BRL Quarterly Report #9

Well, since October is very nearly over (do you realize how close we are getting to the holidays??) it’s past time to do another Big Reading Life Quarterly Report!

big-reading-life

Books Read (July-September:)  17

Fiction:  13

Nonfiction: 4 (This is the Story of a Happy Marriage – Ann Patchett, The Temporary Bride – Jennifer Klinec, Hunger – Roxane Gay, and The Stranger in the Woods – Michael Finkel)

Audio: 3 (all Harry Potter books: Sorcerer’s Stone, Chamber of Secrets, Prisoner of Azkaban)

Middle Grade: 3 (see above)

YA/Teen: 5

Authors of Color: 3

Published in 2017: 5 (The Dry – Jane Harper, Hunger – Roxane Gay, The Stranger in the Woods – Michael Finkel, The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas, and Magpie Murders – Anthony Horowitz)

Favorites This Quarter: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (my review here,) Hunger by Roxane Gay (review here,) and The Stranger in the Woods by Michael Finkel (review here.)

Reading Goals:  Ha ha ha!    🙂  After having finished two of my goals (Random Picks and YA Books) I’ve pretty much abandoned the rest of my reading goals that I came up with in January.  And I’m okay with that, honestly.  For a while now my reading pace has been sluggish, and my concentration has been abysmal, so if I can finish my other RIP Challenge book, finish out the #AnneReadalong by the end of the year, and read my book group books, I’ll consider it good!  I’m trying to take (admittedly self-imposed) pressure off my reading life.

Also, a happy development!  I recently went over the 350 followers mark!  I don’t quite know how that happened, but it’s really neat to see the numbers grow.  I know that far fewer than that actually take the time to leave comments, but I want you who regularly read my little blog and comment that I REALLY do appreciate you so much.  I love that I’ve gotten to “know” so many thoughtful, funny, kind book lovers around the world! Your passion for reading and writing inspires me daily to keep reading and writing, even when times are tough.

So how have your last few months in reading gone?  Any surprises or challenges in your reading life lately?  Have you abandoned any of the goals you may have set up for yourself in January?  What’s been the best book you’ve read in the past 3 months?

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BRL Quarterly Report # 8

@thiskitschHere we are, into the third quarter of the year already!  How did that happen?  My son starts school again in about two weeks!  This year is flying by.  Time to write about the reading I’ve done the past three months.

Books Read: 20

Fiction: 19

Nonfiction: 1 (Lauren Graham’s memoir Talking As Fast As I Can)

Audio: 4 (LG’s memoir, Sense and Sensibility (read by Juliet Stevenson!  So good!,) Wonder by R.J. Palacio, and The Watsons Go to Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.

Juvenile/Middle Grade:  2  (Wonder and Watsons)

YA/Teen:  3 (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol 3: Squirrel, You Really Got Me Now by Ryan North and Erica Henderson.)

Graphic Novels:  1 (Squirrel Girl)

Authors of Color:  6 (Exit West, John Crow’s Devil by Marlon James, The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez, No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, Watsons, A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki)

Published in 2017:  3 (Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, No One Is Coming To Save Us by Stephanie Powell Watts, and Into the Water by Paula Hawkins)

Favorites This Quarter:  How It All Began by Penelope Lively, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, and The Watsons Go To Birmingham 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.   I’ve not reviewed the two audio books, because I don’t usually review those on my blog.  I listen to them in the car pretty much exclusively; therefore I don’t have an opportunity to take notes as I do on my print reading.  So I don’t feel like I would have more than a paragraph or two to write about them.  Hmmm… maybe I’ll do a semi-regular audio book round-up in the future?  That’s an idea worth pondering.

Reading Goals:  So I’m happy to say that I’ve completed two of my reading goals for the year!  I have now read 6 juvenile/middle grade titles and have read at least 6 Random Picks (books that weren’t on my TBR at the start of the year.)  It figures that a goal that I completed already would the the random reading, ha ha!  If you’ve been a visitor here for a while you know what a mood reader I am.

