2018 Beat the Backlist Reading Challenge

Let’s talk about reading goals! In the past I’ve focused mostly on reading a set number of books each year and while I’ll probably throw a number at Goodreads.com in a couple of weeks, I wanted to focus on something more specific this year: actually reading the books I’ve already bought. And it turns out I’m not alone. Apparently this is such a common problem that a massively popular reading challenge has been born of it – it’s called Beat the Backlist and it’s hosted annually by NovelKnight.

Want to Join the Fun?

All you need to do is make a tentative list (which you can edit later) of the books published in 2017 or earlier that you’d like to read next year. Then share that list with NovelKnight here and add your name to the ranks.

Once you sign up you get sorted into teams. Reading the books on your list earns you and your team points and each month one winner will be drawn from the team with the most points to get a book of their choice. Seriously. I’m on Team Dragon:

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The Backlist Books I Plan to Read in 2018

My list is made up of books that I purchased for my Kindle over the past two years but haven’t read yet. Now this doesn’t include ALL the books I purchased in the last two years, just the twelve that look most interesting to me right now. I wanted to leave a little wiggle room for impulse new release reads and book club selections that won’t fit the challenge.

The books I chose were:

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The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

The Secret Adversary by Agatha Christie

You Learn by Living by Eleanor Roosevelt

Still Life by Louise Penny (Inspector Gamache #1)

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee

The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas (Throne of Glass #2)

The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris by Jenny Colgan

Hello Sunshine by Laura Dave

Level Up by Cathy Yardley (Fandom Hearts #1)

What are your reading goals for next year? Tell me about your plans in the comments section!

#TopNine2017 My Favorite Pictures This Year

The whole #topnine craze is making its way around Instagram again this year and being the good little social media user that I am, of course, I went straight over to 2017topnine.com to see my results:

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Of course I love all of these pictures but I’m not convinced that they really capture what 2017 was all about for me. They certainly wouldn’t be the pictures that I would choose. What pictures would I choose, you ask? Why thank you for asking – it just so happens I made a little 3×3 grid collage of my own!

These are my 9 favorite pictures from the year:

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Of course, even this collage meant making some sad cuts. There were plenty of memories that were equally important and maybe even equally photogenic. And yeah, that’s true, no pictures of me made the cut even though I took a surprising amount of selfies this year. But these are the nine pictures that still pull at my heart strings when I look at them as well as my artistic eye.

2017, you certainly have given us some great moments and some insta glory. Here’s to more likes, shares and good memories in 2018!

My Favorite Books of 2017

I’m still a little bit in denial that this year is almost over. The fall season has really flown by at lightning speed for me. End of the year posts are starting to make their way around the internet so I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on my favorite books from the past year. These are five of the books I enjoyed the most this year – it’s a real mish mash of genres – something for everyone!

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

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I loved this book. Me and everyone else on the internet, I know, but it’s heartwarming and funny but also heartbreaking and shocking at turns. The main character, Madeline, will make a place in your heart as you are reading and won’t leave.

I also saw the movie based off of the book this year and was pleasantly surprised at how well it held up to the movie. This is such a rarity but they nailed the casting and it definitely had the same energy and feel as the book and followed the plot remarkably well.

I still need to read Yoon’s other novel, The Sun Is Also a Star, which I’ve heard nothing but good things about.


Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

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This is book one in the YA fantasy series that my friends and I obsessed over this year. If I were in a Book Gang that like forced people to read books at gunpoint or something, this is the book I would have been shoving at people in 2017. Like ‘read this now or ELSE!!!!’

The main character, Celaena, is not always likeable – she can be a little bit of a snob and a little bit cocky. But over the course of the book she began to grow on me and at the same time the plot became more and more fascinating. There are still a lot of questions left unanswered and a little love triangle developing that I’m interested to see develop.

If you like a bit of world building and magic, this is a good one to check out.


Reading People by Anne Bogel

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One of my favorite bloggers wrote a book and I was so excited that I even pre-ordered it which is not something I normally do.

It’s all about personality types (like Enneagram and Meyers Briggs, etc.) – how to figure out your type and how to make that knowledge actually make a difference in your life. I actually got a LOT out of this book. Anne does a great job explaining the different types and why they would be useful for you to know more about. She gives you reading suggestions and preferred tests to take and talks about how knowing her various types has helped her in her own life.

