The Review of Books – Take 1!

I am bad at writing book reviews.

There, I admitted it.

I have never been good at it. Remember back in elementary school, when you had to write book reports?  Simple things, right? “The book was about this, the main character was so-and-so, I liked this, I disliked this.”

Yeah, nope. Not so simple for me. Probably some of it is my anxiety, and some of it is that anxiety tied with self-esteem that is so worried that I’m going to be WRONG. I did manage to write an annotated bibliography for some of the research books I used for part of my undergraduate thesis without too much trouble but, beyond that, I’ve struggled.

And I would like to write more reviews. When I read awesome books I would like to share how awesome the book is because I know how important those reviews are for authors, and for marketing books further. When I have a book out I hope that people will write reviews for me, so I want to be doing the same for others.

But I sit and stare at the blank box on the screen and freeze up. I read other reviews, eloquent ones that give brief summaries without giving anything away, that talk about the things that were awesome about the book, and anxiety and panic sets in.

It’s ridiculous, but it’s where I’m at.

But I want to change that.  So this year, since I’m undertaking a number of reading challenges and working on my writing, I figured it’s a good year to push myself.

They don’t need to be long. They don’t have to say anything profound. But I figure I might as well give it a go.
So, throughout the year I’ll be posting little posts, likely with multiple reviews in one post (because it’s less pressure on one that way!)  And this post… this is my way to tell you what I’m going to be doing, to help hold myself accountable.

But I also wonder, what do you find helpful in reviews? What kind of things do you look for?  What kind of things do you like to write in them?  What kind of things do you not like?
65692Just a Geek – Wil Wheaton (completed 1/9/2017. Read Harder – Memoir by a Celebrity.)

Not being a hard-core Trekkie, and a casual Wheaton follower on the web I think I maybe would have gotten more out of this book if I were a bigger fan — and if it were more recent. However, I really liked the look into the struggle he had to find his place and what he really wanted to do, and that fight with depression/anxiety/proving himself. That part was very relate-able.


36013042Percy Jackson and the Singer of Apollo – Rick Riordan (Completed 1/16. Read Harder – A one-sitting book).

I guess, technically, this is kind of a short story – but I bought it as an ebook, and read it in one sitting (my commute), so it counts.  This is listed as Percy Jackson and the Olympians #5.5, which means I’m completely reading it out of order. I mean, I’m entirely up on Rick Riordan’s writings – I’ve read them all (well, okay, all of the things he’s written since the first Percy Jackson book – I haven’t delved into his earlier works yet), own them all (many of them even in hardcover) and consider myself a fan. But this one just got released as its own short story recently, so I had to transplant my mind to a time before the events of the Apollo books took place.

Once I made that shift, though, I enjoyed this story. It’s a fun little thing, a bit of classic Riordan humor, some interactions with Percy and Grover that we haven’t gotten to see in quite a while. And it is a SUPER FAST read.



#WeekendCoffeeShare: Birthday Weekend!

wordswag_15073188796611453091488.pngWeekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!
Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?
All are welcome! Just add your link to the Linky-List, and be sure to visit others and join in their conversations! The link will be open from January 12th at 7am (Pacific Time) until Monday January 15th at 7pm (Pacific Time) to give us a good range of “weekend”!

It’s My Birthday!!

Well, okay… so technically my birthday isn’t until Tuesday. But that’s okay, this is the last long-weekend I have (without taking vacation time) until Memorial day, and it’s close enough that I’m celebrating it like it’s my Birthday!

This year I’m not throwing any sort of party for myself, like I have in previous years. I just don’t have the energy for that this go-round. Instead I’m doing little things here and there with individual friends and family. Writing date with one friend, cheese-and-board games night with another (when we eat ALL THE CHEESE and play board games), a couple of lunches with others. I’m looking forward to it, it will be fun to get to connect with these different friends and just hang out and relax a bit.

This week has been a LONG one. Not just because it was the first five-day-work-week after a few 4-day ones, but also because we were kind of slow at work. When we’re busy time flies by, and I like it when we’re at this happy medium level, where there’s enough happening to keep us busy, but not enough to make us feel overwhelmed. But this week it’s just been slow.

