Sunshine Blogger Award Tag

img_0334Back in January Shell at Books By The Cup nominated me (and others) for the Sunshine Blogger Award, and now I finally have a chance to answer her excellent questions. The award is given from one blogger “to those who are creative, positive, and inspiring, while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.” Thanks for thinking of me, Shell!

What’s the best book you’ve read in the last 6 months and why?

The Sun Does Shine by Anthony Ray Hinton, because he blew me away with his strength, forgiveness, and positivity in the face of unimaginable oppression.

What’s the worst book you’ve read and why?

I suppose this is in the last 6 months, not all time (which would be Billy Budd by Herman Melville because it pissed me off so badly when I had to read it in the 10th grade.) Hmmm… this is hard to answer because I don’t finish books I don’t really like. I did not care for Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker. That was my most recent DNF. It wasn’t the book for me, but I can see how some people would love it. It was just way too much information for me and I realized I didn’t actually care about wine to that level of detail.

What book have you read recently that’s outside your comfort zone?

51flpz8fm5lProbably A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole. It’s a straight-up contemporary romance with steamy sexy parts in it. I haven’t read very many of those at all. But I really enjoyed it and found it to be smart and feminist with a page-turning plot.

What has blogging taught you about yourself and others?

It continually teaches me to stop comparing myself to others! (A very valuable life lesson for me.) It’s taught me to follow my OWN path and believe in who I am right now, just as I am. It has also taught me that book people are the smartest, most encouraging and compassionate people on the internet!

What format do you read the most in?

Paper books. I do not prefer to read on screens because I am in front of a computer at work all day, and I concentrate better reading than listening.

Why is reading an important part of your life?

Why is breathing an important part of my life? 😉 Reading provides me so much: knowledge, vicarious experience, empathy, escape, joy, fun, satisfaction, excitement… it truly is the thing I geek out the most about and the pursuit I can’t imagine my life without.

How many unread books do you have?

Ha! Well, I just did a recount for the #unreadshelfproject2019, and I have 63 unread books in paper or e-book form at my house.

What book would you reread every year (if you like to reread?)

Anything by Jane Austen or Barbara Pym.

What is the most memorable bookstore or library you’ve been to?

toronto-public-library
Toronto Public Reference Library

The Toronto Public Reference Library is so unique and HUGE!

What’s your favorite genre?

Mysteries and thrillers. I like mysteries on the more realistic side but not totally gruesome or disgusting.

What advice would you give a new blogger to improve conversation and engagement?

Find the blogs you enjoy reading the most and comment consistently on those. Don’t try to follow or comment on a million blogs. If a blogger doesn’t comment back regularly on your blog, then maybe you don’t need to expend a lot of energy on theirs in return. You will find your core group of bloggers over time, and they will bring you so much joy and good energy – and introduce you to so many interesting books!

I enjoyed answering these questions! I’m not going to tag anyone but here’s a question you can answer in the comments if you like:

What’s the book that’s been sitting on your bookshelf unread for the longest time and why haven’t you read it yet?

 

 

 

 

 

It’s My Blogiversary!

Four years ago tonight I decided to start Big Reading Life. I didn’t know what I wanted to do here other than write about books and hopefully connect with other passionate readers. I didn’t know if anyone would ever read my blog, let alone comment. It’s been a wonderful experience these past four years! I can’t express how much joy you all have given me simply by reading my posts and reaching out to me. It’s so fun to know I have blog friends all over the globe.

brooke-lark-203839-unsplash
Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

At times this year I’ve wondered if I had anything left worth saying here. But I think I’ve turned the corner on that and have found my spark again! I’m excited about my reading plans and goals for the new year and can’t wait to go on bookish adventures with you all.

To everyone who has read anything I’ve written here, and especially to those that comment, thank you. Let’s keep having fun and reading good books in 2019! Happy New Year!

A Small Break

Hello, bookish friends. I wanted to post this to let you know that I’ll be taking a small break from the old blog for a little while. (Seems I already got a head start on that break  – ha ha!) Things in my personal life are rather topsy-turvy at the moment, unfortunately. I just don’t have the energy to commit to reading deeply, thinking deeply, and writing about books. That’s not to say I won’t be reading. I’m still reading. (I finally finished Jane Eyre yesterday – hurray! And I’m just starting the new Cormoran Strike novel today – Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling if you don’t read those.) But my mental energy for blogging is low and I need all the mental energy I can get to take care of myself and my son in the next little bit.

So I wish you all well as autumn has finally arrived, and hopefully I will be back some time in October to write up my R.I.P Challenge posts and continue on with my Classics Club and Library Checkout posts as well. I may pop in to comment on your blogs here and there as I am able. Happy Reading, friends.

