Sunday, November 20, 2016

Honesty

Well, it's been a couple of months since I posted. I thought I was ready to come back and post regularly, but I was wrong. I love all of you and this community. But the more I reflect on it, blogging just isn't very important to me right now. I'll still be participating in reading challenges but tracking them in my reading journal. Maybe I'll put a post up from time to time with more literary recipes. And if any of you are interested in how my challenges have fared or in my standout books and short stories for the year, let me know, and I'll do a post on that. You can, of course, find me at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/9636598-hannah
Please add me as a friend!

If I think of other things I'd like to share, I'll pop on here from time to time. But I don't plan on blogging again with any regularity unless my literary baking takes off. Thanks to all of you for being really great friends and supporting me through the confusing tumble of transitions I've been through in the last year. Take care, everyone!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

2016 Reading Challenges

I thought I should update my 2016 Reading Challenges List and information, since I haven't posted about them since early this year. I've made some progress on a few of them, and others have lagged quite a bit. More detailed information below. (Here is the link for my earlier post on the challenges). And I'd love to hear how you all are doing on your own challenges this year!

Foodies Read 2016
The purpose of this challenge is to read books with a focus on food. They can be fiction or non-fiction, novels or cookbooks, et cetera, as long as food plays a significant role in the book. My plan was to achieve the Pastry Chef Level of 4-8 books, but I haven't read any that qualify yet this year! There's still time, but I kind of doubt I'll reach this goal.

(picture taken from imdb.com)

Shakespeare 400: The 2016 Bardathon Challenge
My challenge for Shakespeare 400 was the Mix-and-match Shakespearean Level, 5 books and/or adaptations. So far, I've only finished two movie adaptations. Granted, there is still plenty of time to accomplish this goal, and the adaptations that I watched are probably two of my new favorites.

(picture taken from imdb.com)

6th Annual Deal Me In Short Story Challenge
Deal Me In is a short story challenge where each participant makes a list of 52 short stories, one for each week of the year, and assigns each one to a card in a deck of playing cards. I've been reading quite a few short stories, but not as many as I should have by now, and not all the ones I had planned. Moving put a big monkey wrench in my card selection process, as well as limiting my choices of books to keep on hand at a time. I may not stay true to my original list of stories to read, but there's a chance I can still catch up on this one if I read a couple of books of short stories before the end of the year.

2016 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge
For this challenge, I try to fill a list of the alphabet with titles that I read as the year goes on. I'm mostly finished with this challenge, and it's actually been pretty easy for me to just fill in the books I happen to be reading. There are a few letters (such as X and Z) that I'm having some trouble with, but hopefully it will all work out.

(picture taken from hogwartsrunningclub.org)

Charity Reading Challenge
The idea behind this challenge is to motivate people to give back in little ways connected to our reading habits. So far, I gave away a few boxes of books when I moved and bought some recently at a local nonprofit sale. I've featured one book-themed charity on this blog and have a few more lined up to write about. I also still plan to count the number of books I read this year in any format and donate $1 per book read to a charity in January of next year. So far, I'm at 45 books, which is great for me!

(picture taken from nolastorycon.com)

NoLA StoryCon
I'll be attending NoLA StoryCon at the end of September in New Orleans, Louisiana. I can't believe it's almost time to go! Speaking of which, if any of you have suggestions of bookstores/restaurants/anything to visit, see, or try while I'm there, please let me know! This will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me! I challenged myself to read more books by some of the authors who will be in attendance and to read books about New Orleans or related to the city through the setting or the author. I've done fairly well with this challenge so far--better than I expected, anyway--so I'll post a list soon of what I've read for this!

I hope you all enjoyed hearing where I am with my challenges right now! Keep an eye out for more specific posts about each one soon!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Literary Palate: Pensione Emerson Cookies

And now, for the post to kickstart a new beginning! I know how much you guys loved the Thornton Cupcakes, and these cookies are something I made a little while back and loved how they turned out! So, I made some more tonight and decided to share them with you!

Our Inspiration

A Room with a View by E.M. Forster
(picture taken from Goodreads)

I read this book two years ago and loved it! Here's a link to the review I posted about it.

Our Creation

Pensione Emerson Cookies

I know this is not the name of the pension in A Room with a View, but I wanted to name these cookies after my favorite characters, the Emersons, while also giving the name a relevant Italian touch. They are blood orange olive oil cookies, sprinkled with a little extra dried orange peel on top. They are delicious and buttery-tasting with (I like to think) a touch of sophistication and passionate love!

The Recipe

2 cups granulated cane sugar
1 cup blood orange olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh squeezed orange juice
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons finely grated dried orange peel
3 cups unbleached organic flour

Stir sugar, olive oil, orange juice, and eggs together until well-mixed. Mix in salt, baking powder, and orange peel. Add one cup of flour at a time until well-mixed, no dry ingredients still showing. Preheat oven to 350 F. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper and drop about a spoonful of cookie dough for each cookie. Bake for 10 minutes. Change temperature to 425 F and bake for two more minutes for browning. Pull out of oven, let cool, garnish with a little extra orange peel or a dash of powdered sugar if desired, and enjoy!

