A 2017 Retrospective (plus some reading goals)

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Happy 2018, everyone.

I hope that you had a good New Year. I spent New Year’s eve with my family, celebrating my Nana’s birthday, and then my husband and I spent New Year’s day driving back home from Portland.

The New Year is always a great time to look back on the year behind you and think about what you’ve accomplished and what your new goals are. I did something a little different this year and thought about it on the Winter Solstice too, which I really enjoyed. It was almost like I was more prepared to make goals on New Years because I’d thought about my accomplishments and what I needed to work on for the next year already. I did something unheard of for me, which is set only one Resolution–to do yoga every day. We’re only 5 days in of course, but so far I’ve met that goal, which is pretty much a first for me.

2017 was an interesting year–in blogging terms it doesn’t even feel over yet because I still have a lot to say about different things that happened throughout the year, but it was full of ups and downs and lots of work. Not to mention, I sort of dropped the ball on blogging.

I didn’t quite meet my book goal–I ended up being five books short of finishing the Popsugar reading challenge–but I did meet my Goodreads goal of 75 books and even exceeded it by a couple of books.

This year I’m not participating in any sort of formal reading challenge (besides the Goodreads one). I have a couple challenges that I’ve entered into with friends, and I will be posting about those. I’d like to do 12 of these, one for each month, so if there’s a particular book (or two) you think I should read, or a challenge you’d like me to write about, please let me know in the comments!

The first challenge is sort of a book club challenge of sorts–my friend and I are reading Ivanhoe by Sir Walter Scott first and then Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe by the end of January. These classics have been sitting on our shelves for a while, and we figure if we don’t read them together we’ll never be motivated enough to read them at all.

The other challenge was given to me by a different friend. She thought it would be interesting to read about the same event or period of history from two different, opposing perspectives. If anyone has a suggestion for this, please let me know. I’m thinking that the US Civil War might be the easiest historical period for me to find (though it is certainly not my favorite…).

My blogging plan for the year is to do a lot more movie/book posts. I have a lot of fun writing those. I’m also going to share some travel/DIY/recipes–whatever comes to mind.

Is there something you’d like to see on the blog? Have a reading challenge for me? Let me know in the comments.

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Top Ten Tuesday: 11 Books I Need to Read By the End of Year

IMG_2962Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

The period between Thanksgiving and the end of the year is typically a good time to wind down, but if you’ve got a big reading challenge to finish up it doesn’t alway feel that way.

My grandma and I are going on a cruise next week, and, not unusually, my suitcase is packed with more books than bathing suits.

For most of the challenge, I just sort of picked books up and looked to see if they fit any category on the list, but as the year draws to a close, I decided to pick out all the books so that I knew what I was going to get myself into.

This is the list of books I’m trying to finish by the end of the year to complete the advanced Popsugar reading challenge:

The Winter’s Tale by William Shakespeare

For the category of “book with a season in the title.” I haven’t read this late Shakespeare play, and it’s one of the few digital books I’m bringing on my trip.

Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

I’ve been saving this book for the “book about food” category all year, and now it’s finally time to read it.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Everyone in my book club loved this book that they read the year before I joined. Since it was made into a movie this year, it seemed like the perfect choice for that particular category.

The Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann Radcliffe 

The category of “books mentioned in other books” was a really interesting category, but it was kind of difficult to pick a book for it. Shakespeare would have been a no-brainer, but I really wanted to choose a novel. Jane Austen’s heroine in Northanger Abbey is a self-proclaimed connoisseur of gothic literature and mentions this book.

Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman

I don’t have a lot of books with cats on the cover, so I chose to interpret this cat as any animal in the cat family. My edition of this book has a lion on the cover.

The Robber Bride by Margaret Atwood 

It’s probably no secret that I love Margaret Atwood and really admire her ability to write well in a number of different ways—across genres. This book will be fulfilling the category of “a book written by someone you admire.”

The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

This classic is “a book recommended by an author I love.” I wanted to finish this book I started reading aloud with Paul, and pretty much every fantasy writer was influenced by Tolkien. I picked George RR Martin as the particular author I love, in case anyone is interested.

Crucible of Gold by Naomi Novik

I try to fit in the books in this Naomi Novik series wherever I can, but “a book involving a mythical creature” seemed too perfect to pass up.

