Monday, March 2, 2015

March Madness 2015 Sign-Up

Hosted by Cedar Station

A reading March Madness is much more my style than your traditional basketball March Madness! I'm a little late with this sign-up, but when I read Alysia's post yesterday, I knew it was the perfect read-a-thon to join for my last month before baby. Who knows if our little guy will be early, late, or right on time, but with a due date of April 23rd, March is definitely the last month I would consider joining any sort of blogging event like this. And I've been on a reading roll lately, so it'd be nice to keep it going a little longer. My reading choices often change depending on my mood, but here's what I have queued up at the moment:

Isn't Henry the cutest? A baby gift from my brother's
girlfriend, he's been on my nightstand since Christmas

Now that I actually look at them in a giant pile, this number of books looks slightly insane for one month, but I actually think I have a decent shot of reading them all. The bottom six are the remaining installments of the comic collection Y: The Last Man that I started last month. I flew through the first four, so I don't think the final six will be all that time-consuming either -- they are so addictingly good though, I might not want them to end!

Above those are the last two mysteries by Sara Blaedel that have been translated into English so far. I'm no mystery aficionado, but I was in the mood and decided to read The Forgotten Girls last month. It had been so long since I read a mystery, but I really liked it and promptly went back and read her first English translation Call Me Princess and borrowed Only One Life and Farewell to Freedom from the library. So far, Blaedel's books have also been fast, addicting reads for me.

Then we have Fiercombe Manor by Kate Riordan, a new release I've had my eye on and requested from the library (published as The Girl in the Photograph in the UK). I will likely read this one first because it has a shorter loan period.

Unremembered, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and Paper Towns are for the next few months of book club. (And I grabbed Unremembered's sequel Unforgotten in case I want to continue with the series.) If I manage to read these three, I will have no reading schedules or deadlines to think about until the summer. YA books also tend to be faster reads, so I am hopeful I will be able to get ahead of the game.

Than I have two more short books from the library I couldn't resist borrowing. Forgotten Bookmarks just looks like a lot of fun. And Fables for Our Time and Famous Poems Illustrated by James Thurber is one I picked up after loving a short story of his I listened to as part of an audio collection.

Lastly, we have the doorstop that is Diana Gabaldon's Voyager, but that one I am already over 800 pages in, I just want to finish it! I'm still ahead of the game for Kay's Outlander Reading Challenge, but am anticipating a lull once the baby arrives, so I'll take as much of a headstart as I can get! It's also likely I will read something on audio while doing chores and things around the house, but I don't have anything picked out yet -- it will depend on what is available from my library when I get the opportunity to listen.

So, is 16+ books over-ambitious? Maybe. But considering that I read a total of 41 in January and February thanks to the types of books I've been in the mood for lately (comics, audio, & shorter books in general), I don't think it's terribly unrealistic. Whatever I manage to read, I'm planning to enjoy my last few weeks of quiet reading before the chaos of adjusting to life with a newborn begins!

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Are you joining any challenges or read-a-thons this month? What books do you have queued up to read next?

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge: Book Budget

The February topic for the Show Your Shelves Some Love challenge is book finances. Before this challenge I never had a book budget. I wasn't putting myself in the poor house, but I definitely could get easily carried away. Amazon deals,, gift cards, credit card points, bargain bins, cheap used bookstore finds, splurges at my local indie store -- I just love buying books. But with so many still unread it was time for me to make a conscious effort to curb the influx. And besides, I'm running out of shelf space!

So by joining this challenge, this is the first time I have ever set a book budget for myself and decided on one new book per month. That may not seem like enough to a lot of avid readers, but the challenge doesn't count gift card purchases or freebies and I also allowed myself a few exceptions, so my budget is a bit more flexible than a strict 12 books for the year. I thought I slipped up in January by buying two books (1 print + 1 ebook), but forgot they were both bought with a Christmas gift card, so I'm technically still ahead of the game. 