You can easily use unflavored olive oil and still get a delicious taste. I've also substituted other citrus juices and had a good result. I have included the type of ingredients that I usually use, but you are welcome to substitute with what you can or prefer to eat. I almost always tweak recipes that I use anyway. Just make sure you're aware that altered fat content/dry-wet ingredient ratio/etc. will alter the consistency of the cookies; adjust other ingredients accordingly. If you want, the dough is pliable enough to pipe into pretty shapes. And if you make bigger cookies, bake them a bit longer. These are pretty forgiving.

For Your Comparison
 
Helena Bonham Carter as Lucy Honeychurch and Julian Sands as George Emerson

view from the Pensione Bertolini in the 1985 movie production

I know I promised you all more of these Literary Palate posts, and MaryAnn and I have come up with several flavors since the Thornton cupcakes, so hopefully it won't be long! If there's anything you'd like to know about our processes or inspirations, please comment and I'll do my best to answer. Also, if you have any suggestions for book or fandom inspirations, recipes to try, tweaks to recipes, throw them my way! And I'd love to hear how yours turn out if you make some!

Alive!

I'm alive! Okay, you probably assumed that (especially since I've been sneakily updating a couple of my reading challenges, and it would be really weird if someone else were doing it), but I'm back! I don't know if I'll be posting immediately as frequently as I did before my break, but I'll get there. Here's a quick update on how I'm doing physically and what's going on in my life: My kidneys are recovering very well, and I have an appointment with my nephrologist this month to see some hopefully clean labs and continue to lower my medication. I no longer have an appendix, but who needs that, anyway? After a car crash that totaled my car (this happened shortly after I stopped posting on here), I got a soccer mom minivan, which is mostly functional and will be improved soon. We moved to a new town last month, still in Missouri (and so far, I've located two libraries within a 10-min. drive, which is what's important). I've decided to take a break from working for a year (or at least some months) to get myself sorted out and figure out what I want to do next. I dyed my hair blue! It's funky, and I love it. I figured if I'm taking some time off from working anyway, might as well do something a bit wild. It was a lot brighter and darker when I first did it, but I'll add a picture below. Oh, and I'm currently doing my son's preschool from home, getting him ready for Kindergarten next year! Where has the time gone? We're enjoying lots of trips exploring our new surroundings, checking out fun parks, and going to the zoo. I have only unpacked about a quarter of my stuff; it's exhausting. I think that's about it! I'd love to hear what's going on with all of you and will hopefully have time to catch up on a few of your blogs.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Some Time Away

This is a really hard post for me, because I love this blog and I love you all so, so much. But I'm going to be taking some time away from blogging right now. As you all know, I've been dealing with a lot of issues in my personal and family life lately, and in the last couple of weeks even more issues have arisen. It's very hard to post consistently when I'm mostly avoiding the home computer. I will still be trying to keep up with the reading challenges I've set for myself here, so you might see a post on those challenges from time to time. But mostly I just need to focus my energy elsewhere right now. I will of course be reading your blogs when I have the chance, and if you'd like to continue reading reviews (albeit shorter ones) from me regularly, you can check out my Goodreads account: https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/9636598-hannah
Hopefully I'll see you all back here soon!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Deal Me In: January Short Stories

I've been reading my short stories for the 2016 Deal Me In Challenge and just haven't had a chance to post my reviews about them yet. This is definitely different for me; I don't usually read many short stories. But I am loving this challenge! I've discovered some great authors this way that I've never read before, and I have high hopes for the rest of the year's reading.