In fact, as of late I’ve been considering having NO reading goals at all for 2018. I have been in the mood to just read whatever the heck I want to, with no regard for lists or challenges of any kind.  I just don’t do well with planned reading.  It’s like diets – when someone tells me not to have the cake or cookies, the thing I want most on this Earth is a piece of cake or a cookie!  So when I make a list of books I want to read in a certain time span (Hi #20BooksofSummer!), all I want to read is all the *other* books on my shelves and my Goodreads list!  Mind you, they’re ALL BOOKS THAT I WANT TO READ SO I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HECK IS WRONG WITH ME, but there it is.

So how was your last reading quarter?  How are you progressing on your reading goals?  Did you make goals?  Are you chafing under them?  Why or why not?

 

#20BooksofSummer REVISED: Because I’m Awful At Planning My Reading!

I knew that when I signed up for this 20 Books of Summer thing I would have trouble with it!  It’s kind of funny.  I mean, it’s only mid-June and I’m already revising my list. But I am just horrible at planning my reading.  I am a creature of whim when it comes to my books – plus I am in a book group that meets monthly.  WHICH I TOTALLY FORGOT to take into account when I wrote my first post EVEN THOUGH I’VE BEEN IN IT FOR TEN YEARS! Good grief.

140290I’m cutting out five books from my original list. One I started reading and just didn’t like (J. Courtney Sullivan’s Saints For All Occasions.  A shame, since I very much liked her other books.)  So I have already subbed in an Agatha Christie (The Mysterious Affair At Styles.)  And since I’ve become hooked on Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, I’m subbing in the third book, The Waste Lands, because I don’t think I can make it to September without reading it!

Then I’m adding my book group books for June and July to my list.  Our book for this month is Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being.  I’ve heard so many good things about this – I hope it’s good!  I’m going to listen to it on audio and read it, so I can try and finish it by our next meeting.

Taking Out:

  1. Lady Susan, The Watsons, Sanditon by Jane Austen
  2. Discontent and Its Civilizations by Mohsin Hamid
  3. Ghana Must Go by Taye Selasi
  4. Now You See Me by Sharon Bolton

tb-cover-993x1500Subbing In:

  1. A Tale For the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
  2. The Waste Lands – Stephen King
  3. Unnamed Book Group Pick for July
  4. Unnamed Book Group Pick for August

I do still want to read the four I took out, but I also want to get as close to finished 20 books as I can, so they will have to wait.  This is hard!

I’ve finished the second book from my list (Into the Water by Paula Hawkins.) I really liked it.  Four stars!  I’ll be posting a review in the next couple of days.

So how are you faring with your lists?  Are you having to cut and add things like I am?

#20BooksofSummer: Taking the Plunge

Last year I joined Cathy’s #20BooksOfSummer Challenge but chose the option of reading ten books instead of twenty.  I know myself, and I know that I am a mood reader. Writing down a list of books that I MUST read ignites my inner rebel and instantly makes me want to read anything but.  And when I began thinking of my lists for this year’s challenge, I was going to go with the 10 books again.  However, having seen many lists going up this week, I’ve started to question my decision.  I think I’m going to go ahead, roll the dice, and do the FULL TWENTY!  So what if I don’t finish?  So what if I decide to swap out books?  No one is going to notice, because they’re too busy reading their own books and writing their own posts, right?  I’m not being graded on this, so why not?  Quit being such a perfectionist, Laila!  So, here is my list. (BTW, the picture below is not the full twenty – some of them will be library books I haven’t checked out yet.)

IMG_1646The Cutting Season by Attica Locke

The Drawing of the Three (Dark Tower #2) by Stephen King

Passing by Nella Larsen

Now You See Me (Lacey Flint #1) by Sharon Bolton

In the Country by Mia Alvar

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Saints For All Occasions by J. Courtney Sullivan

Discontent and Its Civilizations:  Dispatches From New York, Lahore, and London by Mohsin Hamid

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles

Apex Hides the Hurt by Colson Whitehead

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie

The Reckoning (Maeve Kerrigan #2) by Jane Casey

Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sanditon by Jane Austen

Ghana Must Go by Taye Selasi

American Street by Ibi Zoboi

At Mrs. Lippincote’s by Elizabeth Taylor

Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery

(Yes, I’m combining my #AnneReadAlong2017 with this challenge!)