The nice thing is that I’ve been able to get some reading done, and a little bit of writing. Last weekend I did succeed in getting some of the editing completed that I wanted to do – that made me happy! I feel like I’m getting a better handle on some of the nitty-gritty of my story, and have finally settled on the Point of View I’ll be sticking with (at least for this draft, and then I’ll see what my first round of readers think before my next set of edits).

Whelp, I’m off to the last day of work before my BIRTHDAY FUN WEEKEND. What does the weekend have in store for you?

Reading in the New Year – 2018 Goals and Plans

A new year, a new set of reading goals!

As with all my goals this year I’m trying to put plans in place that will actually help me achieve them… last year was a real flop when it came to reading, and a super-flop when it came to writing about what I’d been reading.

There are a few things that I’m hoping will help me in my reading (and writing about reading) goals.

First, I’m only participating in a handful of challenges and events:

1515092626-1515092626_goodreads_misc I’ve signed up with the GoodReads challenge to read 75 books – I would love to say I’m going to read more, but I think 75 is a nice, relatively mellow, number to reach for.

ReadHarderChallenge2018-768x994 BookRiots Read Harder challenge has proven to be a challenge for me the past few years (the facebook group I run for a few of us trying to tackle it has reflected this with name-changes that are more and more insistent). But this year I’m taking a little bit of a different tactic. I’ve set up a Trello Board to help me keep track of what I’ve read (and make notes in when I have thoughts and such to contribute to blog posts). And I’ve already selected books to fit most of the categories. These are, of course, subject to change — but my hope is that by having options already listed I’m more likely to read them.

classicsclubThe Classics Club.  Oh, how I love the Classics Club – it’s such a fun group, with a great challenge.  But I kind of want to go back and time and talk some sense into the me that thought it was a good idea to put over 80 books on my Classics Club list.  80 Classics, in 5 years… really? I mean, it’s a nice thought – but reality has certainly gotten in the way.  But I’m going to strive to keep chugging away at this list (even though June 2019, my 5-year mark with the group, is coming up much faster than I’d like). In some cases my BookRiot challenge books have been selected because they’re on my Classics Club list 😀

And that is IT for Book Challenges. No matter what more I see, I’m sticking with these three — that’s enough pressure on myself! Especially for something that I am supposed to (and want to continue to) enjoy doing! There are, of course, some events that I hope to participate in as well — but even those I’m trying to keep limited.


NLW.FB.Cover.OIF.851x480When the Banned Book list comes out later this winter I’ll be taking a look at those books and selecting a few of them to read and write about for Banned Book Week in September. I’ve been participating in that for a long time, and have no plans to stop.  Depending on which ones make the top list for last year, I may go back to just picking some of the most-commonly-banned over the past couple years, or I may draw from the list of the year.  Either way – there’ll be banned book talk the whole week of Banned Book Week.

24hrreading2-thumb And, of course, there is Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon. This awesome event happens twice a year – in April and October.  Every year I put it on my calendar, and every year I end up scheduling something else in that time.  This year, though… I’m keeping that April date CLEAR. I can’t say about October (things at work start picking up around then), but I’ve got plans for April, and have already started to think about what books I might save for the day (and what snacks I might prepare).

…And because I’m SO GOOD at sticking to my plans… since last week when I wrote this I’ve added two reading challenges to my list.  One is the 50 Book pledge (because, really, I’m doing that anyhow – I signed up to read 75 books since that’s my GoodReads goal.

I’m also going to participate in some of the Bout of Books activities – I think that the semi-regular check-in and challenges there might help keep me on track.. we’ll see!

les_miserables_readalong_finalAnd then, this came along… the Les Miserables Chapter-a-day read-along…. So.. yeah, I’m going to try that because I WOULD like to get through Les Miserables again, and it WILL help complete that for Classics Club….

Adding to this, and of course with a few exceptions, I am trying to mostly make use of the library and books I already own. Mostly because I just have so darn many books, and am trying to minimize my book budget.

What are you looking forward to in the reading world this year?  Any exciting books you know are coming out? Any reading challenges you’re trying or events you’re looking forward to?