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

I buy books on pretty much all of my trips, so that category was a no brainer, but I wanted to save it for a book purchased on the ultimate trip—our honeymoon. This is one of the (probably too many) books I bought. I couldn’t help it—I didn’t find anything much in the used bookstores, but the new ones were filled with beautiful covers. Books are probably the cheapest souvenir you can bring back from London.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

I’ve had this book on my shelf for a while, and reading the back made me think it might work for a book about an immigrant/refugee, which was one of the categories I hadn’t filled yet.

Catherine the Great by Robert K Massie

For a book that follows a character’s life span, I decided to pick a biography instead of a novel. I haven’t read a lot of nonfiction this year, so I wanted to read at least one more before December comes to a close.

 

Over to you—is there a book you’re dying to read by the end of the year? Do you pick out your reading list in advance or do you prefer to play it by ear? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: Halloween Freebie

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature, brought to you by The Broke and the Bookish.

Happy Halloween!

It’s so strange–as a kid you’re excited about Halloween no matter what day of the week it falls on, but as an adult I feel like I’m usually more excited about the weekend closest to it. This year, our friends threw a party and everyone dressed up as their childhood dream job. I dressed up as an archaeologist a la Indiana Jones, and Paul dressed up like a fighter pilot.

The atmosphere of disguise and pretending to be someone else is my favorite part of Halloween, so in honor of that, here are 10 memorable costumes from my childhood and 10 books to go with them.

Archaeologist—Lost in Translation by Nicole Mones

This book is probably the best (as well as only) book that I’ve read recently that features archaeology as its subject. The protagonist acts as a translator for the dig, helping them secure permission from the government. Also a great love story

 

Esmerelda—Anne Frank Remembered by Miep Gies

Oh I loved this costume. My mom didn’t make it, but it was homemade by someone. The cotton fabric had this rich, watery quality to it.

Anyway, I think of Esmerelda as a character who stands up for those in need, even at great personal cost. I can’t think of anyone who exemplifies that more than Miep Gies, who helped hide the Franks with her partner at great personal risk.

 

Belly Dancer—Shadow Spinner by Susan Fletcher

My family did make this costume. It felt like everyone had a hand in it. Unfortunately we lived in Oregon, which meant I had to basically ruin the costume with layers or I’d get wet from the rain.

This YA book was one of my favorites around this time in my life (5th grade or so). I loved the emphasis it placed on storytelling and the intrigue. The life it depicted was as enchanting as it was disturbing.

 

Cleopatra—Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff or watch the movie with Elizabeth Taylor

This was probably one of my more memorable costumes. My hair was the right length and the right color to fit all the images you probably have in your mind of the Queen. My makeup was a bit sloppy, but that didn’t matter because I felt incredibly regal.

I like this biography of Cleopatra because it tries to rescue the woman from behind the legend created for her. I also love the movie with Liz Taylor because it does exactly the opposite.

 

Delores Umbridge—Matilda by Roald Dahl

It would be too easy to choose a Harry Potter book for this character. Instead I chose one with another despicable school administrator.

 

Bumblebee—Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom

I don’t really have any memories of this costume, but it’s featured in lots of toddler pictures, so it definitely existed. I chose a book that’s sweet but also stings.

 

Pink Power Ranger—Bossypants by Tina Fey

Not that Tina Fey would have ever dressed up as a Power Ranger, but the message behind the costume is I will clearly kick your butt while defying all of your expectations–hence Tina Fey’s book.

Did the Power Ranger costume not say that to you? Maybe it’s just me.

Alice—Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke

This book seems like the perfect counterpart to Alice in Wonderland. Not only does it have a quintessentially English feel (complete with footnotes), there’s also some traveling via mirrors going on. I will rave about this book more later. But it and the show are perfect Halloween reading.

 

50s housewife—Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

This book is a really interesting look into the mind of a woman who seems to be a perfect 50’s housewife, but is really a person with her own complications, flaws, and concerns.

 

Snow White—The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter

I didn’t actually consider this costume to be a costume for Snow White. My mom and I found a bunch of these pretty German-style costumes at the thrift store, and the three of us (Mom, me and my best friend) went around dressed up as Bavarian beauties or something–we never quite settled on that. But I went dressed up that way to the preschool where my aunt worked, and all the kids called me Snow White, which was flattering.

Anyway, Angela Carter’s not-so-fairy tales are perfect for Halloween or really any time of year.

 

What was your most memorable costume? Let me know in the comments.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Read In a Day

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Let me just say that I’m not really good at reading books in one sitting. I’m not even very good at reading one book at a time. If I’ve “lost” my current book around the house, I’ll just pick up another one. This usually leads to a lot of library books nestled in strange corners of the couch or atop precarious laundry piles or hidden under papers I just took off my desk. I’m also not that focused as a reader, reading for an hour before getting up to do something else and then coming back to my book. Or I’ll switch a chapter on and off with one book with another book or another task. So reading a book in a day for me is very unusual. Here are ten (recent-ish books) that overcame all the odds. Or were very short.

