring. I added a few books to my TBR - Push Not The River was recommended when I entered The Tea Rose, and Bread and Roses, Too was recommended when I entered A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I plan on giving these two new to me books a try, and will report back when I do.

I always think it's difficult to recommend books based only on the title - how does a database know if I liked the characters, the story, the setting, or what? Worth a try though. What's a few more books to read over the course of a lifetime?

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How To Escape A Reading Slump

When I go on vacation I usually pack books before clothes. So when I didn't have any ideas of what I should read on my last vacation, and ended up reading The Thorn Birds just because it was part of a reading challenge and long enough to occupy me all week I knew something was off. I was entering a reading slump. I've been back a week, and it's still going on. I haven't had one this bad since I was pregnant, and it took all my brain power just to remember my PIN.

I'm trying not to fret. I'm trying not to push it. But the truth is I can't engage in anything, and I've been abandoning books like no one's business.

This too shall pass. In the mean time, here are a few strategies I use when I'm in a reading slump:

  • Read magazines
  • Read cookbooks
  • Read short stories
  • Listen to podcasts
  • Reading just my favorite parts of my favorite books

What do you do when you're in a reading slump?

 

How I manage my reading life

I read like it's my job, so there's a fair bit of paperwork and tracking involved.

Back in the day when I saw a book I wanted to read I would just buy it, and leave it in a pile. Then I had kids, and ran out of space and money. Now I am a heavy library user.

My library has a holds limit 50 holds at a time, and I try my best to make it work for me. About 1/3 of it is taken up with books that have a long wait. My library is usually very well stocked, but if something's popular it's not unusual to wait 2-3 months. The other 2/3 is managed so as to try and read my TBR down.

I track my TBR in librarything. I pay a bit each year to maintain my 500+ book list, but to me it's worth it to have something I can sort and tag the way I want. I used to use Goodreads, but the cleaner look of librarything just suits me better.

When I finish a book I track it in three ways. I mark it read and give it a start rating on librarything. I also mark it read here - this isn't strictly necessary, but I like to be able to scroll through the cover images. Plus if someone is thinking about following me, I like to give them a snapshot of my reading life.  Last, if there's any quotes I like from the book I write them down in my paper reading journal.

My journal isn't anything fancy. I use the free printable from Modern Mrs. Darcy. It's three hole punched, and enclosed in a cheap binder from target. I also use my journal to hold any print outs from reading challenges, and my immediate reading list. I pick about 10 books that I want to prioritize each season. The rest of my reading I pretty much leave up to chance and mood.

How do you track your reading?

2016 Reading Goals Progress

Spring is officially here, meaning it's a whole new season of reading! I set some pretty ambitious goals at the beginning of the year in hopes of getting my TBR down. Here's how I did.

The Good: Classics

 

I made a list of 8 classics I want to read this year, and during the winter I read two of them. I just need to keep up that pace, and I'll nail this. 

The Bad: Non-fiction

I read 16 out of the 50 non-fiction books I want to read this year, but only 7 of them were from my list of 40 assigned books. I need to pick it up if I want to read all 40 in 2016.

The Ugly: Read Out Louds

I assigned myself 5 chapter books to read out loud to the kids, and I didn't read any! (We did read two chapter books out loud, but none from the list.) I would say that we'll make up for it in spring, but we just discovered Mr. Lemoncello!

My TBR

I made all of these lists at the beginning of the year as a way to really make an effort to read down my TBR. I started with 400 books, and am up to 401. So, I appear to add books at the same rate I read them.  I guess I can be happy with that.

Reading Challenges

I love reading challenges! I'm doing two so far in 2016.

For The Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge I've read:

A book published this year: Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

A book you can finish in a day: The Perfect Comeback of Caroline Jacobs

A book you've been meaning to read: 10% Happier

A book you own but have never read: Left For Dead

A book that intimidates you: The Green Road

For The Book Riot Read Harder Challenge I've Read:

Read a book out loud to someone else: Love From Paddington

Read a dystopian or post-apocalyptic novel: An Ember in the Ashes

Read a book of historical fiction set before 1900: The Mapmaker's Children

Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie: A Walk in the Woods

Read a food memoir: Plenty

Read a play: The Importance of being Earnest

How is your reading year going?

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I forgive you Stephen King

Warning: This post contains minor spoilers from books that came out about 10 years ago. If you are strictly spoiler free on The Dark Tower and Harry Potter this is not the post for you.

I started reading The Harry Potter series during a trying time in my life. It was 2006, and all of the books had been released but the last one. Harry & co. were pretty constant companions during that time. I was easily able to get used copies of the first five, waited a while but finally got the 6th, and pre-ordered the 7th one to arrive at my house on release day like every other muggle I knew. I sat on a blanket under the holly tree in my back yard and read the whole thing at once. I loved the series, when it came to the ending I was underwhelmed.