Week 1: "Cataract" by Pam Houston
from: CutBank, No. 50; Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Awards
Synopsis: Lucy, her boyfriend (Josh), and three of their friends meet up at Cataract Canyon in Colorado to run the river rapids at some of their highest flood levels. They're all experienced boaters, but the rapids are very dangerous at that level, and there's quite a bit of distracting tension between the five friends.
Conclusion: Houston is a solid writer. She presents well-rounded characters connected by a situation and place to which I can't directly relate, but I still understand the characters in a concrete way. Her writing is very real; that's what I liked about the story. And even though Houston shows you what is happening in Lucy's life, she leaves you to draw your own conclusions. Many profound things happen in this short story, not the least of which is Lucy and Thea getting thrown off the boat and almost drowning. Their survival is downplayed by the jovial mood and adrenaline high of the men in the group, and Lucy realizes some things about her chosen path in life. I like that Houston doesn't tell you what Lucy will do next or how these characters will continue their lives from here.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Week 2: "The Depressed Person" by David Foster Wallace
from: Harper's Magazine; Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Awards
Synopsis: The depressed person learns things about how her past has affected her present condition as a fractured individual, and she admits all of her feelings and concerns about herself and everything else to her therapist and her Support System.
Conclusion: Wallace does a really good job with this piece. Basically, this short story is a cyclical reflection of the depressed person's fears of inadequacy for the outside world and sufferings related to her past tousled between two constantly rivaling divorced parents. This story is really effective in communicating the depressed person's reality because of Wallace's writing techniques: detached, third-person language; run-on sentences that last for half of a paragraph; casual observations of others and their personal situations while the prose primarily focuses on the depressed person. The effect is a continuous dialogue that feels like sitting in on a therapy session, and the reader can picture herself there, just listening to this whole story play out.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Week 3: "Delicate Edible Birds" by Lauren Groff
from: Glimmer Train; The Best American Short Stories: 2010
Synopsis: Four journalists and a photographer are in France covering the Nazi invasion of WWII. Taking pictures and interviewing refugees on the road from Paris to Bordeaux, their Jeep runs out of gas, and they stop at the only occupied place in sight. This turns out to be the home of a Nazi-sympathizing Frenchman who offers to provide them with all of the gas and food they need if he can "sleep" with the female journalist, Bernice. When she refuses, he locks them all in his barn as prisoners for the Germans until, one by one, the men in the group turn on Bernice to take the deal.
Conclusion: Well, I'll definitely be reading more from Groff in the future. She tells this story in sketches of each character with an eye on his past with Bernice: Viktor, the unnattractive and sensitive Russian; Parnell, the handsome, married Brit; Frank, the rough and mostly useless American; and Lucci, the sweet and artistic Italian photographer. Bernice's past has been a rough and promiscuous one, and she relates the trapped situation in which she now finds herself to the indulgent shame of a bird dinner that she once witnessed. This story is a beautiful but harsh question of choices, independence, dignity, sacrifice, and many other things.

Week 4: "The Valetudinarian" by Joshua Ferris
from: The New Yorker; The Best American Short Stories: 2010
Synopsis: Arty Groys decides to stay in Florida (where he recently moved for his retirement) even though his wife just died in a car accident. He grows increasingly more bitter toward his neighbor's dog; concerned about growing old and his health issues; and lonely from his distant children in Ohio and his only, rarely-seen friend, Jimmy Denton.
Conclusion: I really like stories with old characters. Maybe it's because of the opportunity to look back at a wider past of experiences, or maybe it's just because most authors don't pay attention to the older characters as much as the younger ones. It's interesting that a foreign prostitute is the one to finally motivate Arty to live his life, but I can kind of see why she would be: she's seen a lot in her life and has a "Why not try to live life to the fullest?" mentality. At least, that's how she comes across to him. And then his neighbor, Mrs. Zegerman, just wants someone to take care of really. That's going to be a sweet but strange friendship/relationship post-story. This piece was oddly inspiring.

Monday, February 15, 2016

By Book or by Crook / Booked for Trouble

By Book or by Crook and Booked for Trouble are the first and second books in the Lighthouse Library Mystery series by Eva Gates. In the series, Lucy has recently abandoned her socialite life in Boston to work and live in a small, seaside library housed in an old lighthouse.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: This is what's called a "cozy mystery," and it lives up to its name. It's cute and fun and safe. I enjoy reading these when I need to just relax. It's more like a riddle than a complicated murder case. As for this one specifically, what a cute idea! A library in a lighthouse with a comfortable little apartment upstairs? Gates knows what she's doing, 'cause I'm definitely reading the second one when it comes out. I like Lucy's character pretty well, although I got tired of the "I'm so worried about what I'm eating and oh, look at my perfectly beautiful cousin" side comments from time to time. Luckily, that wasn't a large part of her thoughts. I can't decide how I feel about Bertie--there's nothing that really stands out about her. Charlene and Ronald are fun, fairly well-rounded characters for this kind of book, though. Thomas is a good character but kind of annoying with his fake accent, although I guess that's intentional. The love interests and the quizzical little mystery are the real fun in this story. Connor and Butch are both sweet and total opposites. As the town mayor, Connor is a sweet-talking, book-learned man with the advantage of a previous friendship/young love with Lucy. Butch is a big, muscly bear of a man with a sweet natural temperament. He has a boost from his connection to Lucy's cousin, Josie, through his brother, but might still be at a disadvantage since he is a cop (and therefore at odds with Lucy while she is suspected of the crimes committed in this story). I have a suspicion that Lucy will end up with Connor, but in order to avoid anger or disappointment, Butch will need to find someone else soon. Perhaps the book group Lucy is starting will play into that, bringing new characters to the forefront of the series. I look forward to reading the second book and seeing where Gates's story goes!