 

Chasing the Rose: An Adventure in the English Countryside by Andrea di Robilant

I’ve talked about this book before on the blog, but it sticks in my mind. I read it years ago now, but it was one of the first books in a long time that I felt utterly consumed by. If you’re interested in Italy (and why wouldn’t you be), and you like people who chase down weird family history and/or roses, you should read this.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher

I sat down to read a few pages of this at the library, and didn’t look up until the whole thing was finished. Fun and clever.

My Kitchen Year: 136 Recipes that Saved My Life by Ruth Reichl

I was just captivated by the stories along with the recipes. One of the better cookbooks I’ve read in a while.

Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton

This book is pretty depressing, but it’s very short and well-written. So that’s something.

Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt

I really liked Possession, so when I saw another book by Byatt at the book sale, I knew I needed to read it. It’s definitely nothing like her other work, but it was really interesting and immersive (even if maybe you didn’t want to be immersed in it)

Butter Celebrates! Delicious Recipes for Special Occasions by Rosie Daykin

I read this book quickly, as there wasn’t much to it besides the recipes. I’ve only tried one so far and it didn’t really work out. This is why I get cookbooks from the library instead of buying a bunch of them. But I have hopes for the next recipe anyway.

Patience by Daniel Clowes

Read it fast to get it over with–I didn’t feel like I could not finish the graphic novel since it takes such a short time to read them, but it wasn’t my favorite by a long shot.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley

Another graphic novel, which I read quickly because it was very good.

A-Z of Wedding Style by Kate Bethune

Another very short book, with lots of pictures and white space. I really enjoyed the illustrations though. A good book for people who like fashion.

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

I’ve done a lot of ranting and raving about this book, but it definitely deserves it. In addition to being a great book, it was also a very quick read.

 

So there’s 10 recent book I’ve managed to complete in a reasonable amount of time without getting too distracted by anything else. What’s the last book you read in a day or in a single sitting? Let me know in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 Books I’m Eager to Read Next Year

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2016 is drawing to a close, and 2017 is right around the bend (so obviously it’s time to start outlining book choices for the new year). As you will know if you’re a regular reader, I rarely keep up with new releases, which is the theme of this week’s topic. Instead, I thought I’d share with you 10 books that I’m really excited to read in the first half of next year. Many of them were published this year, but some of them are older and I’m just looking forward to finally reading them.

  • The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo–Amy Schumer

I really enjoy Schumer’s comedy, and I’m interested to see how she brings humor to her writing in a longer format.

  • Hag-Seed–Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood + Shakespeare= Happy Dance

  • Swing Time–Zadie Smith

Not only is it named after a great Astaire/Rogers musical, it’s also a book by an author I admire greatly. Can you believe she published her first novel at 24? I’m totally in awe of her.

  • After Alice–Gregory Maguire

My TBTB Secret Santa gave me an ARC of this book, and I can’t wait to dig in. I’ve really enjoyed a lot of Maguire’s work like Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister, so I’m interested to see what he does with this iconic story.

  • The Underground Railroad–Colson Whitehead

I love the cleverness of this idea–a metaphor turned into a literal railroad.

  • The Six Wives of Henry VIII–Alison Weir

Another gift from my Secret Santa, this book has been on my TBR list for an embarrassingly long time.

  • Wolf Hall–Hilary Mantel

I read one of Mantel’s short story books last year and loved it, so when I found a copy of her historical fiction at my library’s used book sale, I knew I had to pick it up.

  • Homegoing–Yaa Gyasi

This is the story of two half-sisters from Ghana and the separate paths their lives take–one becomes a slave and the other marries a slaver. The writing was compared to Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, so I was on board from the moment I heard that.

  • Paper: Paging Through History–Mark Kurlansky

Paper is so ubiquitous, but I don’t always stop and think about where it comes from and how amazing it is to have it around all the time. I love reading nonfiction about the things I use every day.

  • Wide Sargasso Sea–Jean Rhys

I feel like this book and I have been circling each other in the pool, but it’s high time I caught up with it. This adaptation of Jane Eyre has been on my radar forever it feels like, but I only recently added it to my official TBR list.

Top Ten Tuesday: 10 New-To-Me Authors I Can’t Wait to Read More From

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature from The Broke and the Bookish.

