Starting over to tackle my personal TBR

Well I tried to. At the beginning of the year I decided I was going to do the most nerve-wracking thing ever – delete my Goodreads “Want to Read List” of over 200 books. Why would I do this? I must be crazy.

Honestly, my Goodreads list has become bogged down with books I can’t even remember adding, books that are already on my “Read” list, etc. It’s giving me anxiety. I don’t have the time or the energy to go through each book to see which ones I owned. Also, I want to get my personal TBR down this year without being distracted by all the other books I want to read.

One bookshelf completely overflowing with books, half of which I haven’t read.

So after coming to a resolute decision that I was going to do this, I pulled up my Goodreads TBR list and holding my breath, I hit delete. Then I got a message – you can’t delete books off a permanent shelf, only move them to another shelf. WHAT?!

After trying multiple times without success (arrggh), I realized that I could delete the books one at a time, but again, who has time for that? Goodreads wasn’t making this easy. So then I attempted to do what it told me to do – moved the list to another shelf – only to find out that it merely made a duplicate of the list. I don’t want two lists! C’MON GOODREADS! The fact that I couldn’t do what I wanted with my bookshelves was completely frustrating.

So Plan B.

I have other book tracker alternatives downloaded on my phone, so I pulled up an app called Bookshelf, which simply keeps a catalog of all the books you own. You can further organize your bookshelf into categories. Since I haven’t kept up with it since I downloaded it over a year ago, I deleted the account and made a new one. It comes with a default category of “My Books” but I made a category called “Personal TBR” and proceeded to scan in all the books I have yet to read. The idea is that I will move each book to the “My Books” category when I finish reading them so I can count how many I read.

So what is the result of my scanning?

114 books…. that is the number of books currently lining my bookshelves that I have yet to read. Nearly half of which are classics (49). The other half is a mixture of nonfiction and fiction of several genres.

I am hoping to get this number below 100 by the end of the year. It will all be determined on whether I can keep up with my reading and reach my reading goals. I want to read at least 12 classics off my Classics Club List, all of which I own. Then at least 12 nonfiction books, half of which haven’t already been determined. Right there that brings me to 18 potential books, but that doesn’t include the book club picks I already own or just my random mood reading.

I can do this!

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New year, new goals

Happy New Year!

It’s 2022, which means a fresh start. It’s the time of year when we make goals and resolutions to work on things that we know we need to improve and I am no exception. This year, my word of the year is flourish.

Flourish (v.)

(of a person, animal, or other living organism) grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, especially as the result of a particularly favorable environment.

Over the past year, I learned that I have the knowledge and tools at my disposal to achieve anything. I started 2021 roughly but I was able to persevere and prove that I have what it takes. Now it’s time to expand on what I learned to grow even further. I have several goals to achieve this year for myself and my career, but today I want to talk about my reading and blogging goals. So let’s get to it.

Reading goals

Goodreads Challenge: 65 books

Since I didn’t reach my goal last year, I am keeping it the same. I am in four book clubs so that gets me to 48 books for the year. That leaves me with 17 picks of my choosing. If I am able to keep on track, this shouldn’t be too difficult.

Read 12 books on my Classics Club list

Last year I didn’t set an amount when it came to reading books from this list and I ended up not reading as many as I should. I am currently behind schedule to complete the list within the 5-year time period. I am hoping that this will get me back on track.

Read 12 nonfiction books

I will actually only have to be accountable for picking 7 books since one of my book clubs will read at least 5 nonfiction books this year. There are also several nonfiction books that are coming out this year that I already have on my TBR so I am hoping that I can’t kick this goal out of the park.

Read books on my personal TBR shelves

After last year’s book haul, I have to take a new inventory of all the books on my shelves that I have yet to read. I know that the number far exceeds the books that I have read. I realized just how many books I had after I moved into the house and while unpacking, I realized I haven’t read a lot of them. As my husband and I are trying to replenish our savings, I am going to be more conscientious about my spending. This means I can only buy books when absolutely necessary, and if I do buy a book, I am going to make sure that I read it. This refers to my Book of the Month subscription. I got 14 books last year that I have yet to read.

