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 :)

Monday, December 15, 2014

2015 Outlander Series Challenge Sign-Up

I was starting to think I wasn't even going to use the full allotment of 5 challenges I am allowing myself for 2015, but then Kay announced this AWESOME challenge! I am already in the midst of an Outlander re-read, but since she says it is OK to get ahead (and I probably couldn't realistically finish one of these chunksters per month unless I dropped all other books anyway), I'm just going to keep plugging away and use this challenge as a motivation to read all the way through by the end of September. A head-start will really help too for when things get crazy in the spring having a newborn and all. If by some bizarre miracle, I actually end up too far ahead of schedule, I will happily move onto the "bonus" books and get caught up on the Lord John spin-off series as well.

At the moment, I am a good way through Dragonfly in Amber (#2) and will likely be well into Voyager (#3) by the time this challenge officially begins. If you've been wanting to try this epic series, come join us! I can't recommend it highly enough. Even with the massive page counts, I have read the first 4 books at least twice before now -- they are just that good! After I finish up my re-reads through A Breath of Snow and Ashes (#6), I'll finally be able to read An Echo in the Bone (#7) and Written in My Own Heart's Blood (#8) for the first time which I'm super-exited about. As for Lord John, I've read all of them once before except for The Scottish Prisoner (the one all about Jamie!), so I'm looking forward to a re-read and catch-up on that series as well.

This leaves me with just one challenge left for 2015 and I have a very interesting one in mind -- check back for more info on that soon!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Diversity on the Shelf 2015 Sign-Up Post

Alysia's Diversity on the Shelf Challenge is back! This is another one that was easy to choose as one of my five challenges for the year. I consider myself an eclectic reader and read a great variety of genres, but I also want to make sure my reading selections include authors and characters from all different backgrounds. I think reading is a great way to broaden one's horizons and see the world from another person's perspective, so choosing more diverse books is an important part of that.

I am open to discovering new authors and titles, but will start off the year with a list of the books I already own that qualify for this challenge. Just acquiring more diverse books is not enough, it's time to read them! I am going to officially sign up for the 2nd Shelf which is 7-12 books, and I have way more than that to choose from!

Classics/Modern Classics
Things Fall Apart, by Chinua Achebe
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Memories of My Melancholy Whores, by Gabriel García Márquez
Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel García Márquez
Of Love and Other Demons, by Gabriel García Márquez
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel García Márquez
Collected Stories, by Gabriel García Márquez
The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
The Stories of Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende
Eva Luna, by Isabel Allende
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros (re-read)

Maya's Notebook, by Isabel Allende
Daughter of Fortune, by Isabel Allende
The House Girl, by Tara Conklin
The Story of Beautiful Girl, by Rachel Simon
The Kitchen House, by Kathleen Grissom
Wench, by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
The Wedding Gift, by Marlen Suyapa Bodden
The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd
Happiness, Like Water, by Chinelo Okparanta
Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Rizzoli & Isles series, by Tess Gerritsen
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker

Young Adult
Summer series, by Jenny Han

The Color of Water, by James McBride
Primary Lessons, by Sarah Bracey White
Decoded, by Jay-Z

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Banned Books Challenge 2015 Sign-Up Post

I need a sign-up post for my own challenge, now don't I? Since I am trying to read mostly from my shelves in 2015, I am listing the options for this challenge that I already own. There are (of course!) some others I would like to read that I could borrow from the library, but I think I have more than enough to choose from here. 

If you're looking for more information, all of these titles can be found on my Goodreads Banned or Challenged Books shelf (as well as others I have already read and a few extra titles I don't have in my collection). The number of choices is a bit ridiculous, is it not? I should have no problem tackling the 6-9 books of the Rabble-Rouser Level I'm aiming for. If I really get on a roll, I may bump myself up a level, but we shall see how the year goes!

