Top Ten Books on My Fall TBR List, 2017

I'm linking up with the Broke and the Bookish to share the top ten books on my fall TBR list. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

Like most of you (probably? Tell me I’m not alone in this issue!), I have a huge, towering TBR list to which I’ve been adding books for so long that sometimes I forget why I put a book on the list. So for my fall TBR list, I decided to go back and select ten of the oldest books on the list, ones which I don’t even remember why they originally appealed to me. The books range from adult fiction to YA, from mysteries to nonfiction. I may not tackle all of them this fall, but I hope to cross off at least a few of these old TBRs off my list!

  1. A Grown Up Kind of Pretty
  2. While Beauty Slept
  3. There is No Dog
  4. Where Things Come Back
  5. The Broken Teaglass
  6. Death by Darjeeling
  7. The Godmother Tree
  8. Will Grayson, Will Grayson
  9. Around the Bloc
  10. You Don’t Look Like Anyone I Know

What books are on your fall TBR list? Leave your links in the comments!

What I’m Into + Small Goals: September 2017

I'm sharing what I'm into and my small goals for the upcoming month. | Book reviews by NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my September small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

Despite the temperature, which continues to hover around 95 degrees here in SWFL, summer is officially over! I spent much of this month battling anxiety, which meant a lot of my plans went undone. But I’m over the hump, and I’m starting to feel ready to buckle down and get things done in September.

  • Get paperwork in order. Yessss. One of my most boring adulting skills is filing paperwork, and I’m happy to say I was able to utilize that skill this month.
  • Go to the beach. Yeah, no. I’ll try this again in September.
  • Gear up for the busy season at work. Sort of… I didn’t prep new games like I wanted to (see above), but I did get my schedule in order. I’ll count this one as half completed.

1.5/3 for August? I’ll take it. Now for my September goals! (Will five goals be too many? We’ll see…)

  • Go for a walk every day after work. When I’m feeling stressed or anxious, I tend to want to curl up in a ball and ignore the world, but I know getting in some movement outside always helps me feel better.
  • Finish a couple of book series I’ve started but have yet to finish. Am I the only one who enjoys the first book in a series and then lets the later installments languish on the TBR list for months?
  • Listen to In the Heights. As obsessed as I am with Hamilton, it’s hard to believe it has taken me this long to listen to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s previous musical.
  • Spend time connecting with friends and family. September always reminds me of back to school and my old school friends, and it makes me realize how long it has been since I’ve spoken to some of them! I want to take a few minutes to text/email/call the friends and family members I haven’t been in contact with recently.
  • Scrapbook. People, I still have memorabilia floating around from my college graduation… which was over four years ago. I want to stick these items in a scrapbook where I can actually look at them.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I just started book five in the Incorrigibles series, and I can’t wait to reveal some answers to the mysteries in the previous book!

TV shows I’ve watched: My husband and I are finally watching the latest season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. I think it’s the funniest season so far.

Instagram account I’m loving: This guy rescues cats in Istanbul and also plays piano with them. It’s super sweet.

My favorite Instagram:

I built an Ikea shelf a couple of weeks ago and was super proud of myself.

I built this ikea shelf all by myself and I'm feeling absurdly proud of it.

A post shared by Monica Fastenau (@monica.fastenau) on

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

August Small Goals + What I’m Into

I'm linking up to share my August small goals and the things I'm into this summer. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my August small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

Friends, I have to say I did terribly on my small goals from last month. But here we go!

  • Relax! Yes, kind of, but even our relaxing plans (see the Harry Potter World picture above!) turned out to be a lot more complicated than we anticipated. (The month started with us having to rent a car and ended with us buying new cars. Not really our plan for our summer vacation…)
  • Watch A Very Potter Musical. No, I still, still haven’t seen it.
  • Get my pants hemmed. Yeah, no.
  • Finish reading my stack of books. I did make a dent in the stack… but it has also grown quite a bit this month.

Okay, so July turned out a bit differently than anticipated. Here’s hoping August will go a little more smoothly!

  • Get paperwork in order. This is my boring goal for the month. We’ve got car information, payment paperwork, and a thousand other papers waiting to be dealt with or filed.
  • Go to the beach. And this is the fun goal! I live close to the beach, but we rarely go because it’s a bit of a hassle. Still, it’s always a fun time, and I want to make an effort to go at least once this month.
  • Gear up for the busy season at work. Back to school time always brings an influx of students, and this year has me particularly booked up. I want to spend some time getting new games, activities, and plans organized before school officially starts.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I’ve been on a Jasper Fforde kick recently, and I’m on the hunt for the later installments in the Thursday Next series.

TV shows I’ve watched: I found out that the Great British Baking Show has a Masterworks spinoff in which Mary and Paul demonstrate how to make the bakes from the show. So lovely!

Music I’m loving: It has been Bastille all day every day for a while over here.

My favorite Instagram:

You know it had to be this one from our recent Universal trip!