Today’s topic is all about new-to-you authors. I’ve read quite a few books this year, but this post is all about new authors that stood out and that I look forward to reading more from. These are in no particular order (starred authors are those I read more than one book by this year).

Lucy Knisley*–I’ve read graphic novels before this year, but never so many. I really enjoyed my foray into this genre, and particularly enjoyed the graphic memoirs by Lucy Knisley. Her writing is honest and authentic and bittersweet (though never bitter). My favorite work of hers was her memoir about planning her wedding called Something New: Tales From a Makeshift Bride.

Elena Ferrante*–I have one more book before I finish the four Neapolitan Novels, but you don’t have to read much of her work to know that Ferrante is a very important writer. Her books about friendship are some of the most real (and most uncomfortable) I’ve ever read, dealing not only in connection and support but bitterness and jealousy and misunderstandings. I didn’t always find the books easy to get through, but I felt like I accomplished something each time I finished one and that I’d had to confront my own understanding of what friendship is and the many ways it can materialize.

Anthony Doerr–There’s so much I could say about All the Light We Cannot See–the writing is great, the story is spectacular, and there is plenty to talk about from the motifs to the setting. It’s a wonderful book. If you haven’t read it, it should really go on your list. It lives up to all its hype.

Ta-Nehisi CoatesBetween the World and Me won the National Book Award for nonfiction and the prize was well deserved. A father’s conversation with his son, Coates shares his perspective on blackness in America with devastating honesty. It may be a very short book, but it will stay with you long after you finish reading it.

Lev Grossman*–I’m a huge fan of fantasy in general, but The Magicians Series was one of my favorite things that I read this year. Grossman takes some of the most influential writing about magic for children (think C.S. Lewis and J.K. Rowling) and turns all of it into a book about what happens when you’re a magician and you grow up. Somewhere between a fantasy novel and a coming of age story, Grossman has a talent for making some of the most beloved fantasy books of all time come alive again for adults.

Rebecca Mead*–I read plenty of nonfiction this year, but most of it had to do with weddings. Mead’s take on the subject, One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding, was more serious than most, all about how our society has been influenced (as well as influences) by an industry that makes hundreds of millions of dollars a year. I also read Mead’s take on Middlemarch, which was part memoir and part literary criticism and enjoyed it immensely, having tackled Eliot’s opus last year.

Chinua Achebe*–We read this trilogy in my book club, and without a doubt the first book, Things Fall Apart, is the best of them. It’s an important story about colonialism and human dignity written by a Nigerian author.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery–I don’t know why I’ve never read The Little Prince before now, since it’s been on my list for a very long time. It’s not a book I was familiar with as a kid, but if I ever have children it’s one I’ll be sure to share with them. I love how it deals with imagination, beauty, goodness, and childhood. And I really enjoyed the Netflix movie (the soundtrack is gorgeous).

Kevin Wilson–Has anybody seen the movie adaptation of The Family Fang? I didn’t even know they’d made it into a film until I’d finished reading the book. It’s definitely a weird story about a family who does crazy performance art pieces in public spaces. It’s all about art and family dysfunction and screwing up your kids.

Isaac Asimov–Though I read a lot of science fiction I’ve actually been a little nervous about getting into Asimov. Either I like him and now I have a million books to read or I hate him and then I hate one of the most important science fiction writers of all time. I guess I shouldn’t have worried–it was definitely the former. I’m still catching up with this book club series (Foundation), but I can’t wait to read more.

 

Interested in last years post? You can find it here.

What author discoveries did you make this year? Let me know in the comments!

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books On My Fall To Be Read List

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature brought to you by the Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is about the books you want to read this fall. I’ve read a lot of books this year, but I haven’t done a very good job of keeping up with my challenges, so this fall will be all about catching up the best I can.

For the A-Z challenge:

  • Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith (though if I’m not enjoying it, I’ll probably switch to Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Player Piano)
  • QBVII by Leon Uris

For the Series Challenge:

  • The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (once I finish this one, I add another series to the completed category!)
  • Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay and The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante (two more left!)
  • The Tombs of Atuan by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Empire of Ivory by Naomi Novik (there’s no way I’m going to be able to finish this series since there are nine books and three people ahead of me on the waiting list for the fourth book…but I’m still really enjoying them)

So that’s my fall TBR list. I have a feeling that I will be falling short of both reading goals this year, but I’ll do the best I can to finish the challenges.

How are you doing on your own reading challenges? Have you read any of these books/series? Let me know in the comments!