* * * * *

Middle Grade
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle
The Golden Compass, by Phillip Pullman
The Subtle Knife, by Phillip Pullman
The Amber Spyglass, by Phillip Pullman
The Giver, by Lois Lowry (re-read)
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis (re-read)

Young Adult
Harry Potter #3-#7, by JK Rowling (re-read)
Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson
Deenie, by Judy Blume
Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, by Judy Blume
Tiger Eyes, by Judy Blume
Forever..., by Judy Blume, by Judy Blume
What My Mother Doesn't Know, by Sonya Sones
Thirteen Reasons Why, by Jay Asher
Looking for Alaska, by John Green
Two Boys Kissing, by David Levithan
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs
The Miseducation of Cameron Post, by Emily Danforth
Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

Contemporary/Modern Classics
The Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett
The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving

Dangerous Liaisons, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
The Canterbury Tales, by Chaucer
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
Lady Chatterley's Lover, by DH Lawrence
Women in Love, by DH Lawrence
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Lord of the Flies, by William Golding
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (re-read)
Catcher in the Rye, by JD Salinger (re-read)
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury (re-read)

 * * * * *

 Want to join the Banned Books Challenge? Sign-up here!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Back to the Classics 2015 Sign-Up Post

The Back to the Classics Challenge is back for 2015! I joined way too many challenges in 2014, but this is one I've really been looking forward to trying again. I will be limiting myself to five or less challenges for 2015, so I am being very choosy and this one definitely makes the cut. I'd rather focus on a few special areas because updating and keeping track of 20 challenges was just downright ridiculous! And having a baby on the way, I'm trying to be realistic. I know life will be very different come the spring, but I do hope to not stop reading altogether.

There is one big change to the challenge this year I'm really excited about -- we get to pick which six (or nine, or twelve) categories we want to complete instead of there being specific required categories. So if I don't like a particular category (2014's A Classic About War, I'm looking at you!) I can skip it and still complete the challenge. Of course, this year I like all the categories, but I don't anticipate being able to finish all twelve, so having some leeway is much appreciated.

All works still need to be at least 50 years old to qualify, but otherwise there is a lot of flexibility. I would like to complete this challenge using books I already own, so I've looked over my shelves and am listing some possibilities for each category below.

1. A 19th Century Classic
Too many options to list! I have approximately 30 books that qualify, so whichever I feel like reading that I don't want to count elsewhere.

2. A 20th Century Classic
Same as #1! I have approximately 45 books that qualify to choose from.

3. A Classic by a Woman Author
A Jane Austen book
An Edith Wharton book
An Agatha Christie mystery
Gothic Tales, by Elizabeth Gaskell
Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Nora Zeale Hurston
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
The Poems of Emily Dickinson
I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith

4. A Classic in Translation
Bel Ami, by Guy DeMaupassant
Selected Short Stories, by Guy DeMaupassant
Dangerous Liasions, by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Aesop's Fables

5. A Very Long Classic Novel
The Woman in White, by Wilkie Collins
The Moonstone, by Wilkie Collins
Women in Love, by D.H. Lawrence
Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen

6. A Classic Novella
A Sherlock Holmes novella, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
The Haunting of Hill House, by Shirley Jackson
Summer, by Edith Wharton
Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton

7. A Classic with a Person's Name in the Title
Ethan Frome, by Edith Wharton
Lady Chatterley's Lover, by DH Lawrence
Emma, by Jane Austen
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
Rebecca, by Daphne DuMaurier

8. A Humorous or Satirical Classic
The Devil's Dictionary, by Ambrose Bierce
Selected Stories, by O. Henry

9. A Forgotten Classic
The Rainbow, by DH Lawrence
Joy in the Morning, by Betty Smith

10. A Nonfiction Classic
Don't have any! Will need to check the library if I choose this category.

11. A Classic Children's Book
A Chronicles of Narnia book, by CS Lewis
A Nancy Drew Mystery, by Carolyn Keene
The Enchanted Castle, by E. Nesbit
Five Children and It, by E. Nesbit
A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeline L'Engle

12. A Classic Play
The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde

Note: Even though I have a few books listed as possibilities for multiple categories, each book can only count for one category in the challenge. So if I choose Ethan Frome as my classic with person's name in the title, I would choose a different book for my classic novella. I just like knowing what my options are, especially for the more specific categories.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Books I Didn't Blog About: The Rest

With this post, I will finally be caught up with all the books I read while on my unofficial blogging/reviewing break. Luckily, the 1 and 2 star books are few since I hate to waste precious reading time on books I don't really enjoy.

It was OK (2 star reads)

by Margaret Stohl
Borrowed from Library / Hardcover

After enjoying Icons, I was looking forward to this sequel, but it just wasn't as good as I was hoping. I re-read Icons as an audiobook in preparation and wish I had continued with audio for this second book. The narration of the first really added to the story I think. I would normally never re-read a 2-star book, but I may make an exception at some point since my library has gotten it on audio.

