Book Blogger Tag

I was tagged by Elissa at Elissa Reads to participate in this challenge! I’m due for a meet-the-book-blogger post, so I thought this could be a good introduction to me and my blog writing process!

Note: This form was created by Jamie @ ALittleSliceofJamie

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1. Where do you typically write your blog posts?

At my desk! One of the reason’s I’ve been able to post more recently, is because I finally set up a desk in my house, which has been great for sitting down and pulling my thoughts together.

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

A long time. I never time it because that would stress me out but it’s not very quick. I can normally get my first round of thoughts down in 10-15 minutes but then its going back, refining my word choices, and checking for typos that takes a long time. I care a lot about the reader getting the information and emotional understanding they need, so I try to make sure I’m choosing words with the right connotations.

3. When did you start your book blog?

February 2017! I was feeling unsatisfied with my engineering life – not enough creativity! – and also felt like I was just reading books and forgetting them. Having a place to write creatively and process the books I was reading felt like a good idea.

4. What’s the worst thing about having a book blog in your opinion?

I don’t think there is one. Maybe overcommiting to reading as a hobby, but is that really such a bad thing? I don’t put too much pressure on myself to write, so it’s just enjoyable so far.

5. What is the best thing about having a book blog in your opinion?

First and foremost – the interaction with all of you! If it wasn’t the interaction, I’d have a reading journal 😉

I also enjoy the creative process of writing reviews. I typically ask myself “What was the best part of this book? Why would I read it? What would I want to know before? How did this book make me feel?” I often find that some book reviews don’t set up the intrigue for the future reader and I try to to do that. The best compliment I can receive is that someone started reading a book because of my review!

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

I’ve been enjoying writing reviews recently! Emma in the Night and Beartown were really fun for me to write about.

7. What is your favorite type of blog post to write?

Review posts are great! I enjoy discussion posts, but often worry I don’t have the authority to make generalizations and give advice – if you’re reading my blog you probably already have some bookish opinions of your own!

8. When do you typically write?

When I have free time! Sometimes a Tuesday, sometimes a Saturday. There’s no real rhyme or reason. Mostly when I’m between books and deciding what to read next.

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

Typically with a can of La Croix at my desk. No music. I can’t think about words while music is on. If TV is on it needs to be something I’m not really watching, like overly long reality TV shows – Hello The Bachelor and The Voice.

10. When do you write your book reviews? Right after finishing the book? Two weeks after finishing the book?

I try to keep it within a week or two but definitely less than three weeks. If it goes past three weeks, it’s not getting written. However, I really like having time to process my thoughts before I sit down and write. That way it’s more helpful and less reactionary.

11. How often do you post?

Aiming for twice a week! I’ve been doing well over the last month – we’ll see how that translates in to a busy summer!

I tag anyone who’s interested in participating! I don’t like tags because they feel cliquey, but in the interest of sharing the love, check out a couple people I’ve been interacting with recently:  Anne from I’ve Read This, Laila from Big Reading Life

I like big books..

.. and I cannot lie. 🙂

Yesterday on my instagram feed, my friend Sonja @readblend had a really interesting post about how she struggles with long books and was asking for any advice. I gave her my two cents, and it made me think about how much I actually love long books.

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Some of my favorite long books of the past few years!

My favorite style of reading – a genre I defined myself so may or may not be real – is immersive. Whether its a literary fiction, non fiction, or even a mystery/thriller I just love to feel like I traveled to another place in the world and met a whole group of new people and had the chance to get to know them. A good book will do that and I’ve noticed that typically longer books get the chance to because of the amount of time they have to build the world and develop the characters.

I’m current working through The Great Alone and I am so obsessed. While I may not have left my apartment for a substantial period this weekend, I’m so tempted to tell anyone I talk to tomorrow that I traveled to the Alaskan wilderness, survived my first Alaskan winter (which trust me, I know, is brutal), and fought to save a family from an abusive and alcoholic father (I’m not sure if I succeeded yet — TBD). When you get a good book like that, I love to go all in and not worry about the length – and actually savor that it doesn’t have to be over yet.

