Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Show Your Shelves Some Love Challenge: January Update + 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!

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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

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

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

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

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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.

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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!)

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

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