Saturday, December 31, 2016

Best of 2016

Let's be honest, 2016 was not the best year. It was full of extra-sad celebrity deaths; horrible news about war, viruses, and weather disasters; and, yeah, the election. (Let's not talk about that.) Thank goodness for books. Whenever the world made me sad, I could at least turn to the books on my nightstand for a few good moments (cause even hate reading a bad book is better than what was airing on CNN.

I'm on top of my game this year, so this post actually comes to you on New Year's Eve... and not several days (or weeks) into the new year.  In 2016, I managed to finished reading 37 books totaling 10,951 pages.

The year in ratings. Most of the year seemed to be graded on a curve, but a few clunkers were in the mix.

1 = 10/10 [Best. Book. Ever.]
3 = 9/10 [Excellent!] 
8 = 8/10 [Terrific]
10 = 7/10 [Very Good]
9 = 6/10 [Good]
4 = 5/10 [Meh.]
= 4/10 [An "Okay" Book]
1 = 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]
0 = 2/10 [Awful]
1 = 1/10 [Don't Waste Your Time]

And here is the year in genres (totals more than 37 due to some books fitting multiple categories).

9 Fiction
4 Memoir
3 Library Science
3 Young Adult
1 Food
1 Juvenile
1 Romance
1 Short Stories
1 Photography
1 Science
1 Books-About-Books
1 Literature
1 Graphic Novel

Lastly, here are my top 5 reads for 2016.

5. The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais
4. Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Mount Everest Disaster by Jon Krakauer
3. Orchard House: How a Neglected Garden Taught One Family to Grow by Tara Austen Weaver
2. Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way Through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti
1. Preservation by Blake Little

Friday, December 30, 2016

Book 37: You Will Know Me

TITLE: You Will Know Me
AUTHOR: Megan Abbott
STARTED: December 8, 2016
FINISHED: December 17, 2016
PAGES: 344
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: The vinyl banners rippled from the air vent, the restaurant roiling with parents, the bobbing of gymnasts heads, music gushing from the weight speakers keeled on the window ledges.

SUMMARY: [From BN] How far will you go to achieve a dream? That's the question a celebrated coach poses to Katie and Eric Knox after he sees their daughter Devon, a gymnastics prodigy and Olympic hopeful, compete. For the Knoxes there are no limits--until a violent death rocks their close-knit gymnastics community and everything they have worked so hard for is suddenly at risk. As rumors swirl among the other parents, Katie tries frantically to hold her family together while also finding herself irresistibly drawn to the crime itself. What she uncovers--about her daughter's fears, her own marriage, and herself--forces Katie to consider whether there's any price she isn't willing to pay to achieve Devon's dream.

THOUGHTS: First, a quick confession, I could not help but picture the lead character as Simone Biles. Every time she was mentioned, that who was in my head. Thanks, Olympics! Aside from that weirdness, this was a (somewhat) surprisingly good read. This book was on my TBR list for awhile and I decided to pluck it off the library shelf on a whim not fully knowing what to expect. Abbott filled this book with complete characters and enough drama to make things interesting without veering into soap opera territory.

The narrative and ending were telegraphed, at least for me, so the characters are what makes this book. They are fully formed, flawed (in the good way), and their motivations feel real. I knew where they were headed plot-wise, but I loved how Abbott dropped them into situations and saw through the fall-out.

RATING: 7/10 [Very Good]

The Friday Find: Bullet Journal Reading

The new year is just around the corner. Specifically, it starts Sunday. I'm in the process of setting up my bullet journal for 2017. I'm bringing back some classics and trying some new things, and I can't wait to see how this year plays out. 

One thing I will bring back is my reading log. I'm changing the format a bit, but it's mostly going to remain simple. If you want to add a more graphic version of a reading log to your journal, I suggest grabbing this printable book list set.

You can purchase this from ScatteredPapers on Etsy.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Book 36: The Dressmaker

TITLE: The Dressmaker
AUTHOR: Kate Alcott
STARTED: November 24, 2016
FINISHED: December 8, 2016
PAGES: 306
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: Tess pulled at the corner of the sheets she had taken straight from the line and tried to tuck them tight  under the mattress, stepping back to check her work.

