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.

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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.

Top Ten Things on My Reading Wish List

I'm linking up to share the top ten things on my reading wish list. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with the Broke & Bookish for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday meme.

Today’s TTT prompt revolves around the things I’d like to see more books include. There are definitely some things that consistently trigger my “must read now” impulse, and I’m happy to share them here!

  1. Time travel historical fiction. This is why Connie Willis in particular is like candy for me. (See also here and here.) I love historical fiction in general, and the time travel aspect tends to keep things from getting too serious.
  2. MG books about quirky kids. No matter what time period, setting, or quirk the story has, I’m always up for a good middle grade novel with unusual characters.
  3. Mysteries. I mean, do I need to say more? I’m a sucker for a mystery novel of pretty much any kind.
  4. Books with a prominent narrator. I love books that have a narrator who inserts herself/himself into the story. Humorous asides are always welcome. (Lemony Snicket is a master of this.)
  5. Books that explore other countries. My reading on lesser-known countries in Africa, Asia, and South America is sadly lacking. I’d love an influx of books in translation or books by authors from these countries.
  6. Diversity! You guys know that reading diversely is important to me, and we still have a lack of characters who are POC, have a disability or mental illness, and so on. I always learn a lot by reading about people who are different from me, so more of that, please!
  7. More of every series Jasper Fforde has written. Yes, please.
  8. Books about Millennials that don’t hate on Millennials. This may be a kind of book that only I want, but as a Millennial myself, I’m tired of reading books and articles that either bash my generation for our stereotypical flaws or are written as “how to be a real adult” how-to guides (although I admit there are some books in that vein that I have read and enjoyed). I really want to see some books that describe my generation without being hateful or patronizing.
  9. Hate to love romances. Why does this always get me? It must be because of my formative experience with You’ve Got Mail.
  10. Modern/alternate fairy tale retellings. From Marissa Meyer to Shannon Hale to the recent Geekerella, I will always enjoy a good fairy tale retelling.

Which things would make your reading wish list? Leave your links in the comments; I’d love to check out your TTT posts!

May Small Goals + What I’m Into

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

First, a quick review of my small goals from April:

  • Prep for all the concerts! Check! The Easter performance and the big recital were a lot of work, but they turned out so nicely.
  • Start volunteering. Also check! I’m volunteering at a local refugee services center, offering my expertise in speaking English to their ESOL class. So far so good!
  • Do a spending freeze. Sort of. I’m counting this one as half complete, because knowing that I was supposed to be doing a spending freeze kept me from several frivolous online purchases, but I still managed to put in one Amazon order and eat out more than I’d like.

2.5/3 is not too bad! Now for my May small goals:

  • Survive my dental appointment. I have many medically-related fears, so my first appointment with a new dentist is at the very bottom of my list of things I want to do. If I can make it through the appointment and any follow-up procedures without passing out, it’ll be a miracle!
  • Plan something fun for Memorial Day weekend. This year I get Memorial Day weekend off (a wonderful bonus, since I work Saturdays and Mondays during the rest of the year), so I want to plan a quick weekend getaway with my husband. (I’m hoping this will give me something to look forward to as I suffer through dental anxiety!)
  • Get all the free things to celebrate my birthday! I’m signed up for so many mailing lists just so I can rake in all the freebies every May when my birthday rolls around. There’s nothing I like more than free food, so this is always a fun part of my birthday celebration.

What I’m Into

Book challenge updates: I’m participating in several book challenges this year, and seeing as we’re almost halfway through the year (how??), I thought I’d offer a quick update on how I’m doing with them. So far I’ve read 34/75 points worth of Newbery books and 1/12 classics.

Books I’m looking forward to reading: The most recent Flavia de Luce mystery is sitting by my bed right now, waiting for me to get a spare moment to read it.

TV shows I’ve been watching: One night when my husband was out with friends, I binged eight episodes of Parks and Rec. Now I’m only a few episodes away from finally finishing the series!

Podcast I’m loving: I finally started listening to S-Town, and I can totally see why everyone is so obsessed with it. It’s not for the faint of heart–there’s a significant amount of coarse language, including racial slurs, as well as described violence–but I’m really enjoying it so far. The story is gripping, of course (I wouldn’t expect anything less from the creators of Serial), but what I’m enjoying most is what a clear picture the podcast paints of rural, small town Southern life. It doesn’t shy away from the quirks, the beauty, the surprisingly intelligent residents, or the horrifyingly ignorant and/or racist residents.

My favorite Instagram:

One of my students brought me flowers for the recital, and I was so happy!

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If you’d like to follow me on Instagram (I post lots of book pictures and some of my hand lettering), 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.

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