To keep myself accountable, I'm going to share a breakdown of my budget and exception categories. I'm trying to not take advantage of the loopholes too much because I still want to focus on actually reading the books I own and not adding to my TBR too much. Spending less is an important aspect of this challenge, but certainly not the only one!

One new book per month -- 0/2

* Since gift card purchases don't count, I haven't used my new book allotment for January or February yet :)

Gift card purchases -- 2

The Rosie Effect, by Graham Simsion (hardcover)
Angels in the Dark, by Lauren Kate (ebook)

Giveaways/Freebies -- 2

* Won an ARC of The Silver Witch, by Paula Brackston from Goodreads
* Won Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman from Book Riot

Review Books -- 1

* Psy-Q: Test Yourself with More Than 80 Quizzes, Puzzles and Experiments for Everyday Life, by Ben Ambridge -- I haven't accepted any new review books in quite a while, but this one was just too intriguing to pass up.

Books for baby -- 3 received as gifts

* I'm being good because I know my baby shower is coming up. The three gift books were an early shower gift from a relative who won't be able to attend. So excited to start a "library" for our little guy :)

Cookbooks -- 6

* Bought Love Bake Nourish on for a really great price
* Splurged on five new cookbooks from an America's Test Kitchen $5 clearance sale. Most of them are of the quick & easy variety which is the only kind of cooking (if any!) I might be able to manage for a while, so I couldn't pass up that deal.

Library Book Sale Books -- 1

Those Who Wish Me Dead, by Michael Kortya

Used Book Store Credit -- 0

* I'm still doing very little driving by myself, so I haven't been taking any leisurely visits to my favorite used bookstores like I used to. I'm trying to save most of my credit for the baby once I do get a chance to go shopping though.

Book Club Books -- 0

* So far I've been able to borrow from the library. I'm trying to read ahead so I don't have to think about any deadlines for a few months after the baby is born -- I already read March's book and have April, May, and June ready to go.

TOTAL new books purchased from monthly budget: 0/2
TOTAL new books purchased/received (exceptions): 12 + 3 for baby
TOTAL books read from my shelves in 2015: 12
TOTAL books add to TBR: 5 (would have been 6, but I already read one)

I've also been reading library books like crazy! Since I'm limiting my purchases, my library card has been getting some serious usage -- 27 books so far this year! Library books are neutral for this challenge, but if I want to read more of what I already own, I probably should aim for a little bit better balance. And if you're wondering how the heck I've read so many books in just under two months, I've recently gotten hooked on graphic novels and comics, so I've been flying through those. Plus I've been gravitating toward shorter books in general and have even read a few kids' books that have caught my eye -- I love reading all kinds of books :)

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Do you have a book budget or any book-buying goals/limits for 2015? 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge: Sharing My TBR Piles

The January topic for the Show Your Shelves Some Love challenge is "Show Us Your TBR Piles," so I'm sneaking my post in at the eleventh hour. I must admit, I don't just have a TBR pile or a TBR shelf -- it's more like TBR bookcases. I don't shelve my TBR books separately from ones I've already read, so I'm just going to share some photos of our home "library."

The living room, a.k.a the library room

$5 yard sale find that fits mass-markets perfectly

My bookcase nightstand

My husband's bookcase nightstand

I'm pretty diligent about updating GoodReads which tells me that of all the books I own, I have 545 books that are TBR (this doesn't count cookbooks or other reference-type books). I know there shouldn't be any shame associated with books or reading, but I can't help being a little embarrassed by that number. And while I've certainly read a lot more books in my lifetime so far, of all the ones in my house, only 159 are ones I've already read. (Yes, I walked around and tallied them up because, why not?) Given my tendency to purge the collection periodically, that number actually isn't as low as I thought it would be. But still, 159 read vs. 545 unread is not exactly the balance I'd like to see in my collection.