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So good! This is pretty much what my weekend looked like.

And in case you’re struggling with long books, and my inspirational speech wasn’t enough, here are a few of the strategies that have helped me read more long books:

  • Don’t plan your TBRs. You won’t be so worried about the exact date that you finish a book if you don’t have another 7 you need to get to before June 1st.
  • Read for long periods of time when you do read. I like to look 50 pages ahead and see if there’s a chapter ending around roughly page 250. Then I’ll say “ok I’ll read until Chapter 18.” It makes the page numbers less relevant and also lets me have a finite stopping point. And if you read a 500 pages book in 50 page increments its pretty much the same as reading a 300 pages book in 30 page increments.
  • Read it quickly! Part of the “dragging” of long books is that sometimes you’re intimidated to sit down with it so you only pick it up every few days and then it drags because you’re missing the urgency and excitement. I tend to fly through long books because I read them when I know I’ll have time to dedicate to it and feel fully immersed — and once I’m in to it, there’s no putting it down!

And finally – I commented a few of my thoughts on Sonja’s thoughts and THE AUTHOR OF MY NEXT ANTICIPATED LONG BOOK liked my comment and commented too! So here’s one more piece of advice from Cherise Wolas, the author or The Ressurection of Joan Ashby:

I just fall into the world of the novel and immerse myself in the journey. And for me it’s always about the journey, never about getting to the end in a rush

So there you have it! Let me know how you feel about long books, and if you have any favorites ❤

Book Review: Beartown

Author: Fredrik Backman
Published: April 25, 2017
Genre: Fiction
FLW Rating: 5/5

First things first: I’m currently participating in the Unread Shelf Project 2018, hosted by Whitney at @theunreadshelf. This post reflects on the May Challenge, but you can look back at all the posts here

The challenge for May was to pick the book that you most recently acquired and read it before the end of the month or get rid of it! I bought Beartown in the end of April after renting it and not finishing it from the library TWICE. I knew it was a book I wanted to read and would want to keep, I just couldn’t seem to get through it in the time allotted by the library. Ironically, once I started it this time, I couldn’t put it down and finished all 415 pages of it in four days.

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My COMPLETED Unread Shelf Challenges

Beartown tells the story of a small hockey town on the edge of a forest. As the book frequently says, “Bears shit in the forest. Everyone else shits on Beartown.” The only thing that keeps Beartown going is the hockey club. And when all the work that was put in to the club by each member of the community is about to come to fruition, something happens to put everything they’ve worked so hard for in jeopardy. The community response is, understandably, very strong. And as the drama unfolds, the few who choose to risk it all for what’s right face losing their entire support system.

The character development in this book is strong. In my opinion, this is both its strength and its weakness. The first time I picked it up, I found the narration to be a little heavy handed. The tone was almost prophetic in its third person omniscient style. There was a lot of foreshadowing of how a character would act based on their pure and unchangeable personal definition — which irked me since I tend to favor more dynamic characters. At first I found this to be on the telling-not-showing side of things, and was a little frustrated by the style. Honestly, that is why, after only reading forty pages, I returned it to the library without a second thought.

However, all the character development in the exposition, comes full circle after the main event, because faced with such strong personal dilemmas, each person is forced to look inside themselves to pick a side. As the reader, you’re already inside of each character’s head, and are able to dive even deeper in to the conflict with that knowledge in tow.

Without getting in to any of the details, I thought the ending was really well done —  for a trilogy. I have SO many questions, but got enough closure to wait a month for the next installment to be released! (Us Against You comes out on June 5th!)

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Book Review: Emma in the Night

Author: Wendy Walker
Published: August 8th 2017
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
FLW Rating: 4/5

“Cass Tanner was taking them all on a journey, and the only way they would find Emma was to go along for the ride.”

