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

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

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.

Armchair Book Expo: Introduction

It's the N&B introduction to Armchair Book Expo 2017! | NewberyandBeyond.com

I participated in the Armchair Book Expo for the first time last year, and I had so much fun that I’ve been anticipating the next event ever since! Today’s post is just a quick introduction. Over the next few days, you can expect posts about what readers really want, diversity in books, dining with authors, and even a giveaway. Let’s get started!

  1. I am . . . an avid reader, a musician, and a teacher.
  2. My favorite . . . book so far this year has been The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood.
  3. My least favorite . . . genre is typically fantasy (though there are some notable exceptions).
  4. My current read . . . is the entire Septimus Heap series–I’m on book four out of seven.
  5. My summer plans . . . involve lots of beach time and a trip to Harry Potter World at Universal.

Please leave your Armchair Book Expo links in the comments–I’d love to check them out!

ABEA: Wrap Up

Today I'm posting my ABEA wrap up for the 2016 Armchair BEA event. It has been a blast! | NewberyandBeyond.com

I have had so much fun participating in my very first Armchair BEA event! Today, sadly the last day of the event, I’m posting my ABEA wrap up.

Over the past few days, I’ve become more active on Instagram than I ever have been (let’s hope I can stick to that trend–I’ve really enjoyed posting more book pictures and seeing other people’s gorgeous posts); written about myself and my blogaesthetics, fictional worlds, and going beyond the books; met some new book blogger friends; and even won a couple prizes. All the while, the Armchair BEA blog has been posting interesting discussion posts and sneak peeks of BEA itself.

I’ve loved reading everyone else’s thoughts on the week’s topics, and I enjoyed the challenge of posting every day (something I haven’t done since last year’s Write 31 Days challenge). I wasn’t able to participate in any Twitter chats, but I hope to do so next year. Basically, I’ve liked everything about my first ABEA experience, and I hope you enjoyed reading along!

One day I’ll make it to the actual BEA conference, but until then, ABEA is a welcome substitute. Thanks to all who made it happen!

What was your experience with ABEA this year? Leave a link to your ABEA wrap up in the comments; I’d love to check it out.

P.S. Have you enjoyed these posts? Want to hear more from me? Sign up for my monthly newsletter here!

ABEA: Fictional Worlds

Which fictional worlds would you like to live in? Which ones would you not survive? That's today's ABEA post. | NewberyandBeyond.com

Today’s ABEA topic is about surviving fictional worlds. As someone who reads a lot of dystopian fiction, I know of plenty of worlds I would never want to visit! Here’s my quick list of worlds I don’t think I could survive.

  • Hunger GamesBecause obviously.
  • Life After Life. Having to live my life over and over again until I got it right? Sounds good in theory, but I don’t think I’d enjoy that in practice.
  • DivergentYeah, nope. I would probably die in training.
  • The Age of MiraclesI loved this fascinating book, but I would never want to live in a world in which the earth actually stopped turning.
  • The MartianBeing stranded alone in space is pretty much my second worst nightmare (the first one being drowning in a Titanic-esque wreck).
  • DuneDesert planet, giant worms, and political drama? No thank you.


On the other hand, there are a few fictional worlds (even some dystopian ones!) that I think I might be okay with living in. Here’s that list.

  • Sharon CreechCreech’s worlds are down home countryside and slightly magical. Love, love, love them.
  • Lunar ChroniclesThis is one dystopian world I think I could actually survive. Especially if I can hang out with Cinder, Cress, and the rest of the gang.
  • Bee and Puppycat. I never got around to posting a review of this awesome, adorable comic that I got for Christmas, but it is amazing. I would love to go on crazy adventures with Bee and Puppycat and then hang out and eat chips with them afterward.
  • JackabyThese paranormal YA mysteries, a cross between Sherlock and Doctor Who, really make me smile. I want to investigate paranormal creatures with a possibly crazy detective.
  • Ready Player OneAnother dystopian world that I think I could survive (although I wouldn’t necessarily want to go there if I had the choice). Sure, I’m no good at video games right now, but if that was my only escape from a desperately poor neighborhood, I would probably get better.
  • The Girl from EverywhereTime traveling ship with mythical enhancements and fascinating (and attractive) shipmates? Sign me up!


What worlds would you want to live in? Or which ones would you rather stay far away from?

ABEA: Going Beyond

The third day of Armchair BEA is all about going beyond paper-and-words books (and also about talking about books beyond the blog). | NewberyandBeyond.com

Today, the third day of Armchair BEA, brings with it the prompts of beyond the books and beyond the blog. It’s only in recent years that I have started going “beyond the books” and looking for different kinds of books than just the paper-and-words kind. I posted here about my very first experiences with graphic novels, comic books, and audiobooks. I have to say, I was reluctant to branch out at first, but now I really enjoy graphic novels, and a good audiobook keeps me from going crazy when I’m stuck in traffic. (Comic books, however, I’m still on the edge about. Got any suggestions of what I should read to make me love them?) I love that these other book formats expand the reading experience. When I was a kid, I loved those books that had little pieces (like letters or programs or other paper trinkets) that came out of the book. I’d love to find a book like that for adults! It just adds another level to your reading when you’re experiencing more than just words on a page.

In terms of going beyond the blog, I constantly talk about books outside of my blog. My husband bears the brunt of this book chatter (he knows the basic plot and/or failings of nearly every book I read), but my sister (an occasional guest blogger on N&B) and a few bookish IRL friends are always up for a book discussion. I’ve tried book clubs, both in person and online, and nothing seems to stick. But I keep my Goodreads updated and participate with a few groups there, so I kind of think of that as my virtual book club. Maybe one day I’ll find my perfect book club!

How do you go beyond the book (or beyond the blog)?