#WeekendCoffeeShare: The Library was Loud, and this weekend will be quiet!

wordswag_15073188796611453091488.pngWeekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!
Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?
All are welcome! Just add your link to the Linky-List, and be sure to visit others and join in their conversations! The link will be open from January 5th at 7am (Pacific Time) until Monday January 8th at 7pm (Pacific Time) to give us a good range of “weekend”!

Welcome to the New Year!

I kicked off 2018 standing in the library – it’s the second year in a row that I’ve attended Loud In The Library, and I quite enjoyed it. Though, next year I may try something different — it looks like our local game museum did a thing for New Years Eve this year and if they repeat it next year I might try that.

I took Mom with me this year to Loud at the Library!

Other than the Library-based start, it’s been a pretty quiet year so far. I didn’t intend to start the year out with so much sleep, but it seems to be what my body wanted – I actually slept pretty much all day on the 1st. I woke up to eat, and went back to sleep. I wasn’t feeling sick, just tired.

Since I also spent a decent portion of the Christmas Holiday weekend sleeping I think it’s time to break that trend. I need sleep, sure, but I should be recharged by now. So this weekend I have other plans. And I’m going to make myself stick to them.

Saturday is nice and empty. But I’m going to force myself to get out of bed in the morning (I’ll sleep in a little, of course!) make breakfast and coffee, get dressed, and then sit down to do some writing/editing. I haven’t figured exactly how long I’ll make myself work – at least an hour, but if it starts to flow well then I’ll obviously give myself some more time to work on it. Then my afternoon is open to do whatever I want – working on one of my crochet projects, or reading being the two most likely candidates.

Sunday is busy-busy. Planning to Skype with a friend in the morning, and then going to a Russian Christmas celebration in the afternoon (hosted by a friend every year, it’s a nice open-house gathering with some good food and nice conversation), followed by my weekly game group (which has been on hiatus for the past two weeks) in the evening.
After three weeks in a row with three-day weekends, it’s kind of strange to realize that my weekend this time around is only two days long. I’m hoping that I can manage to be productive with them…. Especially since the following weekend is going to be my BIRTHDAY WEEKEND – which I really have no major plans for, but who knows what will come.

How was your week?  What does your coming weekend look like?

Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Hello 2018!

img_20170917_091348_6841544375496.jpgThis is my monthly post as part of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, a great group of supportive writers, helping one another through our writing ups-and-downs.

There is also a great Facebook Community for more daily connection!  More posts from the group are tagged on Twitter at #IWSG.

Hello 2018!

Wow. 2018.

Even though I’m a little shocked that we’ve somehow reached 2018 already, I’m excited for it. This year my goals are similar to previous years: more writing, more reading, working on my health. Unlike previous years, though, I am approaching my goals with set-out plans and strategies to help make them achievable.

Since this is Insecure Writer’s Support Group day – I’ll start with looking at my writing goals (reading and health goals I’ll write about later this month).  That, right there, is one of my strategies to help attain my goals.  I am going to commit to writing about them. Each month I’ll make myself do a goals check in (aiming for the the third Wednesday of the month) on how I’m doing on these goals. For me that low level of accountability can be the extra little nudge I need to keep moving, without feeling like it’s an overwhelming obligation.

For writing my goal is very specific: I want to revise at least one chapter of my WIP each month. Ideally I’d do more, but I know that some of these chapters are going to require complete rewrites, and I need to create an attainable goal. Since I have a tendency to overbook myself and set impossible goals I’m trying to be more realistic.

I also have a few friends who are willing to read what I’m writing, one chapter at a time, and give me some feedback. I’m hopeful that this will give me that little extra push when I just am not feeling like writing, and it will give me an as-I-go sounding board to keep me in check on things.  If there’s a glaring issue that shows up in Chapter 2, I’d rather know about it before I get to the place it matters in Chapter 10 than after I’ve completed this entire revision!

Additionally, I got a calendar specifically for keeping track of where I should be in edits – with a lot of space to notes that I need to remember later on or things I need to figure out. Each week I’ll sit down and assign myself minimum times for writing, as well as creating benchmarks to aim for.