Now, I certainly did not buy all 545 of those unread books -- some were gifts, a handful are Kindle freebies, and lots were gotten on trade from used bookstores (I don't know about you, but a 25 cent handling charge doesn't really feel like a "purchase" to me). Not to mention the $1 or $2 library book sale books that just barely count as purchases, if you ask me. Now, how much I spent (or didn't spend) on a book doesn't make it any more or less "worthy" as a reading option, but I was curious to see how many books I read in 2014 that I actually bought. As it turns out, the answer is 15 -- out of a total of 100 books read. And you can be darn sure I purchased WAY more than 15 books last year. Granted, a lot of books read earlier in the year were review copies, so while I didn't buy them, they were physically present in my house and reading them reduced the number of unread books lying around. But given the amount of money I've spent on books, it's a bit ridiculous that only 15% of my reading for a whole year came from books I bought. My other big source of reading material is the library. Don't get me wrong, I love libraries -- they are such amazing resources that I am lucky to have access to, but I think I should probably try to ease up on the library books just a little this year if I want to have a bit more balance.

But regardless of my library borrows, as long as I cut way back on the number of new book purchases this year, I will be one happy camper. I won't feel so bad about my number of unread books or how many I pick up from the library if the number of new purchases doesn't continue to outpace the number of owned books I'm reading. So far, I've stuck to my budget/rules for the year and have only purchased one book for the month of January (OK, OK I also bought one ebook collection of short stories related to a series I'm catching up on, but I read digital so infrequently I'm not sure that even counts? OK, I know it counts, but at least it's not cluttering up my shelves!) And of all my books read so far in 2015, seven have been from my shelves plus three re-reads of books I own, but I listened to the audio from the library instead. I call that progress!

How are you doing on your 2015 challenges or goals so far?

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

National Readathon Day


After recent events put a bit of a kink into my Bout of Books plans, I've really been looking forward to giving another readathon a try. This coming Saturday from 12-4PM is the very first National Readathon Day being launched by Penguin Random House and the National Book Foundation and I'm really excited to be participating, especially since it's for such a good cause. Money raised by this event is benefiting the National Book Foundation to promote literacy and fund education programs. Since I first heard about this event from the Books on the Nightstand podcast, I've made my donation to their fundraising team. (Awesome bookish podcast, by the way, especially if you are an audiobook fan.)

I'm not exactly supposed to be glued to the couch for four hours straight given all my pregnancy craziness lately, but there's no reason I can't take breaks to get up and move around. I haven't decided yet what I will read, but I have a stack of graphic novels from the library as well as a short book club selection I am considering. I'm attempting to read ahead for the next few months of book club anyway, so this seems like a good opportunity to get started. And of course, whatever audiobook I'm in the middle of is always an option, especially if I feel like I am sitting for too long.

Will you be making #timetoread this Saturday?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Bout of Books 12: Wrap-Up Post (+ another personal update)

Note: Most of this update is pregnancy-related, so if that's not your thing, you've been warned!

 * * * * *

Well, last week definitely did not turn out as expected! I was looking forward to Bout of Books as a bit of a distraction and a fun thing to do at home when I wasn't working since I couldn't fly down to Florida for my friend's wedding, but the read-a-thon quickly got put on the back burner when I went for my pre-natal appointment on Tuesday. I had been feeling worse day by day and was still waiting for my cardiologist appointment to get fully evaluated for my symptoms, but as soon as my OB saw me struggling to walk back to the exam room, it was decided this couldn't wait any longer (thank goodness!). So I was sent next door to get the full work up in the ER instead and I ended up getting admitted overnight. Honestly, I was relieved to go to the hospital. I was frustrated that I couldn't see the cardiologist sooner to begin with and for anyone who's never had a rapid heart rate, it is downright scary especially when you don't know what's causing it. I had been told previously it wasn't urgent and it was fine to wait, but it was still nerve-wracking, especially while pregnant.

