Tackling My TBR List

During November’s NaBloPoMo, I shared eight books that were on my To Be Read list. Amazingly, I’ve read five of the books since then, so I wanted to do a quick update on them.

1. Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

This book was a disappointment for me. I was really looking forward to Anna’s quirky commentary and wit. What I got was a lot about her sex life and recreational drug use and not near enough humor. Parts I did like: learning how Anna started acting at a young age – and in theater, mostly. The first time I saw her act was in Twilight and then Pitch Perfect, so it was interesting to hear about her career before those films. She seemed to have a pretty level-headed upbringing despite being a child actor, and she certainly didn’t make money from acting until recently. That being said, I don’t think I would recommend this book. There just wasn’t anything captivating enough about it. If you feel the need to check this one out, I’d recommend the audio CD over reading the book, as Kendrick herself reads it, so at least it’s a bit more manageable. My Goodreads rating: 3 stars

2. We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han  

The third book in the Summer series, We’ll Always Have Summer, picks up at the end of Belly’s freshman year of college. She and Jeremiah have been dating and even attend the same school. It all seems to be going well, but when Belly hears about a mistake Jeremiah made, she’s forced to question whether he is the right guy for her. I read this book in two days because I had to know, who would it be – Jeremiah or Conrad?! Was this a fantastic book? No. Belly was just as immature and selfish as she was in the first two books and the plot was a bit ridiculous, but it didn’t matter – I was sucked in! Jenny Han should really write a television show because her teenage drama is spot on. My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

3. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

In Westerfeld’s Afterworlds, a young writer named Darcy decides to defer her freshman year of college so that she can move to NYC and experience life as a debut YA author. Her story as a budding writer, learning the ins and outs of the publishing industry, as well as her growth as a young adult, help her shape her manuscript about a girl who survives a terrorist attack and now has the power to “cross over” into an even better story. I bought this book a few years ago in Barnes & Noble’s clearance section, thinking it was a great price for such a huge book! Sadly, the size of the book kept me from actually getting around to reading it. As an e-book however, it was much less daunting. And, boy, am I glad I finally read it. I enjoyed both stories, though they were not as interconnected as I thought they were going to be. I really liked following Darcy’s experience as a debut author. Her story about the afterworld, which is told in the alternating chapters, is just as original and entertaining as the framing story. I’d recommend this book to fans of YA literature and people who have participated in the NaNoWriMo experience. My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

4. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Huxley’s sci-fi novel envisions a world where people are genetically engineered and brainwashed so that they are good consumers. Thanks to a society where sex is recreational and not monogamous, and drugs are always available to pick you up or wipe out lonely thoughts, everyone is happy. However, a few characters in the novel start to feel different – the basis for the book’s conflict. I think the book was probably advanced for its time, but reading it today, I found the language a bit difficult to understand. The concept of creating people (and clones of the same person) and preconditioning them was incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, but the story went in strange directions and there were some odd writing techniques. For instance, I almost had to picture it like a movie in certain sections because the author would have multiple “scenes” happening all at the same time and I had to keep up with who was talking and what they were talking about. There were some very interesting ideas about sexuality and gender roles – especially for a book published in 1932. Unfortunately, the book had a terrible ending. Terrible because it just ended abruptly without filling the reader in on how all the character’s stories were resolved. There were several main characters, but none of their stories felt finished or complete to me. While an ending like this sometimes leaves room for the reader to fill in the blanks, in this case, I wanted more information. I left not really knowing what I was supposed to make of this strange new world – other than it was certainly not the utopia it claimed to be. There were a lot of messages: the fear of taking science and technology too far, the importance of reading and education, how religion can control people and form society, how free is our free will, just to name a few. I’m sure it’d be a fascinating book to use for discussion in a book club or classroom. In all, I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book, but I’m not sure I liked it all that much. My Goodreads rating: 2 stars