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: I enjoyed the break from Lucy's self-evaluation in this one. She seemed much more comfortable and confident in her position than she was in the first. This is a good, natural progression for that character at this point, so Gates is doing well there. I still find Thomas's character annoying. To be honest, I guessed who the murderer was early on and then just kind of set it aside in case something else came to light. I think Gates's signature with this series is choosing murderers that everyone pretty much dismisses until the end when they suddenly attack someone. That's what happens in the first two, at least. The sweet romances that Gates built into the first book fell into the background a little in this one, but I suspect it will pick-up again in the third. I still think Connor has the advantage there, without the conflict of interest where Lucy is always being investigated by Butch, but Gates could turn it around if she wants. The storyline with Lucy's mother turned out better than I expected. Everything was kind of disconnected initially, but bringing in a little more sincerity there was key, and her history with the other characters really filled out her character. I also liked the addition of the Gray Woman. She fleshed things out a bit and had a perfect level of quirkiness for this book.

Overall a fun beginning for this series! I'm eagerly awaiting the third one, which comes out in April, I think. Do you all like cozy mysteries? What do you look for in a mystery series?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Charity Challenge: Hogwarts Running Club


I can't think of a better way to kick off my spotlights for the 2016 Charity Challenge than Harry Potter and real motivation to be healthy! Have you heard of Hogwarts Running Club? Here's the description from their About Page: "Hogwarts Running Club (HRC) is a 501(c)3 charitable organization that organizes virtual running events inspired by the wizarding world designed to promote walking/running, provide unique and awesome medals, and, most importantly, raise money for deserving charities in order to accomplish our mission of changing the muggle-world one mile at a time." Basically, it's awesome. I'm not a runner, but the idea of participating in a Potter-themed virtual 5k with my friends for charity is more than I can resist!


I feel a little bad featuring this run because registration for it is over, but this is the one in which I'm participating first: The "Always" 3.94 Memorial Run. This run is in memory of Alan Rickman (pictured below): the late, great, amazing actor who played Professor Snape in the Harry Potter movies (among many other awesome roles). I've registered and ordered my t-shirt, and I finally took the Pottermore Sorting Quiz to discover my House at Hogwarts--it's Hufflepuff, which I suspected all along!
 

The official date for the run is Sunday, February 21, and some of the proceeds from the t-shirt sales are going to Debate Mate, one of Rickman's favorite charities while he was alive. But if you missed the registration date for The "Always" Run and are still interested in participating in Hogwarts Running Club, there will be a lot more opportunities this year, starting with The Molly Weasley Ugly Jumper Run! This one has already started and goes through Sunday, February 14 (Valentine's Day!) to support One Warm Coat.


I'm so happy to have discovered Hogwarts Running Club; I think this will be a really fun thing for me to do with my friends and support various charities! And who knows, maybe I'll start jogging regularly and get really healthy? Okay, that's unrealistic, because I'm tired and on my feet all of the time at work for hours. But anyway--fun, friends, motivation, charity! Can't get better than that! Let me know if any of you are planning to do a run, or if you take the Pottermore Sorting Quiz or discover any new charities!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon Wrap-Up

A Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon hosted by Seasons of Reading is now over, and I must say I did fairly well! Forcing myself to relax and just read on my days off was a nice break from the constant motion in which I usually find myself, and it's affected my mood for the better overall!


My goals were to read my two waiting short stories for the Deal Me In Challenge, to read a graphic novel, and to finish at least one of the books at which I've been chipping away for a while. I completed all of my goals, so below is the final list of what I finished:
 
"The Depressed Person" by David Foster Wallace
"Delicate Edible Birds" by Lauren Groff
Invincible, Volume 1: Family Matters by Robert Kirkman, Bill Crabtree, and Cory Walker
The Great Library: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Reviews to come soon (and I'll link them back here for your convenience)! I've also made some progress in other books, which I've listed below so you can see what I'm reading now:

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith
Age of Legends: Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
 
What are you all reading now? I'd love to hear about it! And if you want some more ideas of what to pick up next, follow the links at the top of the page to see what everyone else read for this read-a-thon!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

A Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon 2016

It's read-a-thon time! This week, January 18-24, is A Winter's Respite Read-A-Thon hosted by Seasons of Reading.


I haven't formally participated in a read-a-thon before, so this should be fun. I'm hoping a week will be long enough for me to do some damage. And by damage, I mean reading, of course! ;) My first goal is to read my short stories for last week and this week for the Deal Me In Challenge, because I'm already a little behind. Also, I've had a craving to read a graphic novel lately. I haven't decided which one I'm going to read, but I have a lot of them sitting around waiting for me, so it shouldn't be hard to knock one out. Lastly, I'd like to finish at least one of the books at which I've been chipping away, surely but slowly. I'll list all of these below for your convenience:

"The Depressed Person" by David Foster Wallace
"Delicate Edible Birds" by Lauren Groff
graphic novel
Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong
Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz
The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick

Honestly, though, if I get a fair amount of reading done this week (on books I'm in the middle of), it will be a win. I've been so slow to start the new year and get motivated to finish my books. I've just been lingering in them, soaking them up slowly but still finding so many more books I'd like to read. I'll try to post a mid-week update in a few days with how I'm doing, and check out some of the other participants' lists for new ideas and fun reading plans!