Get book club titles from the library

Probably half of the books I buy each year are for book club. Last year, if my library didn’t have the book I needed, I automatically bought the book. I need to stop doing this, especially since there is interlibrary loan and my library can get a book I request from another library. I just need to make sure I request in advance. I already borrowed the two books I need for January so I’m off to a good start.

Blogging goals

Post at least 4x a week

Right now, the creative juices are flowing and I have several posts lined up in the coming days so posting shouldn’t be an issue. However, it’s when the motivation dwindles that I struggle. I am hoping I am able to stay ahead of schedule so this doesn’t become an issue. Since I have a clear blogging schedule now, even if I have to stick to the prescheduled content, it will help me accomplish this goal.

Review at least half of the books I read

Ok this is where I struggle the most – finding the motivation to sit down and type up my thoughts about a particular book. Last year, it came down to letting other things get in the way and constantly making excuses. I need to stop making excuses and just get it done. It’s why I started this blog in the first place. Now that I have my own office at home, I think this may be easier than it used to be. I have a designated space that I can escape to without being bothered. In the past, I expected to review every book I read which was unrealistic. Maybe if I set it to half, I can be more successful.

Expand social media presence

My family and friends keep telling me that I have to create an Instagram account and I keep putting it off. But I am thinking that it may get me out of my rut and force me to create more interesting visuals for the blog. Since I now have an actual library, I have the opportunity to do this. Once I get the library to how I want it, the possibilities will be endless.

Increase interaction with other bloggers

I want to make it a habit of reading content from other blogs and actually interact with them. I don’t do this enough and it’s something I noticed over the past year. I think I can dedicate at least 30 minutes to an hour each week to do this.

Create more original content

This is a soft goal and one that relies on me accomplishing the others. If I am able to consistently post this year, I am hoping I will be able to create some more original content outside of the reviews and the weekly memes. Every day this week I have been writing ideas on scraps of paper while I am at work. I have so many ideas and I want to share them with all of you.


What are your goals for 2022? Let’s discuss!

Trying to get a handle on my reading

So this is going to be a quick rant but at the moment I hate going on Goodreads. Why? Because I am reminded by how much I am failing in my reading this year. Right after logging in, I am met with the large purple sticker that marks the Goodreads 2021 Reading Challenge and the number of books I have currently read – 24! An average of 3 books a month.

I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise since every single month this year I have failed to read the full number of books on my TBR. It’s probably one of the worst reading years I have had in a long time.

To make matters worse, Goodreads then has to promptly remind me that I am 13 books behind schedule. With five months left out of the year how the hell am I going to make up this deficit?

But I need to calm down. All is not lost – at least not yet.

There are still 5 months left out of the year. A quick math calculation shows that I only need to read 8 books each month for the rest of the year to not only make up the deficit but reach my goal of 65 books.

So here goes nothing.

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. monument, Albany, NY

“Be a bush if you can’t be a tree. If you can’t be a highway, just be a trail. If you can’t be a sun, be a star. For it isn’t by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.”

—Speech before a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia, October 26, 1967

When you get an unexpected bookish care package

So the other day, I got an unexpected surprise. I came home from work to find a package had been delivered and was waiting at my door. My husband was home, but I guess he never came down to check the mail so I got the honors of finding it. I didn’t remember him saying he ordered anything and I know I didn’t. I then thought that someone sent us a wedding gift.

Despite postponing the big wedding to July, we got married on our date, May 16, in a small civil ceremony at the local park. It was more than I could have dreamed. My dad and brother surprised me by coming up from New Jersey the morning of and my maid-of-honor’s husband took awesome photos capturing the day. Anyways, only that morning we had received a delivery of flowers from my husband’s job. Then we received a wedding gift from another friend of the family. When I saw the package on our doorstep on Monday, I just thought it was another gift.

I immediately looked at the return address and was startled to see that it was from Northshire Bookstore. Now I was confused because I honestly had not ordered any books, and for this to be a wedding gift would be a bit one-sided since my husband is not the reader. I am. But I’m not going to lie, I was excited. I double checked that the package had my name on it, which it did. Books for me? YASSSS!!!

I tore up the stairs, threw my stuff down and cut into the box wanting to see what books I received. Oh, the torment, they were individually wrapped, but they filled the box! This person, whoever they were, was sneaky.