5. Shadow and Bone, Book 1 of The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

The first book of the Grisha Trilogy begins with a trek across a dangerously dark and monster-filled area called the Shadow Fold. The main character, Alina, finds she has incredible powers that can ward off the terror of the Shadow Fold. She is sent to the royal court to be trained as an elite fighter. But the luxurious life being a powerful member of the elite isn’t what it seems. I almost gave this book a five-star rating on Goodreads, as it was pretty close to perfect. I raced to finish this one, and then was sad when I made it to the last page. The characters and world were just plain enjoyable to read about. I was hooked from the beginning and I will definitely be continuing the rest of the series. I’ve already got the next book on hold. There are many books about people who have strange powers or abilities (Graceling, Three Dark Crowns, Shatter Me, Under the Never Sky – all books I enjoyed, by the way), but this book still held its own and brought something different and interesting. I would highly recommend this book (especially if you liked the books I listed in parentheses)! My Goodreads rating: 4 stars

What books have you recently crossed off your TBR list?

Goodreads Book Tag

Thanks Rose Read for posting this book tag – I needed an easy blog post, too, after almost a week and a half vacation in Mexico (and two months since my last post…oops).

What was the last book you marked as read?

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

What are you currently reading?

  • A Walk in the Park by Jill Mansell – a chick lit book for fun, as Brave New World was a bit heavy.
  • Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens – this month’s read for a social justice book club at a nearby church. This will be my first experience with a book club, despite being an English major and English teacher!  

What was the last book you marked as ‘to read’?

Loathe Thy Neighbor by James O’Brien – Immigration is a hot topic now, and this book discusses how “ugly prejudices are being fed by professionals grown fat on the fear and fury of their consumers” and how “it is time to stop and ask whether the faceless group of immigrants really exists – or whether it just appeals to our basest fears.” I saw O’Brien speaking in a video that was floating around Facebook and found him very intelligent and interesting.

Do you use the star rating system?

On Goodreads? Yes. I like being able to look back and see which books I truly loved. I also get a kick out of marking my rating and then seeing that a majority of people on Goodreads rated it the complete opposite!

Are you doing the 2017 reading challenge?

You bet. I set my goal at 50 books even though I read over 60 last year, but I feel like my two year old is going to keep me from getting there this year. Right now, I’ve read 11 books and am on track to complete the challenge.

Do you have a wishlist?

I have 56 books in my To Read list, but I’m not very good at using it when I’m in a library or bookstore.

Who are your favorite authors?

Caroline B. Cooney, Katherine Neville, Steve Berry, Paullina Simons, J.K. Rowling, Kristin Cashore, Rainbow Rowell, and many more.

How many Goodreads shelves do you have?

Besides the shelves Goodreads sets you up with (Read, Currently Reading, To Read), I also have Did Not Finish, Favorites, and Re-reads.

I tag:

My fellow Goodreads users! 

What is Goodreads Good for?

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When I first heard about the website/app Goodreads, I was skeptical. Despite being a book lover, I didn’t see what the point of it was. Couldn’t I just keep a list of books I’ve read in a notebook or computer file? I’ve never had a problem finding my next book to read, so why would I need a website to give me recommendations? For some reason, I eventually signed up for an account. And at first, I was underwhelmed. I didn’t use the site. I didn’t get it.

Then I had a baby and I couldn’t do some of my usual activities like go to Zumba, work four days a week, get together with my friends – in other words – socialize. But I could still read. That’s when I figured out how to utilize Goodreads. Now I’m on the site almost every day. Here’s what I do:

  • Keep track of what I’ve read. So much more convenient than a notebook, so I’m always up-to-date.
  • Rate the books I’ve read so I can figure out authors and genres I like and don’t like. This also comes in handy when friends ask for recommendations.
  • Review the books I’ve read. Sometimes it’s only a few sentences, but it helps me remember the book later. This comes in handy for blogging.
  • Participate in the yearly reading challenge. At the beginning of each year, you set a goal for how many books you’d like to read during the year. Goodreads helps count how many books you’ve read and let’s you know if you’re on track to complete the challenge. (Side note: I completed my challenge this summer! I thought I’d have a hard time reading this year with a new baby, so I set a lower goal than last year. However, I might end up reading MORE books than pre-baby!)
  • Read and participate in discussions with other readers. Your homepage follows discussions related to books you’ve read. I love seeing what other people enjoyed/disliked about a book, or what questions people had as they read. I try to respond when I have something thoughtful to add.
  • Ask questions. As mentioned in a previous post, I was confused about a book’s setting, so I posted a question on the book’s page. I thought a fellow reader would respond, but the book’s author actually responded and clarified it for me. So cool to have interaction with an author!
  • Track my baby’s books. I created an account for my baby and I’ve added all the books (I can remember) that we’ve read this year. So far, it’s over 60 books! I’m so amazed that all the picture books and board books are listed on the site. We are signed up at our library for 1,000 Books Before Kindergarten, but I think keeping track of all the books on Goodreads will be a really cool thing to have.