SUMMARY: [From Amazon] Tess, an aspiring seamstress, thinks she’s had an incredibly lucky break when she is hired by famous designer Lady Lucile Duff Gordon to be her personal maid on the Titanic. Once on board, Tess catches the eye of two men—a kind sailor and an enigmatic Chicago businessman—who offer differing views of what lies ahead for her in America. But on the fourth night, disaster strikes, and amidst the chaos, Tess is one of the last people allowed on a lifeboat. The survivors are rescued and taken to New York, but when rumors begin to circulate about the choices they made, Tess is forced to confront a serious question. Did Lady Duff Gordon save herself at the expense of others? Torn between loyalty to Lucile and her growing suspicion that the media’s charges might be true, Tess must decide whether to stay quiet and keep her fiery mentor’s good will or face what might be true and forever change her future.

THOUGHTS: This book was not good. It started out being not good and it never got better. The characters are cookie cutters with no real motivations. The drama is weak and overwritten. The history is wrong. There are so many anachronisms that I was tempted to chuck this thing against the wall. The narrative was choppy. It was just bad. Bad. bad. bad.

The only reason this book gets a 3 instead of a 1 is that I liked one character who was a feminist and saw things as gray instead of black and white. Also, I have a thing for Titanic and the cover was pretty.

Don't read this book. It's not worth the time.

RATING: 3/10 [Poor, Lost Interest]

Links and Stuff: December 29, 2016

From Sweet Home

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Book 35: Dietland

TITLE: Dietland
AUTHOR: Sarai Walker
STARTED: November 1, 2016
FINISHED: November 24, 2016
PAGES: 310
GENRE: Fiction

FIRST SENTENCE: It was late in the spring when I noticed that a girl was following me, nearly the end of May, a month that means perhaps or might be.

SUMMARY: [From BN] Plum Kettle does her best not to be noticed, because when you’re fat, to be noticed is to be judged. With her job answering fan mail for a teen magazine, she is biding her time until her weight-loss surgery. But when a mysterious woman in colorful tights and combat boots begins following her, Plum falls down a rabbit hole into the world of Calliope House — an underground community of women who reject society’s rules — and is forced to confront the real costs of becoming “beautiful.” At the same time, a guerilla group begins terrorizing a world that mistreats women, and Plum becomes entangled in a sinister plot. The consequences are explosive.

THOUGHTS: I started reading this book before the election and I thought it was awesome. It was rah-rah women, sisterhood rules, screw the patriarchy and societal norms, eff bodyshaming, etc. etc. I was into it. Then the election happen... and I could not make myself read this book. The depression I was in over the fact that this country did not elect woman was deep. Really deep. It took me over a week to read more than a page at a time in this book. Then I hit the anger stage and this book was great for getting me going again.

The narrative is fine. The characters are fine. What I enjoyed about this book was the sentiments in it. Society places far too many damaging expectations on women and girls. This book writes a story that fights against those. In and of itself, the book is meh... but I love the message it holds.

RATING: 6/10 [Good]

Sunday, December 25, 2016

What I Read This Week: December 25, 2016

Oh yes, I am posting a list of what I read on Christmas Day. If you celebrate, I wish you a Merry Christmas. If you don't, I hope you're having a lovely Sunday.

We're hosting our families again, so everyone is in town. I love this season because it's all about sharing and giving to me. And food. I can't forget about the food. The Husband, who can be a bit of an amateur chef, is making Beef Wellington for our dinner tonight. He made it last year and it is sooooooo good. Last night, we made seafood risotto. Add all the various cheeses, meats, and cookies we have on hand and I'm surprised that I'm not in a constant food coma.

  • Magazines
    • The Atlantic, December 2016 -  Oh man, I feel like this issue should be required reading for the incoming presidential administration. And that is all I will say about that. The foreign policy lessons in both the Kissinger interview and the article on China closing itself off are very important. The article on gambling was just heartbreaking and it makes me believe that we need to investigate industry practices.
  • Books
    • I'm a few essays in to Cupcakes, Pinterest, and Ladyporn. It's the first academic book I've read in awhile, but so far I am enjoying the points the various authors are making. It's also put a new spin on some of the popular culture I consume.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Night Before Readings

Happy Christmas Eve! I hope you enjoy this celebrity impressions reading of the The Night Before Christmas as much as The Husband and I did.

Friday, December 23, 2016

The Friday Find: Stamp It

I tend to leave my books as pristine as I can, but I'm very tempted by this lovely calligraphy stamp. It's a great alternative to the typical bookplate.

You can find this in the Red Cloud Studio Etsy shop.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Variations on a Theme: Christmas Classics (Again)

This Thursday is so close to Christmas that I feel like I have to make this month's Variations on a Theme about Christmas classics. Now, these are not your traditional classics but, rather, a list of books I think of when I think about this holiday.

Some of these are repeats from my December 2015 post, but these are classics for a reason.