If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

What are you all up to this month? Let me know in the comments!

July 2017 Small Goals + What I’m Into

I'm sharing my small goals for July 2017 and the things I've been into lately. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my July 2017 small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

June was a whirlwind! I ended up with a lot more work responsibilities than anticipated, so I’m really enjoying my week off for Fourth of July.

  • Finalize summer plans. Yep! Everything is settled, and this month is set to be a super fun, hopefully relaxing one.
  • Get back into cross stitching. Not even a little bit. Sigh.
  • Read through my backlog of books. I read and reviewed all of the ARCs that were still on my Kindle, and now I’m working my way through the paperbacks on my floor.

Now for my July goals:

  • Relax! Enough said.
  • Watch A Very Potter Musical. No, I still haven’t seen it.
  • Get my pants hemmed (finally). This one’s a boring goal, but it needs to be done. Surely I can get one boring task done this month!
  • Finish reading my stack of books. See above…

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: The next book in the Incorrigible Children series is calling my name.

Movies I’ve watched: I finally watched Hidden Figures, and it was wonderful! Just as powerful and fascinating as I had hoped.

Podcast I’m loving: I’ve been listening to the Kind Rewind, in which Travis and Teresa McElroy watch and talk about nostalgic favorites.

My favorite Instagram:

This chicken and waffles was soooo good. Some of the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.

NewberyandBeyond.com
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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and the occasional selfie), you can do so here.

If you want to see more of what I’m into every month, along with sneak peeks and my favorite posts from the blog, sign up for my email newsletter! It’ll show up in your inbox once a month and bring you the latest blog news and the things I’m loving.

Best Books I’ve Read in 2017 (So Far)

Halfway through the year, I'm pausing to remember the best books I've read so far in 2017. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with the Broke and Bookish to share the best books of 2017.

It’s hard to believe that we’re already halfway through the year! It seems like only a few weeks ago that I was writing my 2017 goals for the blog. But here we are! Today I’m sharing the best books I’ve read this year so far.

  1. The Mysterious Howling (review to come soon). It’s a fun beginning to a MG series in which a 15-year-old girl becomes the governess for a trio of children with a peculiar problem.
  2. The Septimus Heap series (review to come soon). I loved this series soooo much! It’s like a lighthearted version of Harry Potter for younger readers. Fun, heartwarming, great characters and setting and plot, and magic. What more could you want?
  3. Misreading Scripture through Western Eyes (review to come soon). If you’re interested in interpreting the Bible, I highly recommend this eye-opening book.
  4. InterruptedThe first Jen Hatmaker book I ever read, and my favorite. She offers an intimate look at her own journey with her faith and her church, and I found it very encouraging.
  5. The Big Book of Christmas MysteriesIf you, like me, can’t get enough mysteries, this book will keep you happily occupied through the holiday season.
  6. The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective AgencyA beautiful, simple (but not simplistic) writing style paired with an unusual setting (at least for me–this series is the only one I’ve ever read that’s set in Botswana) and lovely characters. Oh yes, and there are mysteries, too.
  7. Frog and Toad TogetherI know I read this at some point as a child, but there’s something so wonderful about the Frog and Toad books.
  8. Doomsday BookI don’t need to reiterate my love of Connie Willis. She is the best.
  9. Geekerella [arc]. A fun, sweet Cinderella retelling, updated to include a geeky setting.
  10. The Inquisitor’s TaleProbably my favorite Newbery book from this year. It’s unique and fun.

What are your favorite books of 2017 so far? Leave your links in the comments!

Top Ten Book Series I Need to Finish Reading

Linking up with Broke & Bookish to share the top ten series I need to finish reading. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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This post is part of the Top Ten Tuesday meme by The Broke and the Bookish.

I’ve noticed lately that I’m really bad about reading the first book of a series, enjoying it, and then never getting around to reading the rest of the series. This year I’ve done my best to finish series, even ones I started years ago–which is why I just finished reading the wonderful Septimus Heap series. I would have missed so much by never reading anything beyond Magyk, so I’m taking this chance to list all of the series I still need to finish in the hopes that it will prompt me to read them soon!

  1. The Incorrigible Children
  2. Thursday Next
  3. Inspector Gamache
  4. Books of Bayern
  5. Princess Academy
  6. No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency
  7. Junior Bender
  8. The Last Dragonslayer
  9. Finishing School
  10. These Vicious Masks

What series are on your TBR list? Leave your links in the comments!

ABE: Wrap Up

Just like that, another Armchair Book Expo has come and gone! I had so much fun talking about books, reading about books, and participating in giveaways, but as always, the best part was interacting with my fellow book lovers!

If you missed any of my posts, you can check them out here:

Until I can make to to the Book Expo and BookCon in New York, I’ll keep participating in ABE. Thanks to everyone who made this experience so much fun!

ISO Books and Book Giveaway!