Eventually I decided to re-read the Harry Potter series. I re-read them twice actually - once for each time I was pregnant. There's something about Harry Potter that suits the mind numbing exhaustion of pregnancy. Then my kids were born, and I began to rely on audiobooks. That's when I met Jim Dale, and listened to the whole series again. Somewhere along the way I changed my mind. I decided that the ending was amazing. It just took me a few reads to slow down, and realize how it all fit together.

I'm not sure what made me go back and re-read a series when I knew I didn't like the ending. But it's reflection on Harry Potter that made me go back and start re-reading Stephen King's Dark Tower Series.

During my misspent youth I used to steal my Dad's Stephen King books, and hide them under my pillow to read late at night. He must have eventually caught me, but I don't think he was mad. (The Stand isn't really suitable for hiding under a pillow.) He even suggested that if I really wanted to read something amazing by Stephen King I should check out The Dark Tower. There were only four books at the time, but he said they were worth reading even if they were unresolved. Being of an age where I wasn't prone to take my dad's advise I didn't pick them up right away.

A few years later I was lonely while studying abroad, and picked up a copy of The Gunsliger at an Oxfam shop. I read the first four books while in England, and waiter eagerly for King to write and release the last three. I have a vivid memory of getting up early the day after my wedding so I could go outside and read Song of Susannah. Like Harry Potter, I got the last installment of the series on the day it came out and read it all in one huge gulp. When I finally got to the end I threw the book across the room. Then I picked it up to make sure I hadn't missed something. Then I threw it again.

My reaction to the ending was so violent that I'm amazed that I had the emotional energy to start reading the Harry Potter series just a few years later. Who knows, maybe that's why I put off reading Harry Potter when everyone else in the world was. When a book breaks your heart, you don't easily set yourself up to let it get broken again.

Last year I realized that just like with the ending to Harry Potter, my tendency to binge read might have made me miss the true genius of The Dark Tower series. So I started again. I made my way through the first four - the original books my Dad had told me about. Then I took a break before I started the last three. I finished Wolves of the Calla last week.

I forgive you Stephen King. I haven't yet gotten to the end of the series in this re-read, but I forgive you. The way you weave in the early 2000's into this book while remaining true to the original characters amazed me. Your world building and weaving ways astound me. Even knowing what's coming I am impressed. I'll keep reading with an open mind and a glad heart, and I promise not to throw anything when I get to the ending this time.

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Quick Lit March 2016

Love to be reading outside again!

Love to be reading outside again!

Each month I link with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit as a way to talk about the books I liked, but didn't review.

I had a sick day a few weeks ago, and reading A Share in Death by Deborah Crombie in bed was just the right medicine. I read this all in one day, and immediately reserved a few more in the series. I needed a good distraction while I waited for Career of Evil to finally come up on my library holds list.

I picked up Train Like a Mother by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell as inspiration for my summer hiking training. I liked the advice on time management, nutrition, coming back from an injury, and play lists even it was focused on training for a running race. Still useful even though I run a mile at best each week.

If I were to play the game where I had to match Cormoran Strike characters to Harry Potter characters Matthew the fiancé would be Umbridge. I was really hoping he would turn out to be the killer so we could be done with him. (That's not a spoiler: he was never a suspect.) Still a good book though; I can't wait for the next one.

The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton was the first book in recent memory that I could guess the ending to before it happened. That doesn't make it a bad book. I liked the characters, and I'm glad I read it.

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REVIEW: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

I do not like postmodernism, postapocolyptic settings, postmortem narrators, or magic realism. I rarely respond to supposedly clever formal devices, multiple fonts, pictures where they shouldn’t be - basically gimmicks of any kind. I find literary fiction about the Holocaust or any other magical world tragedy to be distasteful - nonfiction only, please. I do not like genre mash-ups a la the literary detective novel or the literary fantasy. Literary should be literary, and genre should be genre, and cross breeding rarely results in anything satisfying.
— The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

It only took me until page 13 to fall in love with A.J. Fikry, the grumpy bookseller main character from The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin. Really, isn't it every bookworm's dream to find someone who can talk so eloquently about what they do or don't like in a book?

I put off reading about Mr. Fikry for ages because for some reason I thought this book was about time travel. I'm so glad I finally picked it up last week, because it ended up being one of those books that I loved so much I could only read magazines for a few days after I finished. There was a satisfying love story, a great father daughter relationship, just enough drama to make it a story, and an emotional ending that was sad but not in a manipulative way. And that is what I love in a book.

Other books that were so good I could only read magazines for a while:

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