Anyway, the sort-of short version is that there is nothing wrong with my heart (yay!) despite having symptoms of tachycardia (rapid heart rate.) Resting, taking it easy, and not exercising (which I was told to do and which makes sense before you know for sure what the problem is) while waiting to be evaluated was actually the worst possible thing for me. Turns out that starting with a cold I got after Thanksgiving when I took a week and a half off my regular exercise routine started the process of deconditioning my body and then as I started feeling lightheaded and the beginnings of the fast heart rate, I started limiting all my activity which made me weaker and weaker the less I did. So basically I got out of shape, only it happened really fast and much worse because of all the extra blood supply my body is pumping for the baby. So after just a few weeks, my body thought a stroll down the hall was major exercise and my heart pumped accordingly, at an alarmingly fast rate.

So after tons of tests to confirm that my heart is indeed healthy, the prescription is actually to exercise, believe it or not. To start, that just means walking and doing things around the house which has felt like a ridiculous amount of effort, but I'm happy to say that it does seem to be helping already. My mom came to stay with me a few days so I wouldn't be home alone while my husband was working as I started this process. The Dr. said I'm going to feel really crummy and I'm going to feel the tachycardia kick in, but to know my heart is healthy and can handle it and that making it work is the only way to get stronger and reduce the symptoms. Just going on an errand is a form of "therapy" right now, though I am still not driving -- I can push myself, but I see no need to graduate to operating heavy machinery quite yet! I'll work on going for longer walks first and I dream of the day I can get back to swimming laps, but I'm afraid that's still a ways off.

And I should also note that through all of this the baby has been perfectly fine and kicking up a storm. His (yes, it's a boy! I don't think I officially announced that here yet) heart rate has been perfectly normal. His crazy mother's heart rate has been faster than his at times, but that is a problem with me, not him. For anyone who's had a baby and knows how fast their hearts go, you can guess just how fast I've been thumping!

So, basically what I'm trying to say is that I didn't read a whole lot this week. Duh. Though actually, I did reach my Bout of Books goals. I finished my audiobook and my book club book. I didn't think I was going to make it to the meeting, but since my prescription was to do more, I did go. I was exhausted when I got home, but it went really well and I was very happy to be out of the house. You'd think I could read a lot waiting around in the ER and being in the hospital overnight (especially since I had two books in my purse), but I just didn't have the concentration for more than a few pages here and there. After I got home, I did read two short books from our Harry Potter Page to Screen set (which were mostly photos, to be honest, but really fascinating) and a bit of my Voyager re-read, so I did read a little bit every day. I had fun with my reading as much as could be expected this week and I didn't put any pressure on myself because I had much more important things to worry about, obviously!

Books finished: 4 + started a 5th
Pages read: 445
Time listened to audiobook: 1 hour
Total time read: No idea!
Challenges completed: 1

I did do the Scavenger Hunt challenge (pre-hospital):

How was your week? Hopefully less eventful than mine!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Bout of Books 12: Sign-Up & Goals (+ a personal update)

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 5th and runs through Sunday, January 11th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 12 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

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Even though it would be my last opportunity pre-baby, I had decided against joining Bout of Books 12 because I was supposed to be down in Florida for my friend's wedding half the week. As a matter of fact I was supposed to be an almost-6-months pregnant bridesmaid, but after a very uneventful first half+ of pregnancy, things started getting a little interesting. I hate writing super vague things that probably sound more alarming than the truth, so I'll give you the short version of the story. Basically, I'm OK and baby is OK, but I've been having dips in blood pressure that make me feel lightheaded and also a rapid pulse which I have some follow-up appointments to investigate further. I'm not driving and it's kind of a crap-shoot how I'm going to feel just standing up and walking down the hall. For someone who was feeling great and working out regularly up until a month ago, this has been very weird and a major adjustment, so we're sticking close to home for now. Bummer.