As soon as I read this line, I knew it had to be the start of my review. Emma in The Night was a wild ride. That is truly the best way to describe this book. But buckle up and enjoy it because there’s no point digging and guessing. Cass has it all planned out, and she’s going to take you to the answer.

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But let me back up.

Emma in the Night is the story of two sisters, Cass and Emma, and the mystery of their disappearance. When one of the girls returns alone after being missing for three years, she immediately shares her story with detectives to help them find her sister, Emma. Every line of Cass’ story was scrutinized – inserting doubt to the reader and adding a level of mystery to the explanation being presented.

The book alternates it’s points of view between Cass Tanner and one of the detectives working the case. So after each segment of Cass’s story, you’ll get the reaction from Dr. Winter, who has been working the case for three years and knows they are so so close to the answer. It’s not always a strict back and forth, but there is enough direct scrutiny of Cass’s statements to feel like you’re getting the whole picture, the facts and the fiction.

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For me, the beginning gripped me from page one – I was dying to hear the revelation of the case that had stumped everyone from the beginning. Similarly, the end was incredible. The reveal was well constructed and so well done. However, the middle dragged and lost my attention as I wondered where this was all heading. For that reason, I can’t list this mystery among the greats, but still very strongly encourage you to read and enjoy it! Just promise me you won’t wonder where it’s all going, because that ruins the fun. Just pick your feet up, and get read to be pulled in!

The Unread Shelf: What’s Working

Part of the challenge for May is to read the most recently acquired book on your unread shelf — and I’m so excited for that part! The other part of the challenge is to talk about what has been helping you push on with this challenge for the last four months, and for the next eight!

For the most part – participating in this challenge has been the biggest factor! Finding out about the challenge each month and picking the book off my shelf that I’m going to read for the month makes reading my unread shelf exciting again!

 

But of course there are other factors too.

  • I’ve been limiting my Book of the Month subscription! When the selections are released each month, I try not order a book unless something looks really good. I have a changed perspective that receiving a book I won’t read in a timely manner just becomes a burden. I often check if the Book of the Month selections are available at my library and ask myself “does this book look good enough to want to own it after I read it?” Since the beginning of the year I’ve ordered boxes three out of the five months, but still I consider that to be two steps in the right direction!
  • As an add on to that that last point, the two months I skipped happend to be in a row, and I found myself really craving bookmail. I ended up caving and buying a few books from the bookstore instead. So, even though I’m trying to be more intentional with my BOTM subscription, I think keeping the subscription active keeps my other book buying in line!
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I love opening this box when it arrives on my doorstep!
  • I’ve been loving the library! What a great resource! My boyfriend – a video game and movie buff – is so jealous of how much of a resource the library can be for a book lover like me, since there isn’t really an equivalent for his hobbies. That really gave me perspective on how lucky we are to have this institution! I’ve been placing books on hold that I want to read – particularly new releases. If I’m sitting on the holds list and lose interest, that’s so much better than losing interest once it arrives in the mail from amazon! And I’ve also been letting myself browse and choose books when I make it in to the library. It’s been satisfying my craving for wanting to have the books I see on the shelves!
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I got these books from the library – read one, half read/half listened to another, and didn’t read the third! And that was totally ok!
  • I made the top shelf of my bookshelf a TBR shelf! My bookshelves are about 4 feet tall, so the top shelf puts those books at perfect browsing height. The shelf has every book on my shelves that I haven’t read yet + plus library books that should never get a permanent spot on my shelf and books I’ve read but need to return to friends. It’s been a great system because I find myself browsing them when I’m bored and getting more and more excited to read them!

Overall, this has been a great challenge, and I’m glad Whitney asked us to look back at some of our top keys to success! And now on to Beartown — my most recently acquired book on my shelf 🙂

Have you been participating? Let me know what’s been helping you?

10 Things I’ve Learned About Audiobooks

If you’re new around here, I recently won a one year subscription to Scribd Unlimited and am trying to make the most of it!

