Category Archives: Blogging

2018 TBR Pile Challenge

This appears to be the year that — following a few years’ hiatus — I jump back into the crazy world of reading challenges. Like many avid readers, my TBR (to be read) pile of books is out of control. Goodreads shows that I currently own 641 books, but I know it’s more than that because a) I’m not very diligent about adding my ARCs (advanced reader’s copies) or Kindle books and b) I’ve never done a complete inventory of all my books.

Clearly, a TBR challenge is in order. Fortunately, Roof Beam Reader has brought back The Official TBR Pile Challenge after a two year hiatus. There are several other TBR-related challenges but what most appeals to me about this one is that you’re not limited to reading only your own books for a certain period of time. That’s not feasible for me. I like that this is spread out over the course of a year.

Today’s the last day to sign up with a list of 12 books (plus two alternates) from your TBR that you intend to read in 2018. Each of these books must have been on your bookshelf or “To Be Read” list for AT LEAST one full year. This means the book cannot have a publication date of 1/1/2017 or later.

In addition to the challenge’s criteria, I tried to select books that I’ve been “saving to read for a rainy day” because given the state of the world, it would probably behoove me to get to them sooner rather than later. I also wanted mostly women writers. Finally, I wanted some overlap with The Classics Challenge.

Without further ado, here are my dozen (plus two) for the Official 2018 Challenge:

  1. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (2007)
  2. The Answer to Your Question by Paulette Bates Alden (2013)
  3. The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood (2000)
  4. When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins (2009)
  5. A Big Storm Knocked It Over by Laurie Colwin (1993)
  6. Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989)
  7. The Liars’ Club by Mary Karr (1995)
  8. Into the Tangle of Friendship: A Memoir of the Things That Matter by Beth Kephart (2000)
  9. Ghosts in the Garden: Reflections on Endings, Beginnings and the Unearthing of Self by Beth Kephart (2005)
  10. Wise Blood by Flannery O’Connor (1952)
  11. Above Us Only Sky: Essays by Marion Winik (2005)
  12. Orlando by Virginia Woolf (1928)

Alternates:
In Our Time: Memoir of a Revolution by Susan Brownmiller
Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories by Ursula Hegi

There are also mini-challenges and periodic Checkpoints. The first one is today and asks which of these books have been on our TBR shelves the longest. I’m honestly not sure but I do know that four of these were purchased at a book sale in 2011 (as documented here) that boasted having 50,000 books available for sale.

I’ll update this post as I (hopefully) read and review all of these. In the meantime, check out what others are reading for the Official 2018 TBR Challenge here.

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First Book of the Year 2018

Every New Year’s Day, Sheila from Book Journey hosts First Book of the Year where bloggers share … well, the first book they plan to read in the new year. I love this event because for as long as I can remember, I’ve always put considerable thought (perhaps too much) into the perfect book to launch another trip around the sun. Just like the invitation for a special event,  I think the first book can set the tone for the year.

Sometimes I’ve chosen something that aligns with my goals for the year, sometimes it has been a classic I’ve been wanting to read, and other times my choice is simply a book that seems to be right for the moment. I like my first book to be upbeat, perhaps somewhat inspirational, preferably by an author I’ve previously enjoyed.

For 2018, I’ve chosen a book by one of my favorite authors: Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan. I loved each of her previous books (The Middle Place, Glitter and Glue, Lift) and can’t wait to read this new one which is scheduled to be published next week (release date January 9).

(Truth be told, I’m probably going to be reading this and a review book since my first freelancing assignment is due January 6 — so this may very well wind up not being my actual first book — but we’ll just stick with this one in case the latter doesn’t work out.)

One of the fun things Sheila does for First Book of the Year is to create a photo collage of participants with our books. I can’t imagine how much work this is, but I love seeing what everyone else is reading.  You can check out our photos and book selections here.

Happy 2018 and happy reading!

 

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This Is How We Read (#AMonthOfFaves)

December tends to be a reflective month for many people, myself included. This year, I’m going to try and keep my blogging momentum going (thank you, #NaBloPoMo and Nonfiction November!)  by participating in the 4th annual #AMonthofFaves hosted by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge. It’s a fun way to recap the year that was. Yes, a significant chunk of 2017 deserves to be drop-kicked to the curb, but despite such, there was some good stuff worth remembering. We’ll be posting about them each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday of December — or, you know, anytime.

Today’s #AMonthofFaves is about our year in reading, a topic I usually wait until the first week in January to talk about for various reasons. I’m of the belief that it’s entirely possible for one to read one’s favorite book of the year on December 31. Consider this, then, a prologue of sorts to my annual year-end reading recap.

To date I’ve read 45 books, exceeding my 2016 total by two, a nice accomplishment. My goal is at least 50 — definitely doable. December is usually a plentiful reading month for me, given that I often have an abundance of vacation days to use up (which, thankfully, is the case this year).  More than half (27) were review books. Fiction consisted of 20 books; 21 were nonfiction. Only 9 were memoirs (would have thought that would have been higher); 3 were poetry collections and (in what might be a first) I read only one short story collection. The majority of my reading was print books, with 11 on audio.