Book Blogger Tag

I was tagged WAY back in May by the lovely Erin @ Feel, Learn, Wonder and I’m just now getting around to writing this tag post! But I thought it would be a nice diversion from my 20 Books of Summer and Classics Club reviews that I haven’t yet written. If you haven’t checked out Erin’s blog, please do give it a look!

img_2523Where do you write your blog posts?

At my desk in my living room. It’s an old hand-me-down desk from my father-in-law, not an antique, just old, with peeling paint and stickers that my son has put on it over the years. We have talked about buying a “grown-up desk” but it’s not a high priority so we haven’t yet done so. We DID just buy a new office chair, though, and it’s so comfy!

 

How long does it take you to write a book review?

Ha ha! Well, once I actually SIT DOWN to do it, probably about an hour. It’s the sitting my behind down in the chair that’s the issue.

When did you start your book blog?

December 31, 2014. I can’t believe I’m coming up on four years already. My first blog post didn’t even mention that I was starting this blog – it was just a list of my reading resolutions for the coming year. I guess I really didn’t even know what I was planning to do with this or for whom I was writing. (Do I know these things now? Ha ha!)

What’s the worst thing about having a book blog?

Is there a “worst” thing? I suppose it would be the same affliction I have on all social media platforms, which is comparing myself to others. Others write such in-depth reviews! They post so much more frequently! Their blogs look nicer than mine! Blah Blah Blah. I’ve always compared myself to others, even before the days of computers, so it’s just one of my bad habits. I’m trying to quit.

What is the best thing about having a book blog?

Without a doubt, it’s YOU GUYS. I am so happy to have “met” so many interesting, smart, curious, and supportive people from all over the world through blogging. You all save my faith in humanity sometimes! And you all have such good taste in books too!  🙂

What post have you had the most fun writing so far?

I don’t know – they’re all fun once I get going! But I’m gonna share a post from way back in 2015 about a picture book that I love and think you all should know about. Most of you weren’t regular readers of mine back then so here you go:  https://bigreadinglife.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/sidewalk-flowers-by-jonarno-lawson/

What is your favorite type of blog post to write?

Lately I love the Five Sentence Reviews I’ve started doing, and also the Library Checkout meme that Bookish Beck introduced me to.

When do you typically write?

At night when my son has gone to bed and my husband is still at work, around 9:00 pm.  Sometimes if it’s super slow at work on a Saturday I’ll start a rough draft of a post.

How do you write your book reviews? With a cup of tea or coffee? With Netflix? Cuddle up with your fur-baby?

Well, I usually put on a Pandora radio station – I write best with music. Lately it’s the Sylvan Esso station, sort of dreamy electronic/pop/dance music. Sometimes I drink a glass of wine. Sometimes I eat Twizzlers. Sometimes I just write.

8775683632ab470bc79de8fed2e2abe5
Sylvan Esso

When do you write book reviews – right after finishing the book? Two weeks after finishing the book?

Um… lately it’s been OVER two weeks after finishing. When I’m on the ball it’s usually a few days after finishing.

How often do you post?

My goal is 2 posts a week. 🙂

I don’t want to tag anyone else but if you feel moved to put this one up on your own blog, please do. How do you write your blog posts? With snacks? On a laptop in bed? With the TV on? Do you also like Sylvan Esso? Tell me in the comments. 

Road Trip: Parnassus Books and U2 in Nashville

img_2087Thank you all so much for your kind words of condolence about Cleo. In contrast to my last sad post, I wanted to share my wonderful road trip experience to Nashville over Memorial Day weekend. I got to complete one of my 40 For 40 goals, which was to visit Parnassus Books, an independent bookstore co-founded and co-owned by author Ann Patchett (Bel Canto, Commonwealth, etc.) And later that night my husband and I went to Bridgestone Arena to see my favorite band in the whole wide world, U2!

First, the bookstore. It’s tucked away in an average sort of strip mall (bonus: a yummy local donut shop at the other end, Fox’s Donut Den!) It was just starting to rain as we pulled into the parking lot, so it made for the perfect excuse to linger as long as I wanted. My husband was prepared for me to be there a while. 🙂img_2088img_2090

It’s truly a book lover’s place. A nice, varied selection for a small-ish space, tastefully decorated and inviting with a small seating area in the middle. There are little cards with book recommendations all over the store and you truly feel like the employees care about books. Plus, they have book shop dogs! I was hoping that the long-haired dachshund named Mary Todd Lincoln would be there, but I got to see sweet 16 year-old Bear instead, and he was lovely. (By the way, I felt kind of like a loon taking pictures all the while I was in there, but I guess they’re probably used to that from us book-blog types.)img_2097

There’s a terrific children’s section and also a whole lot of book-related paraphernalia, like pins, notecards, socks, shirts, totes, etc. Also, there were these cute, random tiny badgers (which were not for sale.)img_2094

I ended up with five books, a Parnassus t-shirt, and a Sense and Sensibility pin. My book haul consisted of John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies, Dark Tales by Shirley Jackson, Stephanie Powell Watt’s We Are Taking Only What We Need, Cork Dork by Bianca Bosker, and James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room.