* * * * *

Team Human
by Justine Larbalestier & Sarah Rees Brennan
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook / For Book Club

I never would have finished this (or picked it up to begin with!) if not for book club. I tried it in print first and I just couldn't sit still and take the time to read it. I switched to audio, so I could multitask which was definitely the right move. The narrator was very good and I think the audio version is a superior reading experience -- if not for the audio this would have been a 1-star or a DNF for sure.

* * * * *

Didn't like it (1 star reads)

Flesh Which Is Not Flesh
by Jessica Verday
Purchased / eBook Short Story

I heard about this one due to all the controversy surrounding it. On principle, I wanted to love it, but I found the story itself very weird, regardless of the gender and sexual orientation of the love interests.

* * * * *

Friday, December 5, 2014

Banned Books Challenge 2015: Review Link-Up

For full information about this challenge and to sign-up, please see this post first.

Use this page to link-up your reviews of books you read for the 2015 Banned Books Challenge so that we can read them! Feel free to link to wherever you post reviews -- your blog, GoodReads, Amazon, B&N, etc., etc. 

Please make sure to use the direct URL to your individual post/review, NOT the book's information page or your blog's homepage. If you do not write reviews, you can leave a comment telling us which books you've read.

UPDATE: If you choose to write a wrap-up post, you can link that here as well. The linky will remain open for reviews and wrap-ups until January 15, 2016.

Note: Please only link up reviews for books read/reviewed in 2015 -- if you have an older review of a banned book you've read previously and would like to share with the group, please tell us about it in the comments instead.

To make it easier to find your reviews, please include the name of the book in addition to your blog name. For Example:

The Great Gatsby @Buckling Bookshelves
Perks of Being a Wallflower @Your Blog Name Here

Banned Books Challenge 2015: Sign-Ups

I wasn't sure if I would host again this year, but then I remembered that once I set everything up, it pretty much runs itself. So the Banned Books Challenge is back for its third year! Besides, I really want to join myself, so I hope there are at least a few other people out there who'd like to participate with me.

This is a very low pressure challenge -- the whole idea is to have fun and read some books that censors have tried to keep off the shelves. I feel there is tremendous value in reading even one banned book, so I'm starting the levels low to encourage more people to give it a try -- but if you're feeling daring, try for one of the higher levels!

DATES: January 1, 2015 through December 31, 2015

RULES: Any book that has been banned or challenged counts. Books can be any format, any length, and can overlap with other challenges. Graphic novels, children's books, picture books are all fine -- any book that has been banned or challenged works for this challenge.

WHERE CAN I FIND BOOK SUGGESTIONS? There isn't one specific list to work from, but there are many different resources you can check out for ideas:
  • The ALA's lists of frequently challenged books. There are multiple lists split up by author, year, decade, and a separate list for classics, so there are a lot of options from all different genres.
  • GoodReads has several listopia lists on the subject -- this is particularly helpful for identifying books you already have on your shelves if you are a user of the site.
  • If you learn about a book getting challenged in the news, on a book blog, around the web, or wherever else you get your bookish news, it's fair game. One book that made headlines last year was The Miseducation of Cameron Post -- it doesn't need to make any of the big lists to count. And if you learn about a new incident, I'd love to hear about it!

HOW TO PARTICIPATE: Write a post identifying which level you are aiming to complete, linking to this sign-up post. If you don't have a blog, just leave a comment below stating what level you are trying for. Listing the books you'd like to read for the year is optional. If you do make a list, you are welcome to change it at any time.

For each book you read for the challenge, you can link-up your reviews here, so we can read them! Reviews can be as short or long as you like, even a one-liner is fine. If you don't have a blog, but post reviews on GoodReads or other similar site, you can link directly to your reviews there. If you don't post reviews, you can leave a comment on the Review Link-Up page telling us which books you completed.

A year-end wrap-up post is optional and you may link yours up in the review linky if you choose to write one.

LEVELSBelow are the levels you can choose from. Changing your mind is OK -- you can go up or down in level at any time. I said low-pressure, remember? I'm not the book police, I promise.