And there you have it! That is what Goodreads is for! I’d highly recommend signing up for an account if you haven’t yet. It’s free! There are even more features to explore, too.

Do you use Goodreads? What do you think of the site?

Reading Reflections

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I may be reading less than before baby arrived, but I’m glad I can still find time to read (what else would I do during a 4am feeding?!). Thanks to my Kindle Fire, I’m able to keep reading. Have I mentioned how much I love my Kindle Fire? Baby occupies one arm while eating, so I can hold my Kindle in the opposite hand. It’s so much easier to scroll rather than having to hold a printed book and turn pages one-handed. My husband bought me a hardcover book for Valentine’s Day- thoughtful- but I haven’t figured out how I’m going to hold the book and baby at the same time! Instead, I’ve been devouring Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander novels lately.

Back in January, I set a much more reasonable goal for my 2015 Goodreads challenge. I read 50 books last year, and I know there’s no way I can do that this year (unless I count all the little board books and children’s books I read with my sweet baby – but that seems like cheating!). My goal is to read 30 books. We’ll see how that goes! So far, I’m on track, and completing those Outlander books is no small feat.

What I’m Currently Reading:
Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon (Outlander #4)

  • I really loved the previous novel in the Outlander series, Voyager, but this one feels a little slower to me. I’m hoping the action and intrigue will pick up soon. The characters in these novels are so wonderfully formed. I love the historical fiction mixed with tastefully-written time travel. I was skeptical when I finally decided to start reading Outlander, but I love the saga of Claire and Jamie and I look forward to reading the entire eight book series.

What Baby is Currently Reading:
Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae, Illustrations by Guy Parker-Rees

  • We love the sing-song rhythm of Giraffes Can’t Dance and the adorable story about a gawky giraffe named Gerald. Poor Gerald gets laughed at by the other jungle animals because of his inability to dance. A cricket gives him the advice “Sometimes when you’re different you just need a different song.” Gerald finds that he can dance in his own way. The illustrations are colorful and lively. We read this book just about every day!

What are you reading right now? Has anyone else read the Outlander novels? What did you think of them?

End of Year Update

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Baby has arrived!
My beautiful baby girl was born November 1st at 9:16 pm. She weighed a healthy 8 pounds 7 ounces. My husband and I are smitten by her. For a person so tiny, she sure keeps me busy! It’s an accomplishment to get dressed and eat lunch by 2:00 pm now, so blogging has fallen to the wayside. Before the end of the year, however, I wanted to update you on a few literary things that have happened in my life recently.

1). Remember my post about writing to authors? Well, I got a response! Katherine Neville sent me a signature. I was surprised since I had written to her in September of 2013. The signature is now proudly displayed on my bookshelf in front of her novel, The Eight.

2). I also had a response from another author – but in a different way. Not long ago, I posted about Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s novel Bittersweet. I mentioned how I was confused by the story’s setting. I went on Goodreads and posed the question on the book’s page. I figured I would get a response from a fellow reader. Lo and behold – I received a response from the author herself. It answered my question and it made me appreciate the book more because the author took the time to respond.

3). I was further surprised to hear about the upcoming closure of my favorite bookstore. The Barnes & Noble located inside the historic Chateau Theatre in Rochester, Minnesota, will close at the end of December. I am saddened to hear this news and hope I can sneak in one last visit over the holiday season. It’s a unique space and who knows what will happen to the building once the books move out.

Happy Holidays to all. May your holidays be filled with lots of family, laughter, good food, and great books.