Sunday, February 25, 2018

March Take Control Of Your TBR Pile Challenge: My Sign-up Post

I don't join too many month-long challenges, but this one hosted by Kimberly over on Caffeinated Reviewer is a favorite. This will actually be the 5th year I participate -- I missed the year I was 8 months pregnant -- hmmmm.... I wonder why?

Anyway, the idea is simple: "for the entire month of March, you focus on reading/listening to books in your TBR pile released before March 1, 2018. They can be eBooks, physical books or audiobooks."

I'm not much of a new release reader, so these rules aren't actually much of a challenge for me. But I am going to add my own focus and try to read only TBR books I own during the month. Different readers define their TBRs differently so there is no rule against library books for this challenge -- just the one I'm self-imposing because my shelves are bursting at the seams :)

Come join!

I usually don't bother with a book list for the month because I'm pretty terrible at sticking to that sort of thing, but there are a few I am definitely planning to read:

Books #2-5 in the Time Quintet are to continue with Top Shelf Text's read-along. I *should* be done with A Wind in the Door before March starts, but in case I lag behind, I'm including it here.

The middle grade novel-in-verse Finding Wonders: Three Girls Who Changed Science is a March Diverse Books Club pick. 

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Anyone else joining? What's on your TBR stack for the month?

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Classics Club: Wrap-Up

Well, the 5-year end date (February 8th) for my Classics Club project has officially come and gone. Any regular readers of this little corner of the internet probably won't be surprised to hear that I did not complete 50 classics in the past 5 years. Once I switched my focus to children's classics and loosened some self-imposed restrictions (i.e. I wanted to count all the Winnie the Pooh books as just 1 entry for the Classics Club, rather than 4), I did manage to read 32 (list of titles here). I'm pretty pleased with that number, but it's a far cry from my original goal.

And the part of this project meant to encourage blogging about classics (rather than just reading them) was a total flop for me. I only blogged about 15 of the books which includes one brief mention, some mini-reviews, and only a total of 8 individual posts:

Looking back on this list, it strikes me that even though I really struggled to blog about classics, several of these posts were so fun to write (and discuss in comments). Those last three " an Adult" ones were some of my very favorites and it was so wonderful to hear other readers' memories and experiences of beloved books. I need to remember that as I continue on my classics journey, without the added *pressure* of a Classics Club list.

I'll admit, I am still tempted to try again and jump back in with a new list, but if I am really honest with myself, I need to admit that joining this (wonderful!) group hasn't actually motivated me to pick up classics with any kind of regularity. And funnily enough, I've completed not one, but TWO more classics since my Classics Club period came to an end! I was about 25% of the way into A Little Princess on the 8th which I finished a few days later. I then went on to start and finish A Wrinkle in Time this past weekend. That's two classics in 11 days compared to 32 in roughly 1,825 days!

I won't pretend I'll be keeping up that pace, but clearly something else has been encouraging me to pick up classics when I don't have a Classics Club project to work on. The short answer is the CarrotTopPaperShop Kindred Spirit Club. Jenny Williams, the artist behind the shop, has just recently started a bit of an impromptu book club amongst her newsletter subscribers over in her Kindred Spirit Facebook group. I'm trying to be on Facebook as little as possible these days, but I still joined in order to jump in on the discussions. I haven't contributed a whole lot, but I enjoy hearing other people's thoughts and most of all I really just enjoy reading along with a group -- especially when it's a classic I've otherwise delayed picking up.

So while the Classics Club does bring readers/bloggers together, we're all still really just doing our own thing. At least for the moment, the book club approach is the way to go for me. And it certainly helps that almost all of the books suggested for future discussions are ones I have on my shelves and/or actively want to read. Jenny's shop (and her taste in books) has a focus on literary heroines, so I probably shouldn't be surprised! I also think the more I read with this group, the more I will get in the habit of reading classics and the easier it might be to pick them up on my own going forward -- we shall see!

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P.S. I'd be remiss not to mention that Madeleine of Top Shelf Text just hosted a read-along of A Wrinkle in Time over on her Instagram account and I plan to continue reading along with her for the rest of the series. It was quite the convenient overlap that I could read A Wrinkle in Time along with so many people :)

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Check out CarrotTopPaperShop for prints, greeting cards, totes, bookplates, and more -- she has lots of great stuff perfect for a library, nursery, kids room, or anywhere, really :)

The next Kindred Spirit Club Facebook discussion of A Wrinkle in Time will take place on March 6th if you want to join!

Subscribe to the Kindred Spirit newsletter for updates, deals, etc.

And find more info about The Classics Club if you want to join up there!

Monday, February 12, 2018

The 2018 ALA Youth Media Awards have been announced!