Hints about my favorite book: it’s fiction, it was a book I reviewed for Shelf Awareness, I’ve never read the author before and I’ve written about it in previous posts. Oh — and this will give it away, for sure — it has the worst cover. I hate it. Seriously, the cover is awful, which is a goddamn shame because I haven’t seen this book discussed too much and I can’t help but think that’s one of the reasons why. It should be at the top of everyone’s best books list.

One thing that stands out to me is how much the current political and cultural climate has affected my reading this year — Ta-Nahisi Coates’ We Were Eight Years in Power, Hillary Clinton’s What Happened, Rebecca Solnit’s The Mother of All Questions as well as Hope in the Dark are just a few titles that helped me keep some semblance of perspective and calm during what has been a tumultuous, emotional and unprecedented year. And assuming the slim possibility that the POSOTUS doesn’t get us all killed with his apparent lust for war and his obvious lovefest with Russia, “resistance reading” is likely to be a predominant theme of mine for as long as this regime is in power — so much so that I’m even contemplating hosting a “Reading the Resistance” challenge for 2018.

Here’s my first potential member, my cat Douglas, reading You’re More Powerful Than You Think by Eric Liu and writing to her elected representatives from the comfort of one of my typical reading spots, an old (broken in places) chair that used to belong to my grandparents.

 

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NaBloPoMo Recap

And here it is, the last day of #NaBloPoMo! We made it, my blogging friends.

I think this is the first year where I’ve blogged every single day of November. There were certainly quite a few days when I didn’t feel like writing (I was dealing with a bad cold for more than two weeks) or was drawing a blank about what to write about. In those cases, I dusted off a post that had been lingering in Drafts. At first I felt guilty about doing so, but I usually did some editing or updating to it, so it definitely counts.

There were some positive aspects as well as some challenges with NaBloPoMo 2017.

The Challenges

One of my goals for NaBloPoMo was to reduce the number of posts in Drafts. Alas, that didn’t happen as much as I’d hoped because I currently have 235 such posts. That’s exactly one less than I started with on November 1.

Before NaBloPoMo, I had been doing well with my self-imposed rule of logging off the computer by 9 p.m. and getting to bed at a reasonable hour. That went out the window this month in exchange for staying up late and working on a post. I miss reading in bed before going to sleep; it’s such a nice little ritual (even if I only read one paragraph before falling asleep!).

And speaking of reading, all this blogging made me a bit of a slacker on that front. I only read two books in November so I need to get caught up on quite a few review and library books, especially if I’m going to make my Goodreads goal of 50 books for the year (I’m currently at 44.)

I don’t think I reduced my Facebook time by much. Maybe I’m beyond hope in that regard.

The Positives 

NaBloPoMo helped with my perfectionistic writing tendencies. There were several posts that I thought could have been better but I hit publish anyway. The Blessings of a Blue Thanksgiving was one of them, yet you seemed to like it — apparently, it resonated with so many of you.

I discovered new-to-me blogs through NaBloPoMo and re-discovered some others.

I found myself able to generate content ideas again. I found myself consciously thinking of what I should/could/wanted to blog about and kept a running list of ideas in my planner.

What’s Ahead in December? 

I won’t lie; I’m looking forward to not having to blog every day! Yet I still want to keep my posting momentum going, even with the busy-ness of the season. #AMonthofFaves will help with that — this fun way of recapping the year is back for its 4th year and is hosted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in December by GirlxoxoTraveling with T and Estella’s Revenge .

 

 

 

 

 

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Yo, It’s NaBloPoMo

Blogging and I haven’t been getting along too well lately.

Forget about the number of posts I’ve managed to crank out here in the past few months. Since July, I’ve written a whopping total of 10 posts … which, I mean, okay, fine, isn’t horrible but it is significantly less content than in the past.

There isn’t any shortage of reasons for this and they’re the usual excuses. Not enough time.  Personal stuff going on that isn’t fodder for the blog. Exhaustion from work — and since my job involves writing proposals and reports for a good portion of the day, staring at a blinking cursor is oftentimes the very last thing I want to do at night.

Don’t get me wrong: writing is still my passion, still what I would choose to do if I could do nothing else for the rest of my life. (Except maybe reading. That might win out.)

But something is happening with me and writing and I’m not sure I like it.

You see, I’ve never been the kind of writer who gets her thoughts down and then goes back to revise and polish.  I write word by word, editing as I go. And … well, it’s tedious. I’m falling back into my perfectionistic, critical tendencies and it’s killing me time-wise. I’ll belabor over the beginning of a blog post and get out only a few sentences and then become so frustrated or distracted or think it’s crap that I abandon the whole post altogether. It’s frustrating because even though there is unbloggable crap going in my life, there is a lot that I really do want to bring to this space and share.

So when I turned the calendar to November this morning, I remembered that this month is NaBloPoMo.  Maybe that’s exactly what I need to get my blogging mojo back, I thought. Some structure, some self-imposed discipline in the form of showing the hell up here every day for 30 days.