     Making Waves: 1-2 Challenged Books
     Trouble-Maker: 3-5 Challenged Books
     Rabble-Rouser: 6-9 Challenged Books
     Rebel: 10-14 Challenged Books
     Leader of a Revolution: 15+ Challenged Books

So link up below, grab a badge if you'd like, and get reading! (UPDATE: The Linky will remain open for sign-ups until Dec. 15, 2015.)

Monday, December 1, 2014

November in Books

I still have one final catch-up post, but in the interest of getting back on some sort of track, I thought I would share my November books before we get too far into December and the holidays. My hope is to make this a monthly thing instead of doing full book reviews since those aren't really working for me lately. I never have kept track by the month before though, so I think it will be interesting to see how much I read and what kinds of things I read on a monthly basis. I'll be going by the date I finish a book, so books that cross more than one month won't be mentioned until I'm done with them.

* * * * *

The Hunt
by Andrew Fukuda
Borrowed from Library / Hardcover / For Book Club
2 stars

Not impressed by this one at all. I did want to know what happens in the end and it was a fast read, so I managed to finish it before the book club meeting, but I'm not sure that's really saying much. There were so many weird things about this world and things that didn't make logical sense to me. Normally, I'm really good at suspending my disbelief, but I was questionings things left and right throughout this book because the oddities seemed so glaring to me. I'm kind of curious to know how the trilogy continues, but have no desire to keep reading -- riddle me that one! There is a cliff-hanger ending, so even though I didn't like the book much, the story feels unfinished. I may just look up spoiler-y reviews at some point just to see where things end up.

* * * * *

The Secret of the Old Clock
by Carolyn Keene
3 stars
Borrowed from Library / Hardcover / Re-Read?

I read a lot of Nancy Drew as a kid -- probably more of the later Nancy Drew Files than the earlier "yellow flashlight" books -- but I'm still fairly certain I've at least read the early ones in the original series before. It's all a bit fuzzy though, I must admit. As Carolyn of Riedel Fascination pointed out in her review, this really is not the best example of the Nancy Drew series. It sets the stage and introduces a classic character, but the writing quality is not up to par with later books. I also encountered a pet peeve of mine I didn't even know I had -- the tendency to put Nancy's thoughts into quotation marks as if they were dialogue -- is this a stylistic thing or is she really meant to be talking to herself out loud all the time? It just rubbed me the wrong way every time I came across it, though thankfully it seems to happen much less often as I moved onto the second book.

* * * * *

The Hidden Staircase
by Carolyn Keene
Borrowed from Library / Hardcover / Re-Read?
4 stars

A marked improvement in quality over the first book and a much better representation of the classic girl detective. I think I will continue reading through the series a bit at a time for a nostalgic trip down memory lane, though I must admit they really aren't quite the same when read as an adult.

* * * * *

The Rosie Project
by Graham Simsion
Purchased / Paperback / For Book Club
4 stars

A fast read with some really memorable characters -- it actually felt a lot like The Big Bang Theory (which I love) in book form. I had been hesitant due to all the hype, but bought it a few months ago when I saw it on the discounted bestseller shelf at my local bookstore and remembered it was on the upcoming book club schedule at my library. I usually only attend the Young Adult book discussion and I'm so glad this was the book that finally got me to join an "adult" book discussion. I'm looking forward to the sequel that will be published later this month though I have already heard very mixed reviews that unfortunately seem to be skewing toward disappointment.

* * * * *

Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
by Bill Dedman & Paul Clark Newell, Jr.
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook
4 stars

A very interesting non-fiction book I've been meaning to read ever since it came out last year. This story of an eccentric, little-known heiress was really great as an audiobook, though I did also borrow the print edition so I could look at all the photographs. The audio included actual voice clips of Hugette which I thought were excellent additions, though a little hard to understand if I was listening in the car. I think the authors (including a relative of Ms. Clark's) did a great job with the research and presenting the story of her life. There is still a question in my mind about whether or not Ms. Clark's generosity was taken advantage of by certain parties, but I'm not sure that can be definitively answered after the fact.

* * * * *

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
by Barbara Robinson
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook / Re-Read
5 stars

Love, love, LOVE this book. I first read it in 6th grade and then re-read it last year as an audiobook which I did again this year while baking my first batch of Christmas cookies. It's such a wonderful book to read around the holidays and I think it could easily become an annual tradition.