I dug into the box and finally found the receipt to see if it held the anonymous giver. It did along with a special note. This package was from my book club and it wasn’t a gift, but a care package to make me feel better because April and May have been a rough time.

“Hey,

Books always help with rough patches.” 

In April, both my parents were diagnosed with COVID-19. While my father recovered quickly in a week, my mother ended up in the hospital on Easter Sunday and was in ICU twice due to pneumonia. Then when we thought she was getting better, she came home at the beginning of May but was back in ICU before the end of the week. She had pneumonia again and found out she shouldn’t have been released the first time. I had been running back and forth to New Jersey where my parents live and I was emotionally drained. Thankfully, my mom is now officially on the mend and in rehab to rebuild her strength but it’s been an emotional month and a half. My book club knew all this and knew that books were my go-to these last few weeks to help escape, which explained the note.

A smile lit up my face. I couldn’t help but hug the box to myself before tearing through the wrapping paper. To say I felt like a girl on Christmas is an understatement. I was actually impressed because I owned only three of the eight books in the box. This is what I got:

The Library Book” by Susan Orlean

This book couldn’t come at a better time because my other book club just chose this title for its nonfiction read in October. I have wanted to read it since it came out but never got around to it. I don’t have a choice now lol.

The Diviners” by Libba Bray

I had never heard of this book before but after reading the summary on Goodreads, I am intrigued. Ever since reading “The Ninth House” by Leigh Bardugo, I have been trying to get into more fantasy reading. And this seems just along similar lines.

The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbrath

This is one of the books that I already own, having bought it last year at the local library book sale. However, this new copy is much better as I have the mass paperback version, so I will be swapping it out. I haven’t read the book yet but it is definitely on my immediate TBR. Another mystery novel for the days when I don’t have something else to read.

Strange the Dreamer” by Laini Taylor

I knew I had heard of this book before but didn’t know how until I realized that I had a different edition. I recognized the yellow and blue cover and remembered that this was another book that I had on a TBR list. Funny because on Goodreads, it says for those who enjoyed Neil Gaiman and Leigh Bardugo. Haha. I guess I’m established a theme here.

An American Marriage” by Tayari Jones

I have been wanting to read this book forever and now it’s in my hands. I can’t wait. When I saw this in the box and coupled with the note, I thought for a moment that my book club had sent the box as a wedding gift and were trying to tell me something. You know, rough patches in marriage. LOL. Then I realized the order was placed before anyone knew we were getting married on our original day.

Big Little Lies” by Liane Moriarty

This is another one that I own but one that I have already read. I loved it and have even watched the first season of the HBO series, which I also loved. This edition of the book is much better and I will be switching it out. Yet again, the version I have is a used mass paperback version I bought at the library book sale.

Oryx and Crake” by Margaret Atwood

As you know, I absolutely love Atwood at the moment and trying to get through all of her books. So while I already own a copy of this book, I was so glad that someone thought to include one of her books in the package. I have not read it yet so they weren’t completely wrong to include the book either. But now I want to read it all the more, especially since I see what it’s about. And it’s part of a series, even better.

Caraval” by Stephanie Garber

After all the hype from this book, I have been wanting to read this book. But it wasn’t a top priority. When I got around to it, I would read it. Now I own it and I want to know what all the hype is about. Too bad I am already in the middle of another super hyped book that I don’t want to put down. Ugh the torment.

I couldn’t thank my book club enough for such a well thought out care package. It definitely made me smile and filled my heart to bursting. The love and support that people are showing at this crazy time amazes me every day. And it just proves. We are all in this together.

My top 5 anticipated reads

It may only be January but I already have a quickly growing list of books I can’t wait to get to this year. The real test will be if I actually get to all of them.

For the purpose of this post, I will focus on my top 5 anticipated reads for the year, mainly because I had originally planned to write this for the Top 5 Tuesday post yesterday. Unfortunately, I missed it, so here we are. Without further ado:

the starless sea

Starless Sea” by Erin Morgenstern

I so can’t wait to pop this book open. I absolutely loved Morgenstern’s writing in the “Night Circus.” From what I have heard both from the reviews I read on here and from people who I recommended “Night Circus” to, “Starless Sea” is just as good, if not better. Since I received it for Christmas (my fiancé is awesome!) I don’t have to wait.