If you are a personality geek or would like to be one, this was a really useful book and also just fun to read!


Ready Player One by Ernest Cline 

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This book is about go become a movie so maybe you’ve seen the trailers in the theater. I’m both excited and nervous for the movie and I totally have been acting like That Reader already after seeing the trailer with friends I keep feeling the need to say, “Yeah but that’s not really what the book is about!” Which I think goes to show you how much of an impact the book ended up having on me.

This book took me awhile to read between the somewhat long length and my own life interrupting my progress but I’m glad I ended up finishing it finally! This book is like a love letter to the 1980’s and Geek Culture. It’s a sweeping adventure tale and a little bit of a coming of age and love story as well. The premise is pretty fantastical and I think it will make for a cool movie even if I grumble through the entire thing.


The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan

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If you are looking for some classic “chick lit” – a sweet love story starring a kinda shy girl who isn’t sure what she’s doing with her life and makes a major life change to find herself and find love…. This book is absolutely just the thing.

This story was so good that I pretty much immediately dove into Colgan’s backlist. It’s got wanderlust, love story, self discovery and bookworm fantasy for days. I’ve enjoyed a lot of her other books, too, and keep splurging for more so at this point I kind of consider her a sure thing.

What was your favorite read this year?

Gift Guide: For The Bookish Fangirl In Your Life

I could subtitle this: Gifts you should please buy me right now. Is that too on the nose? Sorry not sorry. Whether you are looking to buy a gift for your wife, best friend, sister, or another awesome bookworm in your life who is only mostly a grown up – let this be your guide to winning Christmas.

 

 

Taylor Swift’s new CD Reputation is giving me life right now and I’ve only heard three songs. Promising stuff for anyone in the Swift Army.


I think a pretty coffee mug is a safe bet for just about anyone but if you can combine multiple obsessions you have a winner on your hands. I like this Talk Darcy To Me mug from the Bookery Boutique.


Who isn’t a Stranger Things fan these days? Give her front porch a face lift with this awesome Upside Down Welcome Mat from Cloud 9 Craftss.


Lamy Fountain Pens are touted as one of the better affordable fountain pens. Don’t forget some extra ink!


I’ve been coveting the Marrying Mr. Darcy card game for ages but haven’t splurged on it yet. Win Game Night with a sure hit for fans of Pride & Prejudice.

 

Okay on to the books! These are five books currently at the top of my wish list:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is getting so much attention right now. It’s a National Book Award Longlist title and a #1 New York Times Bestseller. “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.


Girl Logic by Iliza Shlesinger aka my favorite comic is perfect for your friend who loves a good celeb memoir / comedic essays. It’s a “collection of essays and observations on a confident woman’s approach to friendship, singlehood, and relationships.


Turtles All The Way Down by John Green is one of those titles that all the book bloggers are talking about right now because every bookish person knows to bow before John Green for all eternity. This time is tackling mental illness and also friendship and family. “Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.


Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa De La Cruz is basically a home run choice if you are shopping for someone who loves Jane Austen retellings, Christmas, awesome YA authors or even better all of the above. “Darcy Fitzwilliam is 29, beautiful, successful, and brilliant. She dates hedge funders and basketball stars and is never without her three cellphones—one for work, one for play, and one to throw at her assistant (just kidding). Darcy’s never fallen in love, never has time for anyone else’s drama, and never goes home for Christmas if she can help it. But when her mother falls ill, she comes home to Pemberley, Ohio, to spend the season with her family.” That’s right – this one is swapping the genders of Darcy and Lizzie – so intrigued!


When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon is perfect for fans of sweet love stories with a twist. ” Eleanor & Park meets Bollywood in this hilarious and heartfelt novel about two Indian-American teens whose parents conspire to arrange their marriage.

And of course if you are concerned they have already read these books or you just aren’t sure which one to choose, bookworms love nothing more than a gift card to their favorite bookstore and a chance to run wild through the stacks!