It’s book giveaway time for the Armchair Book Expo! I’m taking this opportunity to offer up some ARCs that are gathering dust in my house. Some of these I have read and reviewed, and I will provide links to those reviews; all other links will lead to Goodreads. Winners will be chosen and contacted by June 5th and books will be mailed shortly after that. Sorry, giveaway is only open to continental U.S. mailing addresses.

Also, I am in search of books in three categories. Please leave your recommendations in the comments!

  • Time travel historical fiction. You already know I’m into this.
  • Mysteries with diverse characters. I love mysteries of all kinds, but I’m very interested in diversifying my mystery reads.
  • Lighthearted YA/MG books. Not fluffy reads, necessarily, but nothing dark/depressing/heavy. I need some beach reads for the summer!

ABE: Dining With an Author

In today's ABE post, I'm discussing the authors I would like to have dinner with. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I talked a bit yesterday about my views on diversity in books (short version: more please!), so I’m going to switch gears in today’s post and talk about which authors I would like to share a meal with.

  • Jane Austen. This is my fantasy list, so of course I’ve got to start with Austen! Her books are classics for a reason–they are funny and insightful. I’ve read many books about Austen’s life and works, but I would love to ask the author herself about her novels and her life. She seems like a witty dinner companion.
  • Sharon Creech. Readers of this blog already know about my deep love for Sharon Creech’s works. She was one of my favorite authors as a child, and her sweet, quirky characters can still make me tear up as an adult. I’d love to get a cup of tea with Sharon Creech and tell her how much her books have meant to me over the years.
  • Connie Willis. This is another of my all-time favorite authors ever. Willis’s time travel historical fiction novels have captured my imagination since I first read To Say Nothing of the Dog. I would want to grab lunch with Connie Willis and ask her how she comes up with her amazing ideas.
  • Neil Gaiman. He just seems like a cool guy to hang out with. Even though he’s written some books that totally creeped me out, he has also written some of my favorites, and he can be really funny. If I could, I would go to a Gaiman reading–I love his accent!
  • Agatha Christie. Another of my lifelong favorites, I would love to have dinner in an old English country manor and hear Christie tell stories about her life. From her experiences as a nurse and chemist during the first World War to her time in the field as an archaeologist’s wife to her mysterious disappearance, I think Christie would have a lot of interesting things to say.

As always, leave your links in the comments below! I want to hear your thoughts on today’s Armchair Book Expo topics.

ABE: What Do Readers Want?

I'm continuing my participation in this year's Armchair Book Expo with a discussion of what readers want. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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It’s day two of the Armchair Book Expo, and today’s prompt is about what readers want.

I’ve been a reader all my life, and I’ve consumed countless books, blog posts about books, and bookish podcasts. I’ve talked with friends, family members, and strangers about books and bookish events. Still, every reader wants something different from their reading experience, so while the things I list here are things I want, I realize that not every reader will agree. (I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments on which things you want or don’t want as a reader.)

What makes or breaks a book? For me, a book is all about the plot and the characters (in that order). Setting is a nice bonus, but it’s not a necessity–in fact, I tend to shy away from books that are described as “atmospheric” or “sweeping.” Beautiful writing is also a plus, but if the plot keeps my interest, I’ll put up with a just average level of writing.

How do we rate books? Again, I think this is a deeply personal decision. As I said above, my favorite books are heavy on attention-grabbing plots and likable, interesting, diverse characters. On my blog, I have a rating scale that is roughly equivalent to a 0-5 star rating, but gives me a little more flexibility because I rate my reads on how I felt about them and also on how much I remember about them after I put down the book. I tend to quickly forget things about the books I read, so I know a book is good when I’m still thinking about it weeks or months later.

What do we want from an author event? I’ll admit that I’ve never been to an event like this and I’ve never met a favorite author (maybe one day I’ll make it to the Book Expo in person!). I imagine I’d want something low-key where the author can spend some time talking about their books and their writing process, and maybe a time afterward for autographs or to make a more personal connection with fans. I can be pretty awkward when meeting people in person, so I don’t know if I would know what to say if I met a favorite author! (Top on my list of authors to meet would be Connie Willis, Sharon Creech, Shannon Hale, Marissa Meyer, Nicola Yoon, Neil Gaiman, and obviously J.K. Rowling.)

How does diversity representation fit into all of this? Every year, reading diversely becomes more important to me. As I did last year, I’m making an effort this year to read at least 25% books that are by or about (preferably both) people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTI people, people who follow a different religion than I do, or people from other countries. I love that every year it gets easier to find these voices in both fiction and nonfiction, and my TBR list is filled with new and backlist #ownvoices books that I’m really excited about reading. If I ever attend an in-person bookish event, I would expect and hope to see a lineup of authors and speakers of a variety of ethnicities, cultural and religious backgrounds, and life circumstances.

As always, please leave your links in the comments! I want to hear your thoughts on what readers want.

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