Becoming

Becoming” by Michelle Obama

So this was my anticipated read for 2019 but I never got around to it because it was constantly checked out at the library. Though I wanted to read it really bad, I really didn’t want to spend $30 on one book, especially since I wasn’t sure how I was going to like it. But once again, thanks to my fiancé, I got “Becoming” for Christmas. The fact that its nonfiction is an added bonus since I am always trying to expand my nonfiction reads.

circe

Circe” by Madeline Miller

At first I was kind of meh about reading this book. I had heard the hype but I really didn’t care whether I read it or not. Then the Capital District Book Club picked it for April’s book and now I can’t wait to get to it. Funny how that works huh? I have heard nothing but good things about this book so I am sure I am going to love it.

wide sargasso sea

Wide Sargasso Sea” by Jean Rhys

As you may know, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte is one of my all time favorite books. So when I found out that we were reading “Wide Sargasso Sea” in my Modern Library Book Club, I was so excited. It tells the story of Rochester’s mad wife. I can still remember reaching that point in the book. I was completely shocked and even though she wasn’t a main character I couldn’t help but wonder what her story was. “Wide Sargasso Sea” is on the list for March’s read and it’s taking everything I have not to skip February’s book to read this. It is rather short so I can probably get to it.

March

March” by Geraldine Brooks

Speaking of retellings. Since watching the new “Little Women”, I have a new obsession with everything Little Women. Thus “March” by Geraldine Brooks went right to the top of my list. It’s a story about Mr. March and his time in the war. For those who have read “Little Women” know that Mr. March is not a prominent figure in the story, at least not in the forefront. We know that he is at the war, he gets injured and he eventually does come home, but these mentions merely take a few paragraphs. He is more of a shadow that has an indirect influence on the girls lives. It will be interesting to read about him in more detail.

 

 

 

Another trip to Vermont has come and gone

Every fall, at least for the last three years, my fiancé and I get away for a four-day weekend to Manchester, Vt. We stay at the same hotel and there is only one goal for the weekend….relax.

We stay at the Kimpton Taconic, which is not a typical hotel, at least to me. For one thing it doesn’t feel like a hotel with its lodgy and comforting feel with warm colors, a wood burning fireplace lit at all hours. Not to mention the hotel rooms, some of which are equipped with fireplaces and the beds are like sleeping on a cloud. In fact, their hotel rooms are so comfy that they even have a website where you can buy their products. The other thing is that the hotel is dog friendly, so I get my puppy play time in for the year while we are on this trip.

   

We arrived at the hotel on a Thursday to a surprise that my future mother-in-law had paid for three meals at the hotel. It was actually perfect since we had arrived at the hotel later than we expected, so we didn’t even have to leave for dinner. But first, we had to go to social hour, which is where hotel guests are treated to a free glass of wine or beer and get to socialize with other hotel guests. For me, it’s the hour when I meet all the pups, like these handsome men, Ellington and Max.

 

On Friday, it was time to shop. We hit the outlets and the downtown. Then it was time to hit the Northshire Book Store. If ever in Manchester, Vt., you need to go. It has a bunch of nooks and crannies, different levels, and even a used book section. In the words of my fiancé, who is not a reader, “This bookstore is really cool.” He usually will find a nook to hang out in while I go wander among the shelves to my heart’s content. I ended up buying two books, “The Secret History” by Donna Tart and “Anne of Green Gables” This year, we even hit up the café at the book store to eat some lunch and it was delicious.

Saturday was all about relaxation so we seriously stayed at the hotel all day. We went to the gym to work off some of the lush foods we had been eating. Then we played a board game to pass some time before my surprise for my fiancé…in-room spa service. That’s right, I treated us to 50 minute massages. And oh how we needed it. We ended up napping afterward before going to dinner and then coming back to just enjoy the rest of the night.