The IRL Report: November 2017

I feel like I was a little lackadaisical with my posting last month. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been uber plugged into life and enjoying all the little moments. While that was certainly true sometimes I think it’s also just that it keeps getting cold and gray which results in me hermiting in the living room with Hulu or sometimes hermiting at a coffee shop with small children and a warm drink. Also making up my own words like hermiting.

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I thought I’d share a few of the other things we’ve been doing this month that I haven’t mentioned here yet. Things like taking really long cold hikes in the middle of nowhere.

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So much enthusiasm. It cannot be contained.

Getting all touristy and posing with giant mammoths and cave men and stuff.

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And eating baking too many delicious cakes and cookies. Peanut butter cookies with candy in the middle continues to be one of my favorites.

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But I also ate some fancier cookies that someone else made and OMG it kind of completed me. I might need to dig for new recipes soon.

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What have you been up to lately?

Easy Last Minute Advent Idea: Holiday Jokes and Puns

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We have a beautiful advent calendar that was handmade for us by my sweet and talented step mom or Meme as my kids call her. It’s one of my favorite Christmas decorations but sometimes the stress to fill it with Pinterest worthy goodies / activities / treats / toys can be overwhelming. But why make things hard for ourselves?

Because my Super Mom Skill is delegating like a boss, I’m using the powers of Google and my laser printer and taking advantage of some clever bloggers who came before me. I decided on a theme – basically dad jokes holiday style – and then told Google about it and Google said, “Of course it exists already!” There are a lot of choices but these four were my favorites:

Four Free Printables for Advent / Holiday Jokes

Lindsay at Artsy Fartsy Mama whose adorable holiday themed jokes printables are so freaking adorable! Lindsay also shared 24 non-candy Advent ideas recently if you are looking for more great ideas.

Bianca at A Little Delightful shared holiday jokes to fill Christmas crackers a few years ago. They print out nice and small, about the size for a fortune cookie so if space is limited, these are perfect.

Leandrea at Coupons are Great shared some more adorable holiday jokes to tuck into your little ones’ lunch boxes. So even if you aren’t worried about Advent calendars right now, lunch box notes are another fun way to use these jokes!

MJ and Modern Parents Messy Kids has a whole advent calendar printable using, you guessed it, holiday jokes and puns! Apparently I’m not the first one to come up with this idea. If you don’t already have an Advent calendar and your looking at the calendar right now like OMG – just head straight here and download their printable and you are GOOD TO GO.

Does your family use an Advent calendar?

What are you filling your Advent calendar with?

What are you drinking while you fill it?

The 5 books that have Been on my TBR the longest.

This week’s prompt for Top 5 Tuesday is 5 books that have been on your TBR the longest. I look forward to seeing everyone’s lists for this prompt because so often we are all sharing the same assortment of titles that are hot on everyone’s radars. This prompt should give us all a broader peek at each other’s reading habits.

I’m actually sharing the 5 books which have been on my Amazon wishlist the longest because I don’t keep up with my GoodReads TBR list well at all and my physical bookshelves would be too difficult to gauge time spent on shelf waiting for me.

So here are the 5 books that have been on my Amazon wishlist the longest:

51lNQ4Rs0ALHit by Delilah Dawson is the oldest resident on my wishlist. The premise of this book is so unique and so compelling to me. I’m honestly not sure why I haven’t purchased this one yet:

No one reads the fine print.

The good news is that the USA is finally out of debt. The bad news is that it was bought out by Valor National Bank, and debtors are the new big game, thanks to a tricky little clause hidden deep in the fine print of a credit card application. Now, after a swift and silent takeover that leaves 9-1-1 calls going through to Valor voicemail, they’re unleashing a wave of anarchy across the country.

Patsy didn’t have much of a choice. When the suits showed up at her house threatening to kill her mother then and there for outstanding debt unless Patsy agreed to be an indentured assassin, what was she supposed to do? Let her own mother die?