* * * * *

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
by Sherman Alexie
Purchased / Paperback / For Book Club
4 stars

It seems I enjoyed this one the most out of our book club group. I am completely fascinated by books that have been challenged or banned (obviously, given the challenge I host!) and it tends to make me enjoy them even more. I loved the character and voice of Junior and felt like he was sitting next to me telling me his story. This book explored a lot of important topics including bullying, racism, and alcoholism in a very approachable way. I can see why this has become a modern classic and is frequently assigned in schools. The cartoons were great additions to the text and I think this has the potential to really resonate with the intended age group.

* * * * *

7 Books Read (5 print + 2 audio)
1205 Pages
15 Audiobook Hours

Reading Challenges:
Banned Books
New to Me
Prequel & Sequel
My Kind of Mystery
Diversity on the Shelf

Friday, November 28, 2014

Books I Didn't Blog About: The Good Stuff

Well, I thought 4 stars was a very common rating for me, but I think I was forgetting about all the 3-star books I've been reading lately! I give a book this rating when it's not a favorite I absolutely loved (5 stars), nor is it a book I really liked (4 stars), but is definitely a step above just OK (2 stars). These are all books I liked -- ones I enjoyed reading, but I'm not that likely to re-read (there are exceptions, of course!) Here goes nothing...

Liked it (3 star reads)


Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

A dark, twisty psychological thriller as promised, but the ending was SO unsatisfying.

* * * * *

Sharp Objects
by Gillian Flynn
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

I liked this one a bit better than Gone Girl. It may have even been darker & twistier (with a far better ending), but it just wasn't as creepy as it should have been as an audiobook. I'm planning to read Flynn's third book Dark Places in print to see how I like her stories not on audio.

* * * * *

Bird Box
by Josh Mallerman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

Creepy for sure, but not actually as scary as I thought it would be. More a tale of survival, strength, and determination than anything else.

* * * * *

Heat Wave
by Richard Castle
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

A fun read if you're a fan of Castle. Nothing particularly special though. Not sure if I will read the others or not.

* * * * *


The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde
by Robert Louis Stevenson
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook / Classics Club

The basic jist of this story is such common knowledge at this point that I found the reading experience somewhat lacking. I imagine it was a very shocking tale at the time it was published though. If you are somehow a modern reader that is not familiar with the storyline, definitely give it a go!

* * * * *


by Lauren Oliver
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

Basically a book of high school hijinks. Hard to relate to as an adult, I must admit (not that I was the targeted audience!) I really only picked this one up because I liked Oliver's Delirium series, but this didn't live up to expectations for me.

* * * * *

Where She Went
by Gayle Forman
Purchased / Paperback

I was interested to find out what happened to the characters after If I Stay, but this sequel didn't quite live up to the first for me.

* * * * *

Grave Mercy
by Robin LeFevers
Won from Giveaway / Paperback

I had majorly high expectations for this one and was so excited it was a book club pick, but it just was not as good as I had hoped it would be. It took me a long time to get into and I wasn't all that invested in the main character. It also seemed much longer than it needed to be. I will continue the series though because the sequels focus on other characters and I have heard they get better from others who were also so-so about the first book.

* * * * *

by Margaret Stohl
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook / Re-Read

I re-read this one in preparation for the sequel, Idols. I really enjoyed it as an audiobook and should not have switched back to print for Idols (which you'll notice did not make the cut for this 3-star post!)

* * * * *


by Neil Gaiman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook + Hardcover

Just lovely! A short, illustrated book giving the reader "instructions" for how to make their way through a fairy tale. Also tried as a (super-short!) audio, but the illustrated book is much better.

* * * * *

The Wolves in the Walls
by Neil Gaiman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook + Hardcover

An interesting, imaginative story. I am definitely a fan of Gaiman's books for younger readers. I tend to give them 3 stars which reflects my own level of enjoyment of the books, but I think they are even better when read by (or to) readers of the intended age range.

* * * * *

Fortunately, the Milk
by Neil Gaiman
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook + Hardcover

A fun, imaginative book with great illustrations -- I had tried it on audio first, but then also read the print book after I found out it was illustrated. Perfect for younger readers.