So while I really would rather be at the wedding, if I'm stuck at home anyway, I think participating in Bout of Books will give me something fun to focus on when I am not working. And even though there is no longer a goals linky to discourage negativity and feelings of *failure* I think setting a few goals will help give me some direction. So here's my plan for the week:

1. Have fun!

2. Read at least a little bit every day

3. Finish my current book club book & audiobook (I thought I would finish these over the weekend, but didn't quite get there.)

4. Read from my TBR shelves (I can only send my husband to the library for me so many times, so it seems a good excuse to focus on books I already own. Plus, I want to read more from my TBR in 2015 anyway, so I might as well get off to a good start!)

5. Read mostly short books. (While I like to keep track of my reading, I really don't let myself get hung up on the numbers. But I still think it would be fun to start off the year by reading a whole bunch of books and it's much easier to do that if I pick some of the shorter ones on my shelves. All the books I've been eyeing to read soon are on the short side anyway. I will probably still read a few chapters in my re-read of Diana Gabaldon's Voyager that I already have started though -- and that one is definitely not short!)

6. Read whatever I feel like (Despite #4, which I still think is a great idea, I am giving myself the freedom to change my mind if I want to. I've sometimes fought against it since starting this blog, but I'm very much a mood reader at heart. Back to reading the way it should be -- for me!)

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Favorites of 2014

I was on the fence about doing any sort of year-end wrap-up because, to be honest, I don't have the patience for those long surveys (writing them or reading them -- sorry!) I also usually don't think I've read enough books in a year to make it worthwhile, but since I did read 100 (!!!) books in 2014, I thought I'd take a cue from Kay and Charleen and do an "award" type post instead (though they came up with much more original and interesting categories). These are always my favorite posts to read this time of year, so I thought I'd take a stab at it myself.

This list is, of course, limited by my own reading choices in 2014 and I've made my selections from the pool of all books read without regard to publication date. All books selected I rated 4- or 5-stars and I am only allowing a book to *win* one category. And yes, I made up some categories, just so I could feature a particular book :)

Favorite Cover

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Favorite Creepy book
The Winter People, by Jennifer McMahon

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Favorite Mystery

* * * * *

Favorite Historical Fiction
The Major's Daughter, by JP Francis

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Favorite Fantasy/Re-Telling
While Beauty Slept, by Elizabeth Blackwell

* * * * *

Favorite Contemporary Fiction
Bittersweet, by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

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Favorite Guilty Pleasure book
The Heiresses, by Sara Shepard

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Favorite Humorous book
The Rosie Project, by Graham Simesion

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Favorite Adult Re-Read
Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon

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Favorite Classic
The Crucible, by Arthur Miller

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Favorite Banned or Challenged Book
by Sherman Alexie

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Favorite Book Club book
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore

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Favorite Contemporary YA book
One Man Guy, by Michael Barakiva

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Favorite Dystopian YA book
Divergent, by Veronica Roth

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Favorite YA/Children's Re-Read

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Favorite Children's book
BookSpeak! written by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josée Bisaillon

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Favorite New-to-Me Holiday book
The Polar Express, by Chris Van Allsburg

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Favorite Holiday Re-Read
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, by Barbara Robinson

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Favorite Graphic Novel
Embroideries, by Marjane Satrapi

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Favorite Poetry book
A Light in the Attic, by Shel Silverstein

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Favorite Non-fiction book
Empty Mansions, by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr.

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Favorite Memoir

* * * * *

Favorite Food-Related book
In Defense of Food, by Michael Pollan

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I had to wait until 2014 was officially over to post this because you never know if a book from the final days of the year will sneak its way on! Have you read any of these? What was your favorite book of 2014?

Saturday, January 3, 2015

December in Books

It's time for my monthly reading round-up before we get too far into 2015! December was a month of holiday books, audiobooks, and dipping a toe into the world of children's books. I also finished book #2 in my Outlander re-read, so overall a very good month!