51z70WYC6HLOnly Ever Yours by Louise O’Neill boasts a beautiful cover and a promising premise as well. I think the only reason I haven’t purchased this one yet because I have read similar sounding stories already:

Where women are created for the pleasure of men, beauty is the first duty of every girl. In Louise O’Neill’s world of Only Every Yours women are no longer born naturally, girls (called “eves”) are raised in Schools and trained in the arts of pleasing men until they come of age. Freida and Isabel are best friends. Now, aged sixteen and in their final year, they expect to be selected as companions–wives to powerful men. All they have to do is ensure they stay in the top ten beautiful girls in their year. The alternatives–life as a concubine, or a chastity (teaching endless generations of girls)–are too horrible to contemplate.
But as the intensity of final year takes hold, the pressure to be perfect mounts. Isabel starts to self-destruct, putting her beauty–her only asset–in peril. And then into this sealed female environment, the boys arrive, eager to choose a bride. Freida must fight for her future–even if it means betraying the only friend, the only love, she has ever known.

51PdlbUdW8LMy Fair Lazy by Jen Lancaster looks just as awesome as all of her other titles but I already have a backlog of her books that I still need to read so I haven’t been able to justify buying this one yet. I stalled out on the last Lancaster book I was reading and have had a hard time diving back into another one but this one sounds frankly awesome:

Readers have followed Jen Lancaster through job loss, sucky city living, weight loss attempts, and 1980s nostalgia. Now Jen chronicles her efforts to achieve cultural enlightenment, with some hilarious missteps and genuine moments of inspiration along the way. And she does so by any means necessary: reading canonical literature, viewing classic films, attending the opera, researching artisan cheeses, and even enrolling in etiquette classes to improve her social graces.

In Jen’s corner is a crack team of experts, including Page Six socialites, gourmet chefs, an opera aficionado, and a master sommelier. She may discover that well-regarded, high-priced stinky cheese tastes exactly as bad as it smells, and that her love for Kraft American Singles is forever. But one thing’s for certain: Eliza Doolittle’s got nothing on Jen Lancaster-and failure is an option.


51ywRbniv+LThe Art of Memoir by Mary Karr has been on my radar for awhile and seems to be beloved by many writers and readers. I think the only reason I haven’t gotten it is because I already have lots of books on writing that I haven’t actually read. Do I need another?

For thirty years Karr has [taught the form of memoir writing], winning teaching prizes at Syracuse.  (The writing program there produced such acclaimed authors as Cheryl Strayed, Keith Gessen, and Koren Zailckas.) In The Art of Memoir, she synthesizes her expertise as professor and therapy patient, writer and spiritual seeker, recovered alcoholic and “black belt sinner,” providing a unique window into the mechanics and art of the form that is as irreverent, insightful, and entertaining as her own work in the genre.

Anchored by excerpts from her favorite memoirs and anecdotes from fellow writers’ experience, The Art of Memoir lays bare Karr’s own process. (Plus all those inside stories about how she dealt with family and friends get told— and the dark spaces in her own skull probed in depth.) As she breaks down the key elements of great literary memoir, she breaks open our concepts of memory and identity, and illuminates the cathartic power of reflecting on the past; anybody with an inner life or complicated history, whether writer or reader, will relate.


41D5jtC3TpLEssays of E.B. White was recommended by a blogger a few years ago and has been sitting on my wishlist ever since. I think it might be one of those books that I think I should want to read but I’m not sure if I actually do want to. Does that make sense?

The Amazon description for this book just says, “The classic collection by one of the greatest essayists of our time.” Compelling stuff there, huh? But E.B. White has written some of the best children’s books ever like  Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web and the book has some fairly glowing praises.

One of the reviews on Amazon says:

“What a delicious read. E B White makes a trip in his car an exciting adventure. His essays are full of humor. Life was more rustic. but not exactly calmer and White writes about his career, his family, his environment, his loves and dislikes. His style is so engaging. You go back to a prior time and enjoy the ride and the read.”

Another reviewer blamed the book for ruining college for them so… grain of salt?


These books have all been on my list for over two years. Does that mean I don’t really want to read them since I haven’t purchased them yet or that I really want to read them but they have been rude and haven’t gone on sale ever? It’s hard to say because I do prune the list relatively often when it starts feeling too long to be manageable and these five titles have continued to make the cut.

Have you read any of these?

Which one should I add to my shopping cart first?

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Top 5 Tuesday is a weekly link up hosted by Bionic Bookworm.