After the donut store and a rest back at the hotel, it was time to head downtown for dinner and the concert. We used Uber for the first time (it was easy and we were so glad not to have to fight traffic and find a place to park!) Downtown Nashville on a Saturday night on Memorial Day Weekend was nuts. I’d never been to lower Broadway before,which is lined with honky-tonks and bars, and I couldn’t believe all the people, specifically, all the drunk people! Not my scene for sure, but I’m glad people were having a good time! Made for some entertaining people watching. Our meal at The Stillery was delicious, and they make a good mason jar cocktail (I had the Stillery Sour.) Finally it was time to see U2!!

It was a sell-out show and the crowd was super excited. I saw so many old tour t-shirts that I knew a lot of the audience were super fans. I’ve been lucky enough to see them play three times before, but I hadn’t seen them since 2005 (!) because of, well, life. And the fact that sometimes they don’t come anywhere withing easy driving distance of me.

img_2120The show was beautiful. It was unlike previous concerts of their’s I’d seen because it was more like a play. They told a story of their beginnings (Innocence) to some wild days (Experience) and back again to Innocence. It was a very personal show for Bono, especially, as he talked a lot about his mother and some of his faults and follies as the band became famous. Then as the show wound down they also wove in current politics in the US and the world, using their hits “Pride” and “One” and some of the newer songs on their latest album (Songs of Experience) to argue for the rebirth of the idea of America as a light and hope for the world. While “Pride” played they showed images of the Women’s Marches and other progressive marches on the huge screen that almost ran the length of the arena and it was very inspiring. I got chills during that song and my eyes teared up. It never fails to thrill me.

So our one day adventure in Nashville was a blast. I am so glad that I got to cross one of my 40 For 40 items off my list! If you’re in Nashville for any reason definitely stop by Parnassus Books. They host so many author events each month that if I lived over there I’d be in there all the time!

Have you been to Nashville before? Have you read any of the books I bought? What’s your favorite U2 song, or your favorite kind of donut? 🙂

A Cat Named Cleo

I am very sad tonight. We had our cat Cleo put to sleep today. She was 13, not super old for a cat, but old enough. She developed a cluster of health challenges rather suddenly, and she was in pain and not herself. My husband and I were with her at the end, and the good people at our vet clinic were as kind as I could have ever hoped for. (God bless vets and vet technicians!)

img_2132Cleo came to me as a stray street kitten. One day I was visiting my mom’s house, stepped out of my car, and there was this little fluffball, gray and peach and white (what I would later learn was called a Tortie), meowing up at me. At the time I was totally broke and couldn’t afford to take her to the vet to get shots and rid of fleas, so I asked my mom’s neighbor to keep an eye on her for a week or so till my next payday. When the payday rolled around I took her to the vet and brought her home. I’ll never forget watching the fleas just drop off of her and die from the medicine they gave her. She slept most of that day and then started bouncing off the walls as kittens do, playing with and getting used to my other cat at the time, the unflappable and dignified tabby Gus.

img_2130A few months later I started dating the man who would become my husband. Two years later we would all move to our new house. Three years after that, my son was born and five weeks later sweet Gus kitty passed away. I don’t think Cleo was quite right in the head after those events. She was an anxious, vocal, possessive kitty. She loved me fiercely and I loved her, even as challenging as she could be.

Here are some things I want to remember about Cleo:

She always wanted to be in my lap at night, any time I sat down. If I reclined she would get up on my chest and fall asleep.

She had the softest fur. She was 90% fur, I think.

She was beautiful.

img_2131She could be hateful to anyone besides the three of us who live here. We had to put her up in my bedroom when we had company over. But she was still a sweet kitty to me.

She loved to go outside and eat grass.

She never was much good at killing bugs. I always wanted her to take care of them for me, but she’d just kind of half-heartedly bat away at it for a minute and then lose interest.

She loved to sit in the window and watch the birds. She made the funniest little squeak when she saw them close by.

She was such good company at night, when my son is asleep and my husband at work. It’s awfully quiet and empty feeling in here tonight. It’s gonna take some adjusting to not having a cat in the house for the first time ever. I know that we will get another cat some day, but we will never EVER have another cat quite like our crazy Cleo. She had a good life for a one-time street kitten. Rest in peace, Cleo, and have fun catching up with Gus up there. I’ll miss you.

Break Time!

Hi friends! Just a short note to say that I am taking a week off from the blog, and hopefully from social media in general. It’s my son’s Spring Break and we’re going to have adventures together. I’m going to try and unplug from social media as best as I can! Wish me well, I’m a bit addicted, I admit!

colorful-chairs-free-beach-wallpapers-beach-backgrounds-587fb9eb5f9b584db31f75d4I’ll see you lovely bookish unicorns in a week or so! Happy Reading!