* * * * *

The Riverman
by Aaron Starmer
From publisher for review / Print Advanced Reading Copy

A unique story with interesting characters, but it took an odd turn at one point that really didn't sit right with me. I also didn't realize this is the first in a series which I wasn't too thrilled about. I don't plan to continue with the rest of the trilogy.

* * * * *


by Michael Pollan
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

My least favorite of Pollan's so far, but there is still a lot to learn about the history of food and cooking.

* * * * *

Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery
by Robert Kolker
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

I was intrigued by this title because I grew up on Long Island, but didn't really know much about the Craigslist murders. The book is very interesting, but it certainly has its limitations considering the case remains unsolved. I appreciated the author's approach of telling the story of the victims' lives rather than just their deaths, but I also had a very hard time keeping all the different stories and people straight.

* * * * *

Frozen In Time: An Epic Story of Survival and a Modern Quest for Lost Heroes of World War II
by Mitchell Zuckoff
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook / For Book Club

An unbelieveable true story. I cannot even imagine what it was like for these men in the frigid wasteland of Greenland -- it is truly remarkable any of them were able to survive!

* * * * *

Bad Feminist
by Roxane Gay
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

I have heard nothing but praise for this book and I did find it quite thought-provoking, but it just didn't speak to me in quite the same way it has to others. I wholeheartedly agree that it is better to be an imperfect feminist than to abandon the movement altogether (because feminism IS important -- for both men & women). However, for someone who says she is an imperfect feminist I found Gay to be critical in the extreme of some things I think have room for gray areas. The essays run a wide gamut though and I think there is a little something here for just about everyone.

* * * * *

Not Becoming My Mother and Other Things She Taught Me Along the Way
by Ruth Reichl
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

A quick read that was nice to listen to around Mother's Day.

* * * * *

Letter to My Daughter
by Maya Angelou
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

Lovely narration by the author herself whom I've been meaning to read more of, especially since learning of her passing. Angelou never had a daughter, but writes this book to all women. In sharing her own experiences, Angelou imparts the wisdom and lessons she has learned over the years. I think I might need to give this another read to fully appreciate all it has to offer.

* * * * *

Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness
by George Saunders
Borrowed from Library / Audiobook

Short & sweet with a good message for graduates -- or anyone!

* * * * *

Phew! That was a lot of books. There is a light at the end of the tunnel now though -- I haven't read many 1-star, 2-star, or DNF books so when I share those, it will be a short post that finally catches me up on all of my recent reading. Hope everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Reading Challenges:
New to Me
Book to Movie
Prequel & Sequel
Foodies Read
My Kind of Mystery
Back to the Classics
Classics Club #7
Review Pile
Lucky No. 14
Diversity on the Shelf
Historical Fiction

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR List

It's been a really long time since I did a Top Ten Tuesday and I wasn't going to join in today either until I started seeing everyone else's lists! I'm going to fudge "winter" a bit and call this the 10 books I'd like to read before baby is due in April. I'm not going to beat myself up if I don't end up reading them all. But I thought this would be a good opportunity to pick out a few I'd really like to get to soon since things will be very up in the air come spring. I tend to be a mood reader, so my current mood is definitely reflected in this list and it may change -- but don't worry, I will never have a lack of choices when it comes to reading material if I change my mind!

Outlander series #2-#4, by Diana Gabaldon
I want to read all eight, but I'm trying to be realistic here. I've slowed down since finishing my re-read of the first book because I am also reading other things. I would be extremely happy if I got through the next three over the next few months.

* * * * *

by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)
I CANNOT believe I haven't read these two yet!

* * * * *

Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
I'm ashamed to admit I have a looooong overdue ARC of this one which is crazy because I've been wanting to read it since the moment I first heard about it.

* * * * *

The Rehearsal, by Eleanor Catton
I've been wanting to read this one ever since all the hubbub over The Luminaries. I went to an all-girls Catholic school, but have never read a book set in one, so I am very intrigued.

* * * * *

The Secret History, by Donna Tartt
Another author where I feel I don't want to start with the massively long, award-winning book. And I've heard nothing but praise for this earlier book of Tartt's.

* * * * *

At least one YA book
I haven't been gravitating toward YA quite as much lately, but I have SO many I want to read I'm having a hard time choosing!

* * * * *

At least 1 Classic
At the moment, I can't decide on a title, but I have been neglecting my classics reading and would like to read at least one Classics Club book soon.