20-booksThere it is!  Have you read any of these?  Are you joining the #20BooksofSummer Challenge?  

40 For 40 Update: Some Progress Is Made, And A Poll!

So a while back I wrote about turning 40 this year, and how I’d made a list of 40 small “challenges” I wanted to complete before the year is out.  Well, since my birthday’s come and gone, I thought it was time to share an update on my progress and give you a look at the whole list.  (It wasn’t complete the last time I wrote about it.)

IMG_1628Here are the challenges I’ve completed:

  1. Memorize a poem (The Summer Day by Mary Oliver)
  2. Eat a salad for lunch every day for a week
  3. Meditate at least 5 minutes every day for a week
  4. Plant something new in the garden (watermelon and pumpkin)
  5. Read one book of the Bible (Mark)
  6. Don’t get on Twitter or Facebook after 6 pm for one week
  7. Do a three-star sudoku puzzle
  8. Thoroughly de-clutter my chest of drawers
  9. Drink 8 glasses of water a day for a week
  10. Work out in the 30 Minute Fitness area of my gym

Here are some challenges that I’m currently working on:

  1. Learn some ASL signs/phrases
  2. Watch all the Iranian films in my library system’s movie collection (we have a lot!)
  3. Get rid of 40 possessions (I’ve gotten rid of ten so far)

Challenges still remaining:

  1. Read a classic book that has intimidated me (I’ve not yet chosen which book!)
  2. Go see a play
  3. Bike from my house to a local landmark (I still haven’t gotten a bike yet!)
  4. Cook something that intimidates me
  5. Bake something complicated
  6. Take a dance class
  7. Start learning how to knit
  8. Get my passport renewed
  9. Go to Toronto to visit my cousin and sight-see
  10. Visit a church
  11. Go on a hike with my Dad
  12. Play with my son right after dinner every night for a week instead of immediately washing the dishes
  13. Camp overnight with my husband and son (I’ve never camped)
  14. Take a yoga class
  15. Read a book that my husband picks for me
  16. Volunteer with an organization for an afternoon/a day
  17. Write a paper letter to a faraway friend
  18. Do one random act of kindness every day for a week
  19. Call an old friend who is faraway
  20. Go to a museum
  21. Visit Parnassus Books in Nashville
  22. Take a class – art, cooking, gardening, etc.
  23. Begin learning Farsi
  24. Spend 15 minutes reading poetry daily for one week
  25. Bake bread (I’ve never tried)
  26. Swim with my son at the neighborhood pool this summer (I’m notorious for avoiding a bathing suit)
  27. Attempt to make tadig or tahdig (a Persian crusty-rice dish that’s very popular – and delicious!  My mom used to make it when I was a kid.)

Lately my attention to the list has been poor.  The first few months of the year I was gung-ho about the project, but I’ve slacked off the last couple of months. I still want to accomplish as many of the goals as possible before the end of the year, though, so I’m renewing my focus!

Here’s where you come in:  You get to help decide which classic book I read! Take a look at my choices, all books I want to read sometime in my life.  Vote in the poll!

If you have any tips on making any of my challenges easier, I’m all ears.  I’ll be sure to post an update later in the year, and I’ll let you know the results of the book poll shortly!

 

BRL Quarterly Report #7

Hi guys!  Now that it’s nearly mid-April, it’s time to do my first Quarterly Report of 2017!    Big Reading Life Quarterly Report (1)

Here’s the breakdown of my reading in the first quarter of the year:

Books Read: 23

Fiction: 18

Nonfiction: 5

Audio: 0

Juvenile/Middle Grade: 328250841

YA/Teen: 1

Graphic Novels: 1

Authors of Color: 6

Published in 2017: 2

Favorites This Quarter:  The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (my review here,) Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (my review here,) and Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (my review here.)