My 5 “Auto-Buy” Authors

You know those authors who come out with a new book and you know you are going to buy it pretty much sight unseen? That’s what this week’s Top 5 Tuesday (hosted by the Bionic Book Worm) is all about. I think this list has shifted for me a bit over the years as new authors grab my attention and maybe older authors have become less of a sure thing.

Here are 5 authors who are killing it for me right now:

16068905Rainbow Rowell won me over with Fangirl (which was so popular that it led to a spin off title of the book within the book that our main character is so obsessed with) but has been consistently winning me over with every title since then. Eleanor and Park is beloved by just about everyone and Attachments really sucked me in as well.

If you love fully fleshed out characters that feel like they live inside your heart, under dogs that make good, settings that  feel iconic to a certain time and place – Rowell is your girl. She has yet to not knock it out of the park for me making her an obvious choice for this list.

 


28372019Jenny Colgan is relatively new to the list but after devouring The Bookshop on the Corner, I pretty much immediately bookmarked all of her other books. Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe proved that this is an author that knows her genre and excels at it. She thus very quickly established herself as a sure thing for me.

If you like cozy love stories starring quiet bookworms who learn to love themselves while embarking on a new adventure or career, Colgan is there for you. If you happen to also love it when those stories are set in the UK, bonus points for you. These are the sort of quick reads that have you up until 2AM reading just one more page I swear and then purchasing the next title as soon as you finish.


book one of the Lunar ChroniclesMarissa Meyer jumped to my attention when I started reading The Lunar Chronicles and I’ve basically auto-TBRed all of her books forever. While her novel, Heartless, didn’t quite complete me, I’m still eager to read any and all of her upcoming books.

I love Meyers books for the strong female characters who kick butt and take names, fantastical world building and imperfectly perfect characters who have flaws without being a farce. Even her villains have the opportunity to be fleshed out and understood. She also excels at reinventing well known fairy tales and turning them on their heads.

 


11870085John Green is another author who frankly seems to excel at everything he touches whether it’s a novel or a You Tube show. It’s understandable that the people who love John, really freaking adore him. I think that The Fault in Our Stars is still probably my favorite of his books but I’ve read several and really have loved them all. I’m looking forward to digging into his latest release, Turtles All The Way Down.

John has a talent for tackling topics that are often depressing or difficult to talk about and bringing humor and levity to the issue without downplaying it. He also writes boyfriend characters that you will fall in love with and has his finger on the pulse of what it means to be a teenager.


16130417Lisa Lutz wrote one of my favorite mystery / detective series ever, The Spellman Files and although I didn’t love the last non-Spellman title I read quite as much, I still tend to wishlist all her new releases and wait with baited breath for a new Spellman title (might I be waiting eternally Lisa?).

Lutz is a master at family dynamics and juggling a rotating list of characters whose viewpoints into the story are carefully unfolded at just the right times. Her mysteries are exciting but rarely scary and tend to dwell more on personal growth and relationships but they are still excellent mysteries as you have to really read through the entire book until you get to the heart of the “whodunnit”. Her characters are realistically messy and have a bit of an anti-hero quality that really appeals to me.

Honorable Mentions go to: Jen Lancaster, Christopher Moore, Janet Evanovich and Jennifer Weiner who would definitely have been on this list once upon a time but have kind of dropped off of my “auto buy” list and relocated to my “definitely consider getting” list.

Who would be on your auto buy list?

Happy Halloween!

I feel like it’s been Halloween for a good week and a half what with all the parties and trunk or treat festivities, but tonight is the actual Big Night and my kids are raring and ready to go.  When it comes to costumes, are you Team Scary or Team Sweet? We are probably somewhere in the middle but thanks to the wonders of photo editing, I can pretend my kids’ costumes are way more involved and creative than IRL.

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Thanks to Picmonkey.com for all the fun filters and overlays. Thanks to Target and Menards and our closets for the costumes. Thanks to watching too much Stranger Things for my creative direction. No worries, these horrifying creatures won’t be showing up on your door step tonight. You’ll actually be giving your candy to this:

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Although MM’s mask is approaching the world of scary costumes:

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Don’t be scurred. Just give them all your candy and no harm will befall you. Bonus points if there are Reese’s in there for mom.

Happy Halloween guys!