The final piece of my plan is to keep reminding myself how awesome it felt when I did NaNo this year. After over a year of not writing I suddenly was writing again. Every day I got a few words – but the days I really set aside dedicated writing time I got a lot done. It wasn’t easy, certainly not, but I stayed well ahead of my goals and really felt overall better because I was dedicating that time to writing.  So when I find myself being dragged down in revisions, feeling tired of sitting down at my computer at night instead of just curling up in bed with a book or movie, I will remind myself of November.

This story has been in the works for over a decade. It spent the last year completely ignored, sitting – literally – on a shelf gathering dust. This is the year to finally get it into a form where other people can start looking at it. I don’t want to sit around with no one else reading it for much longer — it’s time for me to start getting ready to really put the story out in the world.

And it’s time to make the space to start working on other stories as well! I did some free-writing the other day during my lunch-break, and the idea held onto me so strongly that I found myself dealing with the challenge of typing on my phone to continue working on it during my evening commute.  So I’m going to make an effort to spend some time during a few of my lunch-breaks each week doing free-writes just to keep those creative juices flowing and to keep working those writing muscles.

An update to The House on Mango Street Banning

One of the most popular blog posts that I have is my Banned Book Week post about The House on Mango Street.

So I wanted to take a quick moment to post an update when I stumbled across an article this morning that is relevant to that post.

One of the challenges for the book was Arizona House Bill 2281, which banned Mexican American Studies – which a judge has now said is unconstitutional.

Part of the ruling states: “not for a legitimate educational purpose, but for an invidious discriminatory racial purpose and a politically partisan purpose.”




#WeekendCoffeeShare: Holiday Weekends

wordswag_15073188796611453091488.pngWeekend Coffee Share is a time for us to take a break out of our lives and enjoy some time catching up with friends (old and new)!
Grab a cup of coffee and share with us! What’s been going on in your life? What are your weekend plans? Is there a topic you’ve just been ruminating on that you want to talk about?
All are welcome! Just add your link to the Linky-List, and be sure to visit others and join in their conversations! The link will be open from December 29th at 7am (Pacific Time) until Monday January 1st at 7pm (Pacific Time) to give us a good range of “weekend”!

If we were having coffee I’d invite you to join me by the cozy fire again – it’s a good time of year for that. We had some cool weather over Christmas weekend, what they were expecting to be just a little bit of ice turned into a bit of an event, including some snow! Not a lot but enough to mess with some people’s plans for Christmas Day (and to give me a little bit of a delayed start the day after Christmas). Only the 6th time since 1884 that there’s been measurable snowfall in downtown Portland on Christmas. And, while I’m not in downtown Portland, I’m close enough that I use their statistics happily!

Because of the weather it turned out to be just Mom and I all day for Christmas. Very laid back and relaxed, just the kind of holiday I needed at this point.

It also means I get a mini-Christmas part-two Friday night with those who couldn’t make it on Christmas itself. I’m very excited to see what my brother thinks of the present I got him!

This weekend brings another holiday, of course – New Years Eve. For a long time I really didn’t do much for this one, half the time I was asleep by the time we hit midnight. But last year I decided to check out “Loud at the Library,” an event that seemed like fun — and it was a lot of fun, so I got tickets to go again. There’s dancing, food, drinks, activities, a raffle… all sorts of great stuff! I’m taking my mom along this year (since none of my friends are generally up to that sort of thing at this point in their lives), and it’ll be cool to have someone along with me.

And then it’s a new year. I can’t believe we’re already stepping into 2018! I have been thinking about my plans and goals for the year. There are some things surrounding my health which are a bit up in the air still, but I’m talking to doctors this month to hopefully take some steps towards figuring out a bit of that all. I’ve been setting to work filling in calendars, and trying to figure out the best way to keep myself accountable for the goals I’m setting. Hopefully I can make some real progress on my writing, do more reading, and work on these health issues more (those are my big three goals).

How was your Christmas? Do you have New Years Eve plans? Are you a New Year’s Resolution or goals kind of person? If so, what are you trying to do in the coming year?

Happy New Year everyone!


A bit of this, a bit of that, the meandering thoughts of a dreamer.

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