Blog posts two days in a row is practically unheard of for me. But I just watched the live webcast of the ALA Youth Media Awards and you guys, it was so exciting! It's like a kidlit-loving bookworm's Oscars, but better! (Just let me nerd out, OK? I know you understand.) I missed the first 15 minutes because the link I bookmarked yesterday was wrong -- it just kept repeating a Jack Black snippet about libraries over and over again (a bit maddening, to be honest!) Anyway, I found the correct link and watched the remaining 45 minutes. My son goes to his grandparents' house on Mondays, so it was a wonderfully uninterrupted 45 minutes, too. Of course I have plenty of work and housework waiting for me, but this was too good to miss!

Since I've gotten much more immersed in children's literature over the past year, this was really the first time I knew enough about new books being published to eagerly anticipate the announcements. In past years, it wouldn't be uncommon for me to not have heard of a single title until after the awards were announced. Not this year! I had heard of lots of the books that won AND I've actually read some.

There are so many awards and wonderful books to explore, but I thought I would just share a quick list of the books I've already read -- and loved -- that took home a medal or an honor this morning:

First up, two Diverse Books Club picks!

This book won all the things. It's just that good.
The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas (audiobook narrated by Bahni Turpin)

Coretta Scott King Author Honor 
{outstanding books by an African-American author}

Printz Honor 
{excellence in YA}

Odyssey Award 
{best audiobook for children and/or young adults}

William C. Morris Award 
{debut book for teens}

We Are Okay, by Nina LeCour

Printz Award
{excellence in YA}

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Next is an outstanding novel-in-verse. I'm not sure I've ever seen a book win an honor or medal for both the Printz (teen) and Newbery (children's)? Does anyone know if that's ever happened before? The Newbery is for ages up to and including 14, while the Printz is for ages 12-18. This book's jacket says for ages 12 & up -- so it makes sense! I just feel like this particular overlap is possibly even less common than the Newbery-Caldecott overlap. If you know any more about this, please share in the comments!

All the honors. It's so good.
Long Way Down, by Jason Reynolds (audiobook narrated by the author)

Newbery Honor
{most outstanding contribution to children's literature}

Coretta Scott King Author Honor 
{outstanding books by an African-American author}

Printz Honor 
{excellence in YA}

Odyssey Award Honor
{best audiobook for children and/or young adults}

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Next is an audiobook honor I actually listened to on audio! Stephen Fry is one of my all-time favorite narrators and I was so excited to see this production get a nod.

A Boy Called Christmas, by Matt Haig; narrated by Stephen Fry

Odyssey Award Honor
{best audiobook for children and/or young adults}

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Next we have the picture books. I borrowed a LOT of new picture books in 2017 from my library, so I found the picture book awards particularly exciting!

Out of Wonder, illustrated by Ekua Holmes; written by Kwame Alexander with Chris Colderly & Marjory Wentworth

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award 
{outstanding books by an African-American illustrator}

A Different Pond, illustrated by Thi Bui; written by Bao Phi

Caldecott Honor
{most distinguished picture book for children}

I only gave this one 3 stars when I read it. I think I need to revisit it.
Wolf in the Snow, by Matthew Cordell

Caldecott Medal
{most distinguished picture book for children}

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These last two I have not read yet, but they were on my TBR before the awards were announced. While I really would like to read ALL THE BOOKS that won awards today, these two are on my shelves already waiting for me.

Alex Award 
{adult book with appeal to teen audiences}

I won a free copy of this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway, but never read it!
Hello, Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly

Newbery Medal 
{most outstanding contribution to children's literature}

P.S. I will be buddy-reading this book with Julie from Smiling Shelves starting on Wednesday if anyone wants to follow along over on Litsy! Find us @Bucklingbkshelf  @smilingshelves

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Check out all the winners and honors here. The top two titles I want to read and/or pick up a copy of (that I don't already have) are: Piecing Me Together, by RenĂ©e Watson and #Notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy & Mary Beth Leatherdale.

Have you read any of today's winners or honors? Which ones are on your TBR? I'd love to know!

Sunday, February 11, 2018

That Time I Accidentally Organized My Bookshelves

Last weekend, I was looking at my shelves and realizing how many of them were precariously doubled up to such an extent that I couldn't see half of the books on many of them. I remembered I had a small, lightweight bookcase I hid away in a closet after I got tired of constantly re-shelving it. For some reason, my son was particularly attracted to tearing everything off those particular shelves. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. He still loves to pull his own books down, but for the most part, the "adult" books don't hold as much appeal. Nor does the simple act of pulling everything down just because he can (for the most part).