I have to admit, I didn’t plan accordingly in terms of reading time. I finished the two books I had brought with me, which is shocking since I normally don’t read that much. I didn’t want to start “The Secret History” yet because I had books at home I wanted to get to. So I hit up the library at the hotel and found “The Wife Between Us.” Of course, by the time I was ready to call it a night, I was already 80 pages into it. Now, I’m invested so I took the book with me, to the horror of my fiancé. I tried to reassure him that the hotel libraries are filled with books that people leave behind. He just made me swear that I would return the book next year when we return. All I could was shrug and agree.

Sunday we headed back home after breakfast, sad that it was over. As always, it goes too quick. Luckily, I had cleaned my house and did the laundry before leaving so I didn’t have to do anything but continue to relax and go to book club. Vermont will continue to be my happy place and I can’t wait to go back next year.

Cashing in at the BandN #BookHaul

As you know, I am not one to go on a crazy spending spree at the book store. I will buy a book here and there, if I need it right away for book club but normally I wait until the library book sales, where I can get the books I really liked throughout the year for my shelves.

However, a sale is a sale and Barnes and Noble is currently having their blowout sale, where they have books 50 percent off. I couldn’t resist so I stopped on my way home from work. Since I am a member, I had access early. I was able to score five books plus a free tote but there were somethings I wish I had known before going.

  1. The blowout sale is not throughout the whole store. There will likely be 3 or 4 tables near the entrance that will have signage. There will be employees hanging around to direct people. This could differ from store to store.
  2. You may be able to score a free tote, but there is a condition: You have to buy at least three books. They can be any three books from the store, not necessarily from the sale.
  3. Circle a few times because you may not see everything the first time around. I must have circled three times and each time I found a book I didn’t see before. Either I’m blind or the book store elves were having fun with me.
  4. The biggest deals will probably be at the classics table. The sale at my store had one whole table dedicated to classics. Most of the paperbacks are $5.99 normally so the books are $3. I just happend to need Turn of the Screw for my book club in October.
  5. There may be a hidden table somewhere. I was at the end of my browsing, ready to check out, but I decided to go in search of With the Fire on High. I couldn’t find it but knowing that they usually have books on random displays, I decided to ask customer service. It just so happened that they had put these books on a cart at the second entrance to the store. I found a whole new selection to choose from. Not only did I get With the Fire on High but I was able to also get the latest Markus Zusak book half off! Sweet!
  6. Compare prices. Before purchasing the hard cover books marked down, I checked to see if they had the paperback versions and compared to make sure I was getting the biggest bang for my buck. Some of the hardcovers are $27 which is $13.50 on sale. Trade paperbacks are about $16 and a regular paperback is about $10.
  7. The book haul is also available online. I didn’t check it out so I don’t know if there are offers that differ from the store but if you don’t feel like physically traipsing to the store, there is that option.

My literary weekend with the Alcotts and Emersons

So obviously I didn’t actually spend the weekend with the Alcotts or the Emersons, but I spent one helluva literary weekend walking in their footsteps in Concord, Mass.

Remember, back in June when I mentioned that my best friend created a literary weekend for me to visit Orchard House, where Louisa May Alcott wrote Little Women? Well, I cashed that present in two weeks ago and it was one of the best presents ever. If you want a relaxing weekend that also fills your bookish barometer, then this is it.

It all started when we arrived at our Airbnb, a house that rested along the pond.  I am not going to lie, I had brief misgivings about it. The house is in the middle of the woods and set so far back that you have crazy long driveway to go up before you get there. We arrived at night so as my friend navigated the car up the narrow lane, I could only think of the movie “Get Out.” But my misgivings were unnecessary. Our host was a sweet old man who welcomed us warmly and the next morning had coffee and homemade scones waiting for us. We took them out to the chairs that overlooked the pond, and peaceful is putting it mildly. I could have sat out there all day. While it wasn’t Walden Pond (we didn’t get a chance to go), it was close enough. No wonder Emerson and Thoreau were so inspired.

After our wake up treats, we set out on our adventure, hell bent on getting to Orchard House early so we would get into the tour. With time to kill, we took a quick drive through the downtown area to get the lay of the land, grabbed some bagels and coffee and sat in the parking area of Orchard House until it opened.