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Holiday Humor
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
4 stars

It's hard to really consider this a book since it is just recordings of old-time radio shows, but it's cataloged as an audiobook at the library, so why the heck not? They even left in the commercials which were a truly fascinating look back in time. The selections are from Jack Benny, Life With Riley, Baby Snooks, and The Burns & Allen Show -- I always loved to hear the residents at my old job reminisce about these programs and tell me about them, but had never listened to a sample. I would definitely listen to this one again and see if there are other Christmas selections to be found for next year.

* * * * *

The Christmas Doll
by Elvira Woodruff
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
4 stars

A sad, but lovely tale of two orphaned sisters and the spirit of Christmas. I felt cold just thinking about those poor girls trying to survive on the street, but a very heartwarming story that I would definitely listen to again in future years.

* * * * *

A Child's Christmas in Wales and Five Poems
by Dylan Thomas
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
1 star

I really didn't care for this one -- the narration was way overdone and I found it extremely distracting. I finished it off because it was very short, but if it were any longer I probably would have put it aside.

* * * * *

The Polar Express
by Chris Van Allsburg
Borrowed from Library / Hardcover
5 stars

A classic children's Christmas book that to the best of my memory I had never read before. If it was read to me as a kid, I don't remember it. Anyway, such a great story! I can see why it has become a holiday classic and I definitely will want to get a copy for the baby someday.

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My Pet Book
by Bob Staake
Borrowed from Library / Hardcover
5 stars

I have a major soft spot for books about books and being pregnant has made me more aware of and curious about children's books. So when I heard about this one, I had to check it out from the library. Such an adorable story and it is definitely on my wishlist for my kid's future "library."

* * * * *

How to Bake a Book
by Ella Burfoot
Borrowed from Library / Hardcover
4 stars

Continuing with my curiosity about children's books, I borrowed this one from the library as well. I didn't love it quite as much as My Pet Book, but it was a lovely little read with great illustrations.

* * * * *

Dragonfly in Amber
by Diana Gabaldon
Purchased / Paperback / Re-Read
5 stars

I'm so happy with my decision to re-read this series. It takes me a while to finish each book, but it's so worth it -- I will follow Jamie and Claire anywhere! I've moved onto Voyager and plan to continue through until I get to the newer books I haven't read at all yet. (And if you've been thinking about reading or re-reading this series in 2015 check out Kay's reading challenge -- it hasn't officially begun yet, but I'm getting a bit of a headstart!)

* * * * *

7 Books Read (4 print + 3 audio)
1051 Pages
7 Audiobook Hours

Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Prequel & Sequel
Book to Movie
Historical Fiction

Monday, December 29, 2014

(Mostly) Bookish Goals End of Year Update

I did a halfway update earlier in the year and thought I should check back in and see how I did now that 2014 is coming to a close. I've copied below an abbreviated version of my (Mostly) Bookish Goals for 2014 with my results written in bold.

EPIC FAIL! Let's just say once I fell off the wagon a few months into the year, I never got back on. Shall I fess up to the number of books I bought this year? I was going to, but every time I tried to tally them up, I lost count. ::Hangs head in shame::

2. Get no more than 10 new cookbooks.
I was still on track halfway through the year with four new additions. Then it seems it all went to hell in a hand basket! I did some major splurging which landed me with 15 more new ones, plus four I won from a giveaway. Most of the ones I bought were used, purchased with the gift card that came with the giveaway, or Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals. Still, I was definitely naughty with a grand total of 23 cookbooks added to my shelves. I did do a good clean out and traded in some old ones I don't use though, so maybe that redeems me slightly?

3. Diversify my reading selections with the guidance of the (many) challenges I've joined.
OK, I think I did pretty good on this one. I finished many of my challenges and have read all over the place this year -- close to 100 books! A new record for me for sure.

4. Read more books for the Classics Club.
I was off to a good start with four earlier in the year, then I read two more. So six in twelve months -- not terrible, but not a huge number either. There's always room for improvement!