So this small bookcase was a $5 garage sale find many years ago. Instead of flat shelves, each level has two wooden slats that hold the books on a backward slant (hard to explain, but bear with me). It is the perfect setup for small books like mass market paperbacks. So I was indeed using it for my mass markets which meant it held a mishmash of genres. Sorting books by size doesn't exactly result in an efficient or logical organizational system. But there was one benefit of this system: it actually wasn't full -- in fact, it was only about half full. So I figured that just by using that bookcase again, I should be able to declutter my main shelves a bit, as long as I figured out what to put on it so I would be utilizing the whole thing.

I started thinking about how many Newbery books I have in my collection, how I want to read more of them, and how disorganized and hard they are to find and it hit me -- this could be my Newbery shelf! So I told my son we were doing a "project" and he helped me carry all those shiny medal-ed books from all the places they were haphazardly occupying all over the house. After I saw approximately how many there were, I made the decision to keep series and sequels together even if all the individual books were not Newberys.

Don't mind the makeshift quilt/blackout curtain.

Hardcovers and over-sized paperbacks fit as long as I put them on the top shelf. From the left, I started with stand-alone Medalists, followed by stand-alone Honors, then filled in the rest with series/sequels that include either Medal and/or Honor books. Boy, do I have a lot of Newbery reading to look forward to!

So once I had this Newbery bookcase all set, the rest of our books were even messier than before I started. The only other spot in the house with extra room was my nightstand bookcase. It had been housing a completely random assortment of old ARCs (::hangs head in shame::) and newly acquired books with no where else to go. I pulled those all off and decided I wanted to do another themed bookcase: poetry and novels-in-verse. 

Hey Julie, that top shelf is starting to smile! :)

I just love how both of these turned out! I can now so easily navigate two categories of books I'm actively interested in reading more of. I can actually see what all my choices are when I want to pick up my next Newbery or novel-in-verse, or I'm looking for my next poetry collection to dip into.

So the "accidentally" part of this blog post title comes into play because I really thought I was just going to fill up one bookcase (which turned into two!) that had some extra space so I could de-clutter the main shelves a bit. But once I was underway, everything just got messier and messier and I ended up pulling down almost all of the YA, Middle Grade, and Children's books from my main shelves, so I could do a revamp. I finally figured out where to stash away the rest of the Christmas books because as much as I'd love to keep them out, I just don't have room for all the seasonal stuff year-round. (A privileged problem to have, I know.) My shelves are not alphabetical, but they are back to being grouped roughly by type rather than like an archaeological site where you had to dig around for various piles grouped based on when they were added to the collection. There is still a lot of doubling up, but not so much that I can't see what's in the back layer anymore.

Once I had most of the books back on the main shelves, I realized there was still a bit of overflow if I wanted to keep the doubling-up in check. So I moved a few classic middle grade series (Paddington Bear, The Borrowers, The Moomins, and Enid Blyton), a random anthology that didn't fit anywhere else, and my short stack of library/read-soon books to this little shelf in the guest room.

Of course, everything now fits with basically no wiggle room, so I now need to: 1. keep myself in check with the book buying (hello, budget!) and 2. do a real clean out. I know the best way to organize any kind of stuff is to first get rid of some of it, but I did not have the brain power to make culling decisions that day, so I didn't even try. But a student at my church is running a book drive at the end of the month, so I'm thinking by then I will make a better attempt to see what books should move onto a new home.

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How do you organize your bookshelves? I'd love to know!

Also, I'm so excited to see if any of my middle grade books need to migrate to the Newbery shelf when the winners are announced tomorrow (Monday, Feb 12th)! There will be a live webcast of the ALA Youth Media Awards, including Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and more starting at 8AM Mountain time. Are there any books you're rooting for?

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Links I'm Loving Lately [1]

A lot of bloggers share link round-ups, but I was particularly inspired to get in on the link love by Reading With Jade's recent Blog Posts I've Enjoyed Lately series :)

I've been sitting on this post for a little while, so this first list is longer than it probably should be -- but I just had too many great posts flagged to whittle it down any further! I'm splitting it up by category so it's easier to skip around depending on what may or may not interest you. This list is (obviously) curated based on my own favorite sites, interests, and topics, but I hope there is a little something for everyone :) 

Bookish News
+National Book Foundation Announces The National Book Award For Translated Literature

Challenges & Projects
+The Unread Shelf Project 2018 {The Ardent Biblio}
+Some Reading Resolutions for 2018 {The Ardent Biblio}
+The Picky Pledge 2018 {So Obssessed With}

Reviews that *made* me buy the book
+a beautifully imagined fairy tale {Orange Marmalade}
+Pathways to Music {Children's Books Daily} There are a lot of books in this post, but A Certain Music, by Celeste Walters is the one I hopped over to Amazon for :)
+Audiobook Review: The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland {Bookshelf Fantasies} [Though I bought a print copy!]
+Recommendation: Rachel Macy Stafford at Hands Free Mama {Motherhood and Manuscripts} [This isn't exactly a book review, but I bought all 3 of this author's books after Kristin's many mentions of her work :)]