Visiting Orchard House

We weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the house so these exterior shots will have to do, but the tour was amazing. The most surprising thing was how much they had preserved. Usually when you go on tours of old historical buildings, a lot of it has been recreated. At the Alcott house, everything was the original, right down to the wallpaper on the walls. You couldn’t help but get goosebumps as you walked through the house, and see exactly how Louisa May Alcott lived. Louisa’s sister May, was the artist in the family (you may recognize her as Amy in Little Women) and her drawings are still on the walls in her room. She used to recreate paintings taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s house to practice. Her paintings she created in Europe hang on the walls throughout the house. When you get to Louisa’s room, you can stand near her desk that her father built between windows overlooking the road, the same desk she wrote the book that made her famous. As you go through each room, you are given the history of each of the family members and their impact on Concord.

After the tour, we were back in the gift shop where I did some damage. It took all of my strength not to buy every single Alcott book, since I have made it my mission to read everything she ever wrote. But I settled for her book, Hospital Sketches, which is her account of being a nurse during the Civil War as well as a biography by Madeline Stern, one of the better known biographies of LMA.

We didn’t want to leave the beautiful grounds but there was much more to do and see. Our next literary stop was Sleepy Hollow Cemetery to visit Author’s Ridge where Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau and Nathaniel Hawthorne are buried. You can’t miss their graves because visitors have laid literary gifts at the grave sites.

To take a break, we decided to go to the downtown area, where there two book stores, one of which was a used book store. The used book store was interesting to walk through simply because of their rare edition collection. They had first editions of the authors, which were way beyond my budget. I think Emerson’s book was priced at $3,000. *sigh* Oh to dream. Though I am not going to lie. I almost bought an autographed copy of Little Women I found in the antique shop down the street for $125. I thought better of it and kept walking. I did find a bookish mug that I just had to buy.

After an awesome lunch at a small market and café in downtown, we went off to the Emerson house, which we learned was open for tours. Just like the Alcott house, everything in the house was owned and used by Ralph Waldo Emerson and family, including the books that still line his books shelves in his study. What was even more astonishing is that the Emerson family still owns the house, so the staff at the museum work for the family. In fact some of the family still live in Concord. I was blown away.

The rest of the day was just spent hanging out back at our lodging, relaxing, reading and just enjoying the rest of the weekend before heading home. Because we had so much fun, we decided that these literary and educational trips were something we want to continue doing, so I am sure I will have several more of these posts in the future.

My literary purchases.

 

Top 5 books I’ve read so far this year

Hey all,

We are a little more than halfway through 2019. Can you believe it?As I was thinking about what to write for today’s post, I realized that I was halfway to completing to my Goodreads challenge of 75 books. So I thought I would look back at what I read so far this year and share my five favorites.

I have read some really good books this year, but there are a few that really stand out and I can’t stop talking about them. These are the books that made the list.

I had to read this for book club and I really enjoyed it. There are so many themes that Lee touches on in this family saga from ethnicity and identity to family and loyalty. You can read my full review here.

Another family saga I absolutely loved. Gyasi unfolds a story about two half-sisters and their parallel stories, one that is based in Africa and one that is in America. The book is setup more as a series of vignettes as each generation of each family is impacted by pivotal moments from British Colonialism in Africa to the Civil War and Civil Rights Movement in America. You can read my review, but just know, I read this in February and I still think about it.

Apparently this is the year for family sagas. I was actually surprised by how much I liked The Invention of Wings. It totally snuck up on me and closed the book with tears streaming down my face because my heart was overflowing. This story weaves two storylines about a white women and her African American slave to create a powerful story that blends slave rights with women’s rights. You can read more in my review.

Everyone knows Margaret Atwood because of “The Handmaid’s Tale” but I highly encourage people to read this one as well. This book is a slow read but it ends up delivering a powerful punch in the end that you were not expecting. You can read more in my review, but I am now on a serious mission to read Atwood’s other books.

I just finished reading this book a little while ago but I can’t stop talking about it. In fact, I was at the pool the other day and it came up in conversation because another person had read it. Westover’s story is definitely inspirational and reaffirms how important an education is. See my review here.

Looking at this list, I am surprised that only one of these books were from book clubs. Usually, it is because of book club that I find great reads. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings.

Until then…keep reading.

Your

Book Admirer