So how am I doing on my 2017 Reading Goals?  I’ve read NO authors in translation, NO books about body positivity/acceptance, only one work so far by a LGBTQ author, only one YA title (Lumberjanes Vol. 2, which is my only graphic novel or comic thus far,) and only one work with a spirituality focus. My reading has been all over the place, heavily on the fiction side.  So I’m not making a lot of progress so far on my goals, but that’s okay! On the plus side, I’ve only had one 2-star read (Peter Swanson’s Her Every Fear,) with everything else a 3 or better.  I participated for the second time in Reading Ireland Month, which is always a fulfilling reading experience.  I read my first Miss Marple mystery and my second ever romance novel!  I’m happy with my reading pace – for the first time ever I’m seriously considering trying to reach for 100 books in a year! I’ve still got plenty of time to make a serious dent in my reading goals.  And even if I don’t, I know my reading will take me to so many entertaining, satisfying, enlightening places!

How are you doing with your own reading goals?  Are you surprised at what you’ve read or not read so far in 2017?

PS… Shameless plug!  I have the honor this week of being Cathy’s featured blogger on her terrific feature The Books That Built The Blogger!  Check out my post here, and please DO follow her fab blog, 746 Books!

 

40 for 40: A Year Of Smallish Challenges

Hi friends!

In my previous post I mentioned recently beginning to practice yoga.  I’m doing it twice a week at night after my son gets to bed.  Three other nights I do some sort of strength training.  I’m especially trying to execute REAL push-ups, not the ones on my knees that I’ve been doing my whole life, but the ones on my toes.  Considerably more challenging! But I am happy to say that I’ve seen a little progress already in the month or so that I’ve been doing this.  I am more slightly more flexible and I feel like my posture is truly improved, and the yoga leaves me feeling refreshed and mentally clearer.

Why am I telling you this?

keep-calm-its-my-40th-birthday-4Because I’m turning the big 4-0 later this year.  And it’s kind of freaking me out a little.  I know age is just a number, or a state of mind, or something.  But there’s something about approaching what could be the halfway point of one’s life (if you’re lucky) to make you start thinking about how quickly time passes.  I’m assessing my goals, dreams, hopes, aspirations, wild longings.  And I feel a renewed sense of energy about accomplishing things.

To that end, I’ve embarked on a series of weekly mini-challenges that I’m calling 40 for 40 (I know, not terribly original, but I needed something to call it!)  Here’s what I’ve achieved so far:

  1. Drank 64 ounces of water daily for a week.  (I’ve kept this up!)
  2. Did not get on Facebook or Twitter after 6 pm daily for a week.  (Sadly, I have NOT kept this up.)
  3. Memorized a poem.  (The Summer Day by Mary Oliver.)
  4. Tried the 30 Minute Fitness area of my gym for the first time (weight machines and steps.)

I have to say that so far I’ve really been having fun with my challenges.  It’s added a much-needed sense of freshness and purpose to my daily routine. Some of my other ideas for this year include:

  • Hike with my Dad (an avid hiker) in the Great Smoky Mountains.
  • Ride a bike to the bridge not far from my house (this will mean I actually have to PURCHASE a bike!  I’ve not ridden one since high school, but we have all these great greenways in my county and I need to make use of them!)
  •  Get my passport renewed.
  • Travel to Toronto this fall and meet my cousin for the first time!
  • Spend a day volunteering for an organization, maybe a neighborhood clean-up.

parnassus-blog1Of course, I have some reading challenges on my list too!

  • Read a classic book that has intimidated me
  • Read something that my husband picks out for me
  • Visit Parnassus Books (Ann Patchett’s bookstore) in Nashville

This is where you come in, bookish friends.  I have space on my list for eight more challenges.  I’d love to hear any suggestions you may have for me!  I’ll tell you that I won’t bungee jump or jump out of an airplane, but I’m open to almost anything else.  So what have you got?  Have you ever done something like this yourself?