I know this is absolutely doable because last summer I gave myself a challenge to blog every single day — and I did!  I called this 99 Days of Summer Blogging and nobody was more surprised than me when I actually completed this. It helped to generate content, kept me accountable and it was kind of fun.

(Most days.)

So, I’m all in for NaBloPoMo 2017. I need something to jump-start my writing, to clear the deck of the half-baked posts lingering in Drafts, and to help me quash these perfectionistic word demons that are bedeviling me.

As always, blogging is more fun with friends, and there just so happens to be a NaBloPoMo party happening on a new-to-me blog, Blissful Lemon(Love that name!)

Let’s do this. Here’s to a great month!

 

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Ready for the Readathon! (Kick Off Post)

It’s a special day for the book blogging community … today marks 10 years of Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-a-thon, an event occurring every April and October that brings bibliophiles together for a day of reading and talking about books with other kindred souls.

Dewey was a beloved book blogger who founded this event in October 2007. Sadly, she passed away shortly thereafter but I have to think she would have been thrilled to see how her idea of spending 24 hours reading has grown into something that brings people together across the globe.

I’m pretty sure I’ve been participating in Read-a-thon since the beginning. I seem to remember the first one.  However, I looked back at my blog archives and the first time I posted about it was April 2009. Regardless, that’s a lot of years — some more successful and productive than others, but always a fun time, which is the point. In the end, it really doesn’t matter how many hours or books you’ve read, but the enjoyment you’ve gotten while doing so.

I guess that’s true of life itself, right?

Currently, I seem to be in the middle of a bunch of books that I’ve had checked out of the library for quite some time. (At our library, we have unlimited renewals, so you can practically keep books forever as long as someone hasn’t requested it). Here are the books I have in my Read-a-thon queue and as always, this pile is subject to change throughout the day.

What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Yoga Mind, Peaceful Mind: Simple Meditations for Overcoming Anxiety, by Mary Nurriestearns
The Trump Survival Guide: Everything You Need to Know About Living Through What You Hoped Would Never Happen, by Gene Stone
The Black Unicorn, Poems by Audre Lorde
Hourglass, by Dani Shapiro
Happy Foods: Over 100 Mood-Boosting Recipes, by Karen Wang Diggs
Living Mindfully: At Home, At Work and in the World, by Deborah Schoeberlein David
The Feelgood Plan: Happier, Healthier and Slimmer in 15 Minutes a Day, by Dalton Wong
Namaslay: Rock Your Yoga Practice, Tap Into Your Greatness, and Defy Your Limits, by Candace Moore

Clearly, there’s a bit of a theme going on here. (I also just realized there isn’t any fiction — much as I wish that The Trump Survival Guide was.) Like I said, that may change.

To get this started officially, here’s the Opening Meme:

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania! It’s a beautiful, warm day outside so hopefully some of my reading time will be spent on the deck.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?
Hourglass, by Dani Shapiro

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
Starbucks Very Berry Hibiscus Refresher!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I’ve been blogging for 9 years.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

Probably won’t do anything different. I’ve learned that the Read-a-thon works best when I keep it low-key, fun, and minimal pressure. That said, my goals for today are:
1) Finish at least one in-progress book.
2) Rediscover my blogging mojo. I’ve been rather scarce in this space lately and sometimes the Read-a-thon helps inspire me to want to blog more frequently.
3) Have fun!

I’m planning to do at least one update post here, participate in some Twitter conversations (I’m @thefirmangroup) and possibly Instagram and Litsy, too.

Happy Read-a-thoning, everybody!

 

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Nine

We’re nine today.

Nine.

As in, today this blog turns nine years old, which is kind of ridiculous.

You’ve heard the story before about why I decided to start a blog. In 2008, we were living two hours away from our family (which seems practically around the corner, given that the distance is now almost three times that). I thought a blog — which I originally named The Betty and Boo Chronicles — would be a good way to keep the grandmothers updated on The Girl and The Boy, who I referred to online as — you guessed it — Betty and Boo.

I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to write more often, which would eventually be the reason several years later why I abandoned anonymity and took ownership of my words with a site bearing my real name. By that time, of course, this blog had long morphed into something different than my original intent.

After discovering that there was an entire online book blogging community of people passionate about reading and sharing their thoughts about books, I knew I found my blogging niche. And after I found kindred spirits among parents of children with autism, I was inspired to share more of our journey. And then the presidential election happened (the 2008 one) and I had a lot of things to say about that.

The Internet was a different place in 2008. Writing a blog was considered sort of weird. People weren’t sure what exactly it was that we did in these spaces, sharing all kinds of personal information with … who, exactly?  Strangers? Why would anyone want to do that?  But the connections that formed across the blogosphere between people who identified with each other and appreciated other perspectives was — and still is — something magical and special.

Even though my blogging presence has been a bit sparse lately (for various reasons), I have no intentions of closing up shop anytime soon. I think I would miss this space too much and I definitely would miss the interactions that accompany what happens here.

So, whether this is the first post of mine you’ve read or whether you’ve been here since August 14, 2008, I’m so grateful you’re here and helping to make this space into more than anything I could have imagined.

Cheers to the next 9 years!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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