Voracious

Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti is about the author's exploration into foods from some of the books that have played a meaningful role in her life. As someone who has studied literature in college and had a variety of jobs in restaurants, bakeries, butcher shops, and more, Nicoletti brings a unique perspective to a topic that has fascinated readers and eaters for centuries.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

Conclusion: This book is brilliant. Absolute genius. With books and food, you already have a good chance with me, but Nicoletti doesn't just let those carry her through on an easy read. Her brilliance is found in her balance of composition. She writes about books that have meant something to her personally, people and moments through which these books reached her, and the food inspired by all of this reading, which brings it all home. Each section with a recipe and prose is about three or four pages long, which feels like just enough. That all being said, I haven't actually tried any of the recipes yet, so that might change my review later. Probably won't be making the White Garlic Soup, but lots of them sound delicious! Definitely coming back to try the Challah Bread, for one.

Recommendation: This book is great for anyone who loves to cook and to read, or even just to read about food and books!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

2016 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge

The 2016 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge is hosted by Escape with Dollycas into a Good Book with the purpose of listing an alphabet of titles that I read this year. In order to keep this fun and low-key, my plan is to add book titles to my list as I'm reading them. After I've finished and reviewed them, I'll add the links here so you can see which ones I've completed and which I haven't. Some of the letters might change if I decide not to finish a book or if I read a different one that fits first. It will get more complicated the fuller the list gets, probably, but I haven't done a title challenge for a while--should be fun!

A) As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes with Joe Layden
B) Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
C) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
D) Deadpool: Millionaire with a Mouth by Gerry Duggan and Mike Hawthorne
E) The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris
F) Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
G) The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There by Catherynne M. Valente
H) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
I) Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
J) Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie by Maya Angelou
K) Kitty by Catherine E. Chapman
L) The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
M) The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
N) Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
O) Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schonwerth Selection by Franz Xaver von Schonwerth
P) Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi
Q) The Queen of the Damned by Anne Rice
R) Romeo and/or Juliet by Ryan North and William Shakespeare
S) Seven Black Diamonds by Melissa Marr
T) To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
U) The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
V) Victoria Jr., Vol. 1 by Manny Trembley
W) The World of Quest, Vol. 1 by Jason T. Kruse
X) X-Men '92, Vol. 0: Warzones! by Chad Bowers, Chris Sims, and Scott Koblish
Y) 
Z) Zoe Dare vs the Disasteroid by Brockton McKinney and Andrew Herman

2016 Deal Me In Short Story Challenge

Deal Me In is a short story challenge hosted by Bibliophilopolis where each participant makes a list of 52 short stories, one for each week of the year, and assigns each one to a card in a deck of playing cards. I'll randomly select a card each week to determine which story to read and write a short review of them from time-to-time. I decided to assign the cards around a few anthologies that have been sitting around my house unread but left myself a few "wild" story options to shake things up! I don't read short stories very regularly, so I'm curious to see how this will affect my reading plans for 2016.


Hearts: Original Bavarian Folktales: A Schönwerth Selection by Franz Schönwerth
♥A♥– *wild*
♥2♥"Love, Marriage, and Childbirth" (week 14)
♥3♥"Motherhood, Drudes, and Changelings" (week 13)
♥4♥ – "Premonitions, Ghosts, and Poor Souls"

♥5♥"Witches and their Familiars" (week 11)
♥6♥"The Elements: Earth I--Fruits of the Earth" (week 5)
♥7♥"The Elements: Light--The Sun and the Moon" (week 10)
♥8♥"The Elements: Fire, Wind, and Water" (week 9)
♥9♥ – *wild*
♥10♥ – "The Elements: Earth II--Castles, Mountains, Dwarves, Giants, Forests & Forest Creatures" (part I)
♥J♥ – "The Elements: Earth II--Castles, Mountains, Dwarves, Giants, Forests & Forest Creatures" (part II)
♥Q♥  – "The Elements: Earth II--Castles, Mountains, Dwarves, Giants, Forests & Forest Creatures" (part III)
♥K♥ – "The Devil and Death, Heaven and Hell"