+Reading Multiple Books at Once {Smiling Shelves}
+How Reading with Your Children Can Help Them Develop a ‘Yes Brain’ {Brightly} [I loved these authors' Whole Brain Child book, so this new one intrigues me!]
+How to Make Using the Library Less Stressful: Part 1 + Part 2 {Everyday Reading}

+25 classics that are not remotely boring {Modern Mrs. Darcy}
+Classic Children’s Books by the Decade: 1990s {What Do We Do All Day?} Links to earlier decades' lists are also in this post! [P.S. There are a TON of great resources on this site and Erica's weekly email (where I found this older post) with her curated selection of links is the PERFECT way to dip into the archives. This is the ONLY book blog I am on an email list for and I can't recommend it enough!]

The Mom Life
+My Mantra for 2018: Let It Be {Motherhood and Manuscripts}
+the permission of silence {Finding Joy}
+to the mom always a step behind {Finding Joy}
+what I was meant to write {Finding Joy}

+40 Fantastic Consumable Gifts {Everyday Reading}

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I hope you find some inspiration from some of these wonderful blogs! Which reminds me, I'm overdue to update my blogroll -- an updated list will be available soon under the tab "Blogs I Read" :)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

My First Month on a Book Budget

Going on a $25/month book budget has been a brand new experience for me. It has really made me realize how much of a habit I am in of just buying books willy-nilly. I am fully aware I am fortunate and privileged to be able to buy books at all, but you guys, sticking to $25 was still hard! I only went over by a little bit -- and I had a LOT of cushion this month -- so I am acutely aware this was likely the easiest month of the whole year -- and I still struggled!

So why am I calling this month easy? Well, I had a $25 Christmas Amazon gift card, $13 and change in credit card points to spend at Amazon, a $20 Target gift card as a bonus gift for purchasing a bunch of baby necessities, and I redeemed $31 of Ibotta rebate cash (referral link here!). All of those fall under my exceptions -- and I spent all of them. I more than quadrupled my budget for the month...and still went over by $5.57. I may get all (or most) of that $5.57 back because my credit card does a 60-day price match thingy and a book I pre-ordered on Amazon never dropped from full list price before it shipped. I highly doubt it's not going to be discounted soon -- I mean, this is Amazon we're talking about! But still, there is absolutely no guarantee I will get a price difference refund and I feel like I'm entering slippery slope territory here.

So with a full month under my belt, I've come to a few conclusions...

1. I really hate counting $1-$3 Audible deals and Kindle cookbook deals toward my budget
2. I really hate counting $0.50-$1 library discards toward my budget
3. #1 and #2 add up more quickly than you'd think when you're on a budget!
4. I'm still counting #1 and #2 toward my budget, but will admit that if I go over by those small amounts, I'm not going to sweat it.
5. I decided early on that if/when I do go over for a month, I'm not counting the deficit against the following month.
6. #5 makes it really tempting to make an "oh what the heck!" purchase at the end of the month, knowing I'm going to get to start over on the 1st.
7. I'm really good at making excuses and exceptions. My ibotta cash redemption helped balance my budget, but only after I had already gone over (and by more than the final $5.57!)

As ironic as this might sound, I think having those extra gift cards made this first month harder in some ways. First of all, they prompt me to browse and shop because I know I can. And secondly, I hate to waste any of that gift card money (or budget money) by paying shipping fees, so if I have a $20 Target gift card, but need to spend $35 for free shipping, I'm going to spend the extra $15 to avoid the $6 shipping fee. So if I round out an order here, and round out an order there, all of a sudden I'm chipping away at my budget more quickly than you'd think.

If I want to make this easier on myself, I really, really, need to work on my book browsing habits. When I'm tired and my concentration is poor, I fall into cruising book sites way too easily. And as a mood reader, it's far too easy to get caught up in hearing about a book and deciding THAT is the book I really want to read next -- despite my shelves overflowing with options. And if it feels like a particular book will be a "keeper," I prefer not to borrow it from the library. I'm completely spoiled, I know I am. But if I want to be serious about this going forward, I'm going to need to buckle down and work on replacing some bad habits with better uses of my time. If I'm honest with myself, the time I spend (sometimes half-consciously!) browsing book sites is really going to waste, even if I discover some wonderful books. And even if I'm tired and can't concentrate on more important things, I need to come up with a better default, low-brain-capacity activity to fall back on -- suggestions welcome!

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I'm not sure my updates will always be monthly, but I'm going to keep posting my progress here to help keep me accountable -- I need all the help I can get! Have you ever done a book budget? I’d love to hear about it!