I wrote my first month thoughts here, but have continued to learn more and thought I would share my overall thoughts in one concise post! A couple items are repeats/updates but overall they are all new thoughts!

  1. My favorite audiobook styles have become are narrative nonfiction and alternating narrator fiction.  Narrative Nonfiction (such as I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by Michelle McNamara) can feel like a long form podcast, and Alternating Narrator Fiction (such as The Confusion of Languages or An American Marriage) can keep things interesting with varying voices and perspectives.
  2. I love listening to parts of books I’m reading in hardcopy while I’m doing chores around the house. I genuinely don’t mind cooking dinner or washing dishes as much anymore because I’m still getting in quality reading time! I thought switching between audio and text would throw me off but as long as you finish either medium at the end of a chapter it hasn’t been an issue for me.
  3. I love having unlimited audiobooks through Scribd so I can listen to books I already have on hardcopy without spending more money for the audiobook too.
  4. I was able to listen to a book without falling asleep on a solo roadtrip!
    I recently drove from San Diego to Phoenix and I listened to a book for most of my driving time! This was new to me and something I was nervous about. I’ve never been an audiobook person before so used to fall asleep when I tried, but it worked surpringly well on my last road trip! I made sure to pick a book with a ton of suspense so there was no way I would fall asleep in the car. I’ll Be Gone in the Dark (before he was caught) was perfect for that.
  5. A good way to finish the book you’re not loving? Use the strategy of “I’m not loving this in text, I’m going to put it on 1.5x audio to finish it”.
    It works sometimes – such as when I was listening to A Piece of The World and just having a hard time focusing but enjoyed the story, but I tried the strategy for The Immortalists, it didn’t change anything and I just had to stop listening at a certain stage.
  6. I’m having a hard time finishing audiobooks!
    The last two audiobooks I’ve listened to, I’ve stopped both with about 35 minutes to go, with no real desire to start listening again. Does this happen to you? I think there’s just such a lack of finality with audiobooks that I just kind of gave up. I will add they were both nonfiction so the end would have just been wrap up etc, with no big reveal or conclusion and I just never didn’t feel compelled to finish it! (is that bad?!)
  7. I can listen to audiobooks on my walk to work with bluetooth earbuds!
    They are the Otium T2 Wireless Earbuds, and for only $30 they are SUCH a steal! The major negative review for them on amazon is that the battery life is horrendous, and I have to agree – it’s not great – but that’s just where technology is for a device this small! They’ve been fine for my walk to work and also for cooking dinner, and the sound quality has been great so far! Highly reccomend.
  8. Scribd gets so many new titles each month!
    For May, they got new titles from some of my FAVORITE authors, such as Paula McLain and Jon Krakauer, and they also got some brand new releases such as A Higher Loyalty by James Comey and Educated by Tara Westover. Very cool!
  9. I still desperately wish the Scribd app had a cast funtion.
    I would love to listen to my audiobooks on my google home speakers but it doesnt have the functionality to do that yet. Major bummer! I can listen as I cook by using my wireless earbuds, but trust me I’ll be so stoked the day I can listen to audiobooks on my google home.
  10. And finally can I love audiobooks and reading? YES!
    Audiobooks are not replacing my love for reading on paper but they are totally enhancing it! They’re giving me another option and a way to maximize my reading efficiency 🙂

If this hasn’t been enough to convince you to sign up, I’ve had multiple friends sign up and tell me how lifechanging it has been. Take the plunge and sign up with my referral code for 2 free months! (Also this is totally not sponsored, just pure love for my scribd subscription)

Book Review: Unbelievable

Author: Katy Tur
Published: September 2017
Genre: Celebrity Memoir
FLW Rating: 3/5
Format: Audiobook

Unbelieveable was a lot of things – a walk down a very outrageous memory lane, a look at recent history now that it’s offically in the historybooks, a family history (probably my favorite part), and an inside look at how NBC operates during election times – and also probably all the time.  It is, first and foremost, a memoir of Katy Tur’s experience on the Trump campaign from the very beginning to the very end – a story she never asked to be on with twists she could have never expected.