Spades: Tales from Missouri and the Heartland by Ross Malone
♠A♠ – *wild*
♠2♠ – "One" through "Eight"
♠3♠ – "Nine" through "Sixteen"
♠4♠ – "Seventeen" through "Twenty-Four"
♠5♠ – "Twenty-Five" through "Thirty-Two"
♠6♠ – "Thirty-Three" through "Forty"
♠7♠ – "Forty-One" through "Forty-Eight"
♠8♠ – "Forty-Nine" through "Fifty-Six"
♠9♠ – "Fifty-Seven" through "Sixty-Four"
♠10♠ – "Sixty-Five" through "Seventy-Three"
♠J♠ – "Seventy-Four" through "Eighty-Two"
♠Q♠ – "Eighty-Three" through "Ninety-One"
♠K♠ – "Ninety-Two" through "One Hundred"


Diamonds: Prize Stories 1999: The O. Henry Awards edited by Larry Dark
♦A♦ –*wild*
♦2♦ – "A Nurse's Story" by Peter Baida
♦3♦ – "Merry-Go-Sorry" by Cary Holladay
♦4♦"Save the Reaper" by Alice Munro (week 8)
♦5♦"The Depressed Person" by David Foster Wallace (week 2)
♦6♦"Cataract" by Pam Houston (week 1)
♦7♦ – "Sea Oak" by George Saunders
♦8♦ – "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri
♦9♦ – "Nixon Under the Bodhi Tree" by Gerald Reilly
♦10♦ – "Mister Brother" by Michael Cunningham
♦J♦ – "Moon" by Chaim Potok
♦Q♦ – "Burning" by Robert Schirmer
♦K♦"Watching Girls Play" by W.D. Wetherell (week 15)


Clubs: The Best American Short Stories 2010 edited by Richard Russo
♣A♣ – *wild*
♣2♣ – "Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched" by Steve Almond (week 12)
♣3♣ – "Into Silence" by Marlin Barton
♣4♣ – "The Cousins" by Charles Baxter
♣5♣ – "Safari" by Jennifer Egan
♣6♣ – "Someone Ought to Tell Her There's Nowhere to Go" by Danielle Evans
♣7♣ – "The Valetudinarian" by Joshua Ferris (week 4)
♣8♣ – "Delicate Edible Birds" by Lauren Groff (week 3)
♣9♣ – "Least Resistance" by Wayne Harrison (week 7)
♣10♣ – "The Hollow" by James Lasdun (week 6)
♣J♣ – "Painted Ocean, Painted Ship" by Rebecca Makkai
♣Q♣ – "My Last Attempt to Explain to You What Happened with the Lion Tamer" by Brendan Mathews
♣K♣ – "PS" by Jill McCorkle

You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)

Felicia Day wrote a memoir, and it's called You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost)! For those of you who don't know, Day is a well-known actress and pretty much everything else in the online and "geek" community. I picked this up as soon as it came out but never got around to typing up my review. Anyway, here it is, at long last.

(picture taken from Goodreads)

First Impression: This is a really fun book so far. Felicia Day is always kind of quirky and cute, and her book is no exception. She's naturally funny, so her humor seems like an effect of the topic rather than purposely intended. Also, she remembers things the way I do, mentioning seemingly random, irrelevant details. Yes, those are velvet hightops. Or, I had a ponytail that day. Little things stand out. I love that she makes a Santa Claus at Build a Bear for herself with a tutu and a lightsaber, and then it becomes a really awkward social situation. And her childhood and young adult years seem very strange to me, but I love that she turned all of it into something positive and is doing what she wants in life.

Conclusion: Felicia Day is someone I've admired for a while, and that was before I knew about all of the anxiety and social issues with which she's had to deal. But she works through her problems and gets the help she needs from others to keep doing what she loves. There are parts of the book that are a bit intense and hard to read. It reveals a bit about the media industry and gender issues, as well as Day's own personal anxiety issues. But mostly, You're Never Weird on the Internet (almost) is honest and funny. I'm sure that Day worked really hard on it, given her tendency to completely devote herself to her projects, but you don't notice any strain in the writing style. The tone is very conversational, and I like that she draws us into her personal world but doesn't feel the need to share a bunch of information about her loved ones. Also, if you're hesitant about the gaming references in the book, don't be. She explains quite a bit so that anyone can tell what she's talking about. And, last but not least, I love her mug quotes and random pictures with words across them! Inspiring, funny, intelligent, and well-formatted--four perfect words to describe this book.

Recommendation: If you're already a fan of Felicia Day, read this book! If not, you might enjoy the book if you like quirky memoirs about weird childhoods and achieving one's dreams.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Here We Go, 2016!

I have lots of plans for 2016! I accomplished quite a bit in 2015, including knocking out some of those books that had been sitting around on my TBR pile. But this year, I'm trying some new and slightly more varied goals.

Challenges with a reading goal:
Foodies Read 2016
The purpose of this challenge is to read books with a focus on food. They can be fiction or non-fiction, novels or cookbooks, et cetera, as long as food plays a significant role in the book. I've seen several foodie books that I wanted to pick-up lately, so this will be fun! I'm aiming for the Pastry Chef Level, 4-8 books.