5. Start reading some of the anthologies and collections on my Classics Club list.
The idea behind this goal was that I could dip in and out of these types of books while also reading other things, but I still haven't managed it yet. This may be the perfect thing to try next year after baby arrives since reading in bits and pieces may be all I can manage for a while.

6. Work on my time management and make time for reading every day.
I did great on this one. I have read more this year than ever before and have been loving every minute of it. Taking a blogging break and cutting down on reviews also helped me make more time to read. No promises on how this will carry over into 2015 though!

7. Go to bed earlier and get more sleep.
I've had a few short stretches where I fell back into bad habits, but have been able to get myself back on track. For most of my first trimester, I was completely exhausted and sleeping a solid 10 hours every single night, so that really helped establish a better routine. I don't sleep so well now, but I do go to bed at a decent hour and figure waking up in the night will be good practice for when baby arrivese.

8. Try at least 50 new recipes.
I did really well on this one making 97 new recipes! My recipe list from the fist half of the year can be found here. The remaining new recipes for the year are listed below (but only the ones you can find online in case anyone wants to try them.)
Award-winning zucchini bread and muffins from Sally's Baking Addiction
Chocolate chip zucchini brownies from Two Peas and Their Pod
Cornmeal-berry sheet cake from Martha Stewart Living
Dark-chocolate spelt brownies from Martha Stewart Living
Healthy strawberry oat squares from Sally's Baking Addiction
Roast plum sorbet from River Cottage Every Day
Salted caramel apple crumb bars from Two Peas and Their Pod
Salted dulce de leche bars from Spoon Fork Bacon
Stone fruit tea cake from Rustic Fruit Desserts
Strawberry and honey sorbet from The Kitchn
Brownie batter truffles from Confessions of a Cookbook Queen
Chocolate Nutella fudge with sea salt from Cookin' Canuck
Chocolate chip cookie dough fudge from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook
Peanut butter fudge from Sally's Baking Addiction
No-bake Thin Mint cookie truffles from Six Sisters Stuff
Speculoos truffles from Savory Sweet
Chocolate peanut butter bark from Love and Olive Oil

Caramelized onion and goat cheese pizza from Cooking Light The Essential Dinner Tonight Cookbook
Collard and pecan pesto from Bon Appétit
Farm Stand marinara sauce from Food to Live By
Fresh ricotta cheese from Bon Appétit
Garlic dill pickles from Food in Jars
Garlic-scape pesto roast chicken from The Farm
Hoisin pork with napa cabbage from Fine Cooking
Kale pesto white bean dip from Annie's Eats
Par-baked pizza crust from Vegetarian Times
Raspberry vinegar from Food to Live By
Santa Fe pizza from The Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh Cookbook
Spinach pesto fusilli from Mad Hungry Cravings
Swiss chard, onion and cheese frittata from Williams-Sonoma Cooking from the Farmers' Market 

9. Choose one cookbook from my collection at a time and make several recipes from it.
Nope. Didn't manage to do this one. With too many cookbooks to choose from, I definitely had commitment issues! Also, with our CSA farm share, I needed to choose recipes that used up the fresh veggies we received before they went bad which was not compatible with cooking exclusively from one book.

10. No purchasing packaged sweets.
I did really well on this one... until I got pregnant. First, I lost my sweet tooth altogether and then when it came back, I only wanted plain, simple sweets like dark chocolate or dark chocolate peanut butter cups (OK and the occasional Hagaan-Dazs Sea Salt Caramel Gelato -- that stuff is GOOD!) I still wasn't buying cookies or baked goods, but store-bought treats definitely snuck their way back in.
* * * * *

Overall, I was successful with half of my goals. Some I did even better than anticipated on, while others were complete failures. You win some, you lose some, right? I'm not feeling up to making goals for 2015, especially since I anticipate it will be a year of the new and unexpected. I may give it a bit more thought, but for now I'm happy with going with the flow and just having a simple goal of making time to read on a regular basis -- not exactly earth-shattering, but I think that is realistic for my life right now.