The Polar Express
Chris van Allsburg

A young boy, lying awake one Christmas Eve, is welcomed aboard a magical trip to the North Pole. Through dark forests, over tall mountains, and across a desert of ice, the Polar Express makes its way to the city atop the world, where the boy will make his Christmas wish.

Holidays on Ice
David Sedaris

Holidays on Ice collects six of David Sedaris' most profound Christmas stories into one slender volume perfect for use as a last-minute coaster or ice scraper. This drinking man's companion can be enjoyed by the warmth of a raging fire, the glow of a brilliantly decorated tree, or even the backseat of a van or police car. It should be read with your eyes, felt with your heart, and heard only when spoken to. It should, in short, behave much like a book. And, oh, what a book it is!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Dr. Seuss

The Grinch, whose heart is two sizes too small, hates Who-ville's holiday celebrations, and plans to steal all the presents to prevent Christmas from coming. To his amazement, Christmas comes anyway, and the Grinch discovers the true meaning of the holiday. 

The Night Before Christmas
Clement Clarke Moore

Since it was first published anonymously in 1823, “The Night Before Christmas” has enchanted children with the story of St. Nicholas climbing down the chimney and filling all the stockings before springing back to his sleigh. Many families read the poem every year, and now they have an edition to treasure. The cherished verse, faithfully reproduced here, is accompanied by Charles Santore’s lavish illustrations.

A Christmas Carol
Charles Dickens

In October 1843, Charles Dickens ― heavily in debt and obligated to his publisher ― began work on a book to help supplement his family's meager income. That volume, A Christmas Carol, has long since become one of the most beloved stories in the English language. As much a part of the holiday season as holly, mistletoe, and evergreen wreaths, this perennial favorite continues to delight new readers and rekindle thoughts of charity and goodwill. With its characters exhibiting many qualities ― as well as failures ― often ascribed to Dickens himself, the imaginative and entertaining tale relates Ebenezer Scrooge's eerie encounters with a series of spectral visitors. Journeying with them through Christmases past, present, and future, he is ultimately transformed from an arrogant, obstinate, and insensitive miser to a generous, warmhearted, and caring human being. Written by one of England's greatest and most popular novelists, A Christmas Carol has come to epitomize the true meaning of Christmas.

The Jolly Christmas Postman
Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Fifteen years ago, long before anyone else thought of tucking actual letters and notes inside a book, Little, Brown published The Jolly Postman by Allan and Janet Ahlberg. This wonderful book gave children a chance to read letters sent from one fairy tale or Mother Goose character to another. Among the funny notes was one from Jack, who lolled on a sun-drenched island, thanking the Giant for the gold that let him afford such a nifty vacation. All this amusing correspondence was deftly illustrated and the book attracted hordes of eager readers. 

More Christmas Classics
A Charlie Brown Christmas - Charles M. Schultz
Christmas - Peter Spier
The Christmas Box - Richard Paul Evans
The Little Match Girl - Hans Christen Andersen
Madeline's Christmas - Ludwig Bemelmans
The Wild Christmas Reindeer - Jan Brett

Links and Stuff: December 22, 2016

From Indie Hipster.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Why I Love... A Nightstand Full of Books

Today was my last day of work before the new year. (I *heart* beings on an academic calendar.) Before I left the office, I made sure to grab several books to get me through the break. I have three books, two of which are academic, waiting for me. It's unlikely I'll even finish one book, but I love the possibilities the stacks on my nightstand represents.

The nightstand stack makes me happy because I know that there is something up next. I know that I have plenty to keep me occupied if I read faster than expected. It also means that if I finish reading one book and am still awake, there is another waiting for me right there. I don't even have to get out of bed to grab my next book. The nightstand stack represents possibilities and it represents the future. There is so much to read and so much to learn. I love knowing that there is always something new to look forward to.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

What I Read This Week: December 18, 2016

Winter roared in this week. I busted out the fleece tights, gloves, hats, and thicker coats. That still wasn't enough to handle the crazy winds we had earlier this week. I was practically blown in to the road when walking across campus.

But enough about the bad parts of winter. Yesterday, The Husband and I participated in Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. My grandfather is buried there, so it was nice to take part in this event. Today, I am off to join the ladies for a Christmas tea. Bring on the finger sandwiches!