Shakespeare 400: The 2016 Bardathon Challenge
Oh, Shakespeare! I have neglected him so much in the last few years--but no more! I'm hoping this challenge will get me back on track reading works by my favorite bard and discovering some new adaptations. I'll be challenging myself at the Mix-and-match Shakespearean Level, 5 books and/or adaptations.

6th Annual Deal Me In Short Story Challenge
Deal Me In is a short story challenge where each participant makes a list of 52 short stories, one for each week of the year, and assigns each one to a card in a deck of playing cards. I'll randomly select a card each week to determine which story to read and post about them from time-to-time.

2016 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge
I've seen this challenge around for the last few years and keep meaning to try it. Basically, I try to fill a list of the alphabet with titles that I read as the year goes on. It will get more complicated the fuller the list gets, probably, but I haven't done a title challenge for a while--should be fun!

Other challenges:
Charity Reading Challenge
The idea behind this challenge is to motivate people to give back in little ways connected to our reading habits. I plan to participate in this challenge in three ways: 1) I will count the number of books I read this year in any format and donate $1 per book read to a charity (to be determined by me at a later date) in January of next year; 2) When I go through my books before moving this Summer, I will set some aside to give away and donate; and 3) I'm going to try to feature charities and businesses on this blog from time to time that contribute something helpful to the world in a literary fashion.

NoLA StoryCon
This is more of a personal challenge for 2016. I'll be attending NoLA StoryCon in September in New Orleans, Louisiana, and I'm really excited! But I haven't read a lot of the authors who will be there, and I don't know much about New Orleans in general. So, I'm challenging myself to read more books by some of the authors who will be in attendance, which is over 30 people, I think. And I'm also going to read more books about New Orleans or related to the city through the setting or the author. I'm not setting an exact challenge for this, as I'm sure I won't have time to read all of the books I'd like. But it will still be fun to see what I can do!

Also happening:
A Winter's Respite Read-a-Thon 2016
January 18-24 hosted by Seasons of Reading
I don't do read-a-thons very often because I work full-time and often on weekends when they're scheduled, but this one lasts for a full week! I also think that I need to purposely set aside more time to relax in 2016, so this will be a good start.

I'm going to try and redesign my blog this year. I know I've said this several times, and I really need to just do it. But design motivation is difficult to find when I have a book review to type up or an unfinished novel nearby....Anyway, if you all have any ideas or suggestions, let me know. You're the ones reading it, after all! Hopefully this page will be a "Work in Progress" soon!

Thanks for reading about my plans for 2016. Don't forget to subscribe to my blog so you can see me fulfill all of my challenges! And tell me, what challenges or other fun things are you participating in this year?

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 Wrap-Up

I'm ready to wrap-up 2015! Who's with me? I've already done the final individual posts for each of my challenges, so I'll add a link here to click-through for titles and more information. I feel pretty good about my challenges for 2015, although I did choose easier, more general challenges for the year. So maybe for 2016 I need to challenge myself more! I'm also including a few short lists of some of my favorites and not-so-favorites for the year, since I didn't do the recent "top ten" posts I keep seeing around--enjoy!

Challenges with a goal:
We Read Diverse Books Challenge
Original Goal: 12 months, 12 books
Adjusted Goal: 9 challenges, 9 books
Read: 7 books
Incomplete

Banned Books Challenge
Original Goal: Trouble-Maker, 3-5 books
Adjusted Goal: Rabble-Rouser, 6-9 books
Read: 6 books
Both goals completed!

2015 TBR Pile Reading Challenge
Original Goal: A Friendly Hug, 11-20 books
Read: 18 books
Original goal completed!

2015 Audiobook Challenge
Original Goal: Stenographer, 10-15 books
Read: 13 books
Original goal completed!

Just for fun/Challenges without a goal:
Where Are You Reading Challenge 2015

Literary Pickers Reading Challenge 2015

Top 7 Books Read in 2015 (in random order):
Still Alice by Lisa Genova
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Books started in 2015 that I decided not to finish:
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
Canyon Sacrifice by Scott Graham
Billy in the Lowground by Sumner Wilson

Books finished in 2015 that I ran out of time to review:

Be on the look-out soon for some of those unfinished book reviews and a post on what you can expect from me in 2016!

Saturday, January 2, 2016

2015 Literary Pickers Challenge Wrap-Up

This is my wrap-up post for the Literary Pickers Reading Challenge 2015 hosted by Sophia at Delighted Reader. This was one of my "Just for Fun" Challenges for 2015, and I found a lot of these! It was really fun searching for little objects and such in each book I read--kind of like a scavenger hunt, but without the pressure of a time limit! I might do something like this again this year, just for kicks and grins.