How did you do on your goals for the year?
Are you setting new goals for 2015?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Show Your Shelves Some Love (A No Book Buying Challenge) Sign-Up Post

OK, so my final challenge for 2015 is kind of a big deal. I have SO many neglected books on my shelves that I think this challenge is necessary. Before you start thinking I've completely lost it, you should know they are not requiring us to go cold turkey on the book-buying (phew!) So I think I can use this challenge to make a nice dent in my TBR pile while also limiting the new books I acquire without making myself completely crazy. Major kudos to any fellow participants who are attempting to go cold turkey -- I admire your commitment and discipline!

I am aiming for the Purple Belt Level which is reading 31-40 books from my own shelves. This may not seem like a lot, but even reading almost 100 books this year so far, I only counted 28 that were my own copies -- the rest were borrowed from the library, including a large number of audiobooks. With a baby on the way, I anticipate reading less overall in 2015, but I'd like to shift my focus back toward what I already own when I do have the chance to read -- I bought all those books for a reason after all! And you may have noticed that when I signed up for my other four 2015 challenges, I made a point of listing book selections I already own -- so now you know why!

The ultimate goal of this challenge is to read more books from my shelves, so if I do make a few exceptions and allow myself a monthly budget, I think I can still work toward that goal while keeping the new acquisitions in check. Despite my best intentions and my Golden Rule of Book Buying, I totally fell off the wagon last year! Hopefully they won't kick me out of the challenge after this, but here are my exceptions/budget for the year:

Exception #1: Books that don't add to the TBR pile
Books for Baby -- I know I will borrow from the library a lot and my best friend is already dreaming up a book-themed baby shower, but I don't see any reason to abstain from buying baby books because 1. They would get read right away, so no worries about them sitting neglected on a shelf. 2. Books for baby don't really have anything to do with the piles and piles of my own unread books. No need to deprive the little one just because Mommy bought too many books for herself in the past.
Cookbooks -- I really do need to rein myself in when it comes to cookbooks, but the spirit of this challenge is all about reducing the number of new books added to my TBR in favor of reading the neglected books I already own. Whether or not I buy new cookbooks in 2015 will not affect my TBR, so I'm not going to force myself to commit to no new cookbooks.
Exception #2: Library Book Sale
Money collected benefits the library and books are usually $1 or $2 -- I don't see any reason to pass up books I find here throughout the year, though obviously I should not go overboard.
Exception #3: Used Bookstore Credit
I have a HUGE bag of books to trade in at the used bookstore by my Grandma's house when we visit for Christmas. When I have sufficient credit there, I can literally "buy" books for a 25 cent handling charge each. I can't see myself sitting on all that credit for a whole year without using it, BUT I do think I will probably use a lot of it to get baby books anyway (see above) which would be OK. If in the process, I see a few for me too, I think I can let it slide as long as I have enough credit to cover the order. Besides, if I splurge at Christmastime, it won't be 2015 yet! (hehehe)
Exception #4: Book Club Books
I should be able to borrow most of these from the library, but if I can't or it's a book I know I will want to keep, I will allow myself to purchase it. Since these are time sensitive, there are no worries about them sitting neglected on my shelves adding to the long-term TBR pile after I bring them home.
Despite all the exceptions I've already made, I would still be very limited compared to my usual habits when it comes to the shiny new books. Since there will always be a new release by a favorite author or the next book in a series that I want to buy and read right away, I will allow myself a "budget" of one book per month which can roll over if I do not use it. There is a good chance I will be so distracted and busy with a new baby that I won't even have a chance to think about buying new books, but you never know!
So there you have it, my final challenge for 2015. No matter how many interesting challenges pop up in the next few weeks, I am officially cutting myself off. Wish me luck! I think I'm going to need it :)