The week coming up may be a short week, work-wise, but it is definitely busy. We're hosting both of our families for Christmas again. I have lots of baking, cleaning, and food prep to handle. The Husband is wrapping all the presents because a) he loves it and b) he's extremely good at it. Seriously. His work belongs in magazines and should be repinned muchly on Pinterest.
  • Magazines
    • HGTV, December 2016 - This issue was basically catalog for gift ideas and Christmas decor. It took me all of 10 minutes to flip-through. That said, I love seeing various ways you can decorate for the holidays. 
    • Food Network, December 2016 - This was a surprisingly thick issue... probably because there were so many cookie recipes. As with the issue above, this was basically a catalog for gift ideas and holiday food. I did enjoy looking at all of the pretty gingerbread houses based on regional architecture. People are so creative!
  • Books
    • I'm finished reading You Will Know Me late in the week. I would have finished earlier this week, in one big chunk of late night reading, but it was a school night when I got to a really good part and I told myself I had to go to be instead of reading until 4am. Being an adult is hard.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Friday Find: Light the Season

Still looking for a gift for that booklover in your life... or yourself. I love the idea of this bright book light. I've taken to using my phone's flashlight lately because my book light is too dim. This clip on would make life much easier.

You can find this on Amazon.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Links and Stuff: December 15, 2016

From Kitchen Ghosts

Sunday, December 11, 2016

What I Read This Week: December 11, 2016

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! We held our annual holiday party yesterday and, for me, that always kicks off the holiday season. It was just as fun and full of food as it always is. I made a few new items (funfetti shortbread bites, mini cinnamon roll cookies, and crab bites) to go along with our favorites. We actually cut back on the amount of food we provide and it still felt like too much. Clearly, The Husband and I don't want anyone to go hungry.

We'e also sent out all of holiday cards and The Husband has been doing a great job of wrapping presents. His skills are amazing. He even wrapped his gifts from me! (After I put them in a box, of course.)
  • Magazines
    • National Geographic, December 2016 - The cover story about faith, healing, and the placebo effect was interesting, but I was most intrigued by the article on young Russians view of the world. I was shocked by how much the piece sucked me in. It offered fascinating insights to how the younger generations have responded to the fall of communism and the rise of Putin. On top of that, I also enjoyed the articles on orangutans and how climate change is impacting our national parks.
  • Books
    • I finally finished reading The Dressmaker. Thank goodness! It was not a good book. Not at all.
  • Other
    • Article club met on Tuesday and we read this piece on reading, self-care, and women using sick days. The piece was right up our feminist alley... but we didn't talk about it at all because one of our members, Lady T, was newly engaged and another, Lady E, announced she was moving to Maine in January. 

Friday, December 09, 2016

The Friday Find: Journal

I track my reading in several locations, but if you want to track yours in one spot, this reader's journal might be a great fit. It would also make a great stocking stuffer for all of the readers in your life.

The journal is small and portable with pre-printed pages to help you track your reading. It also includes a list of great works you might want to toss on your TBR list.

You can find this on Amazon.

Thursday, December 08, 2016

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

That's What She Said

Way back when, I used to share posts on my blog about bookish quotes under the category "That's What She Said." Today, Twitter informed me that category is an actual Library of Congress subject heading.

First, I laughed.

Then, I Googled.

That lead me to the LOC page about the matter.

Librarians. We may seem stodgy at times... but we're not. We're really, really not.

YouTube Tuesday: Speed Organizing

Sunday, December 04, 2016

What I Read This Week: December 4, 2016

The Husband was out of town for most of the week. That meant that I stayed up way later than normal for two reasons - 1. every noise was suspect 2. I was busy binge watching The Crown on Netflix. I managed a bit of reading, but my magazine box is still jammed full with back issues. I'll get to them eventually.
  • Magazines
    • Washingtonian, November 2016 - The bulk of this issue was basically an advertisement for local doctors. Blergh. At least there were decent articles on the Loving Supreme Court case and a feminist approach to self defense. Additionally, there was a legitimately interesting section on the three local DC airports. Finally, the article on Trump's new hotel and it's battle with keeping a restaurant just made me sad. Very sad.
  • Books 
    • I'm about halfway through Kate Alcott's The Dressmaker. To put it bluntly, this book is not good. At this point, I'm only reading it to see how it ends.
  • Other
    • The Chronicle of Higher Education featured an article on the death of cursive. As someone who loves to write in cursive, this makes me sad.
    • You might sniffle while reading those story about a white envelope at Christmas.

Friday, December 02, 2016

The Friday Find: Inhale

Hat tip to Lady K for sending me this Etsy shop. It sells fragrances and other body products - many of which are based on books AND are vegan. I love lavender so, of course, I was drawn to the scent for The Secret Garden.

You can find this fragrance at RavensCtApothecary.