Objects

   Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
   A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens




   The Cottage in the Woods by Katherine Coville

   Don Tillman: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
   Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper





   Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
   The Great Library: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
   North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell
   Frog and Toad Audio Collection by Arnold Lobel
   Animal Rescue Team Collection: Vol. 2 by Sue Stauffacher

   The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
  Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein


   Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

   Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot




   Love and Other Theories by Alexis Bass

   The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis






   You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day

   Beyond Magenta by Susan Kuklin

Transportation
   The Coventree Chronicles: Disenchanted by Janet Ursel
   The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer
   The Virgin's Guide to Misbehaving by Jessica Clare
   The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
   Billionaire Boys' Club: Romancing the Billionaire by Jessica Clare
  Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

   Yes Please by Amy Poehler
   Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen


Places

   A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin
   Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

   Magisterium: The Iron Trial by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare

   Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton
   Billionaires and Bridesmaids: The Billionaire and the Virgin by Jessica Clare

   Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

   Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich
   Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Personages/Animals
   Poetry magazine "July/August 2014"
   The Mortality Doctrine: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
   Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm
   The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio
   Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
   The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer
   Chocoholic Mystery: The Chocolate Book Bandit by JoAnna Carl

   Dragonriders of Pern: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey

   Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
   Canyon Sacrifice: A National Park Mystery by Scott Graham
   Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
   The Remedy by Thomas Goetz
   Age of Legends: Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong
   The Disney Fairies Collection Vol. 6 by Gail Herman


Clothing



   Booked for Trouble: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates
   By Book or by Crook: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates

   The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
   Brava, Valentine by Adriana Trigiani




   Age of Legends: Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong
   Blacktop Cowboys: Saddled and Spurred by Lorelei James
   Fairyland: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

   Emma by Jane Austen
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
   His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman

   Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie



Food
   Don Tillman: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion
   Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
   Dilbert: I'm Not Anti-Business, I'm Anti-Idiot by Scott Adams
   Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti

2015 Where Are You Reading? Challenge Wrap-Up

This is my wrap-up post for the Where Are You Reading Challenge 2015 hosted by Sheila at Book Journey. This was one of my "Just for Fun" Challenges for 2015--I always find it interesting to see where the books I'm reading are set, but I think I liked it better when I made a map in 2014! I guess it's just more fun to look at than a list. I also didn't make it a goal to diversify by location as much in 2015, so that may be another reason it wasn't as exciting. I hope you guys have gotten some good ideas for reading in new settings, though. Branch out a little from where you normally "visit!" You'll be surprised what little things you'll learn about new places!

Australia
Don Tillman: The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Don Tillman: The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion

Germany
The Land of Stories: A Grimm Warning by Chris Colfer
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
The Remedy: Robert Koch, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Quest to Cure Tuberculosis by Thomas Goetz

Greece
Billionaire Boys' Club: Romancing the Billionaire by Jessica Clare

Italy
Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India, and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert

United Kingdom
England: His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
                Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot
                The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
                Mr. Toppit by Charles Elton
                Emma by Jane Austen

United States
California: Then Again by Diane Keaton
                    Dilbert: I'm Not Anti-Business, I'm Anti-Idiot by Scott Adams
                    You're Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day
Kansas: Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige
Massachusetts: Still Alice by Lisa Genova
Nebraska: Fairyland: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente
New Jersey: Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich
New Mexico: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko
New York: The Julian Chapter: A Wonder Story by R.J. Palacio
                    Yes Please by Amy Poehler
                    Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
                    Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
                    Voracious: A Hungry Reader Cooks Her Way through Great Books by Cara Nicoletti
North Carolina: By Book or by Crook: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates
                            Booked for Trouble: A Lighthouse Library Mystery by Eva Gates
Ohio: Mr. Lemoncello's Library: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein 
           Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Pennsylvania: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
                         Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer by John Grisham
Rhode Island: Better Homes and Hauntings by Molly Harper

Other
The Mortality Doctrine: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner
The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
Age of Legends: Empire of Night by Kelley Armstrong
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
Dragonriders of Pern: Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
The Coventree Chronicles: Disenchanted by Janet Ursel
Frog and Toad Audio Collection by Arnold Lobel

2015 Audiobook Challenge Wrap-Up

This is my wrap-up post for the 2015 Audiobook Challenge hosted by the ladies at The Book Nympho and Hot Listens. I signed up for the "Stenographer" level (10-15 books) and met my goal! Listening to audiobooks in the car has significantly increased the number of books I can get through in a year, and it's an experience on a whole new level of storytelling, I think. Very fun!

 
  
 
  
  
 
 

2015 We Read Diverse Books Challenge Wrap-Up

This is my wrap-up post for the 2015 We Read Diverse Books Challenge hosted by Janet Ursel at Gourmet Reading. The challenges were only posted through September, so what you see below is the full list. I finished most of them and really enjoyed the diverse reading options that popped up from challenging myself like this!

Grimm's Complete Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm

May Challenge: Age