Let’s break that down.

A Walk Down A Very Outrageous Memory Lane

As we can all remember, the Trump campaign was full of outrageous twist and turns, that seemed to just keep getting crazier and crazier. Everything he said was the craziest thing that had ever been said, and as a result our brain moved past the prior offense to focus on the present. Rehearing each scandal through this book gave me two emotions – 90% of the time I thought, “Oh my god, remember that?”, and the other 10% had me thinking “Oh gosh I never want to think about this again.” One thing I found interesting was that we now had context. When he said things along the lines of lets destroy our enemies, at the time people were wondering what he meant, and now we know. [This isn’t a political blog, so in a n effort to keep politics out, I’m not going to elaborate here]

A Look at Recent History now that it’s Officially in the History Books

I think this was what drew me in to the book so much – we rarely get to read about historical events of the past two years. I should also note that I tend to stay away from those books because of the obvious bias that they have by just being too close to the event. This one seemed like a great option because it wasn’t a book about the campaign during the campaign, with the ability to change minds, it was just a historical recounting of events.

A Family History

As I mentioned above, this was my favorite part. Totally unexpected to me, Katy took a couple chapters to talk about her family and how she got in to journalism. Did you know that Katy’s parents were pioneers in live TV news from helicopters? They were the first helicopter to find O.J. Simpson in his white bronco – several MINUTES before the rest of the new agencies could mobilize their crew. It was really cool to hear how that affected Katy’s childhood and family dynamics. It also helped break up the in-your-face trump quotes that the book was based on.

An Inside Look at How NBC Operates During Elections – but also probably all the time

This was very surpringly my least favorite part of the book. I’ve grown up LOVING NBC. The Today Show, NBC Nightly News, the Thanksgiving Day Parade… you name it, if it had NBC anchors involved, I was there. When I lived in New York I always said that to me 30 Rock was the most quintessential part of New York City, because growing up that was all I saw of it. I was drawn to this book in large part because of my interest in NBC but ended up hating all of the sections about how they decided assignments, how short term they were thinking, how Katy had to sacrifice so much for an organization that seemed to value her so little. This may have been how the story was told – Katy was often snarky and self depracating, but as someone who recently left New York City and left behind a bad job that treated me badly, I did not want to hear about the disorganization of NBC News.  I felt myself wanting to scream back at her WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS!?

 

So all things considered, I enjoyed the book. I felt like the writing was as unbiased as it could have been coming from an NBC News anchor, and it felt very historical and factual, which I appreciated. It may have been too much too soon from an I’m-still-recovering-from-the-2016-election perspective, and I could have used less office politics, but I totally understand that this was Katy’s story and the office politics played a large role in how it developed.

If you’re interested in reliving the craziness of the 2016 Election now that it’s kind of/sort of behind us, give this a try! And if you’ve read it, leave me a comment and let me know what you thought!

Discussion Post: Divorce Diaries

Last night, I was driving home, listening to NPR on the radio, and I heard an oddly familiar story – It was a story about the social status of men and women when a Nigerian couple gets a divorce.  In most cases, the man maintains his social status, while the woman has to start her entire adult life over again and typically moves back to living with her parents.

This reminded me of two recent books I read about marriages in Africa – both share the similar trend but are entirely different stories as well.

Stay with Me by Ayobami Adebayo

In Stay with Me, Yejide and Akin live in Nigeria and their community practices polygamy, where men can take multiple wives. Akin and Yejide decide to remain monogamous, until they experience fertility problems and Akin succumbs to social pressure to take another wife. The book shows the aftermath of the decision and becomes a portait of marriage in Nigeria. At the time of my review, I gave the book 3.5 out of 5 stars, but am now reconsidering based on how long the story has remained with me.

Circling the Sun by Paula McLain

Circling the Sun takes place in Kenya and tells the story of British immigrants/settlers in the Colony. When Beryl, the protagonist, is 16 years olds, she gets married, not because she wants to, but because she has an opportunity to marry a man with status who wants to marry her. Her father encourages her to take the opportunity rather than become an old, unmarried woman in their town. The relationship doesn’t work out for Beryl, and the divorce becomes an obstacle that is hard for Beryl to overcome. She has to consider that there aren’t jobs available for females, and that even if she had a job it would be unlikely that she could support herself on her salary. For a while, it feels like the only option is for her to move back in with her father, but of course that is not ideal. I will say that in this case, the man is worried about what the divorce will do to his social standing, however he is never concerned for his livelihood or his financial independence.

I won’t tell anymore because I don’t want to spoil it for you, but it struck me that each of these stories occurs in a similar setting, and handle similar issues. If you’re interested in the culture of marriage in other societies, I would definitely check these two out. (Also funny to note, these are both books I read for The Unread Shelf Project!)

In summary:

What has this taught me? That I have so much more to learn! I don’t mean to generalize anything and recognize that Africa is a huge continent with so many diverse cultures, but I couldn’t help but notice that this was a theme in recent African literature and will be looking out for this theme in future articles and stories. Have anything to teach me or similar book recommendations? PLEASE DO!

The Unread Shelf Project 2018: April Update!

First things first: I’m currently participating in the Unread Shelf Project 2018, hosted by Whitney at @theunreadshelf. You can look back at all the posts here!

Squeaking this one in under the wire! The challenge for April was to pick the book that had been on your unread shelf for the longest and read it before the end of the month or get rid of it! I finished my April selection yesterday and am here to talk about it before we head in to May!

For this challenge, some of the other participants read books they’ve had on their shelves for ELEVEN years! Given the fact that I moved across the country last year, I haven’t had any on my books for a crazy long time, but Circling the Sun by Paula McLain had been weighing on my mind for the longest. I considered getting it for my Book of the Month selection in May 2016, and have considered adding it to my box most months after that! I finally borrowed a copy from my mom, who borrowed it from her mom, so combining all of that, it felt right to read it during this month.

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Overall, I’d give the book four out of five stars – the plot didn’t blow me away, but I will say that Beryl was one of the most compelling characters I’ve read about recently.

Circling the Sun follows Beryl through her life as she becomes and independent from her family and tries her hardest to forge a path to success – or at least happiness. Without giving too much away, Beryl didn’t live an easy life. There were physical struggles – such as a few unfortunate incidents with African wildlife, but there was also so much grief, turbulence, and necessity to make risky decisions, with very little support from friends or family. It would have been an immense struggle just to continue, and I enjoyed watching Beryl power onward from each individual setback.

The strongest theme I noticed in the book was the conflict between the idea of freedom and the reality of independence.

“I have fought for independence here, and freedom too. More and more I find they are not at all the same thing.” – Paula McLain, Circling the Sun

The first time I read that quote, I had to do a double take because I didn’t really understand it. But that quote remained a theme throughout the rest of the novel and made the book even more profound to me.

Being an Unread Shelf post, it’s only appropriate to address the question, “Why did this book become the oldest book on my shelf?” I think the answer goes hand in hand with why I chose to read it when giving it away became the only other option – Once a book has been on your shelf long enough, it looses the urgency and excitement of those new ones! The person you borrowed it from isn’t expecting it back anytime soon, you’ve talked yourself over it so many times that it’s become second nature to look past it on your shelf again, and you lost the guilt of not reading that book you bought a couple years ago, that you’re still harboring over the book you bought six months ago.

So I think this was a great exercise and I encourage you to try it too! This book never felt “old” or anything like that, and I’m really glad I read it!

On to May! — I’m going to wait to hear about the challenge from Whitney before I decide on a book, but we’re getting closer to finishing the hardcopies I have! My final three are What Happened by Hillary Clinton, Playing Through the Whistle by S.L. Price, and Modern Lovers by Emma Straub! But these posts will continue, as I make progress on my kindle and netgalley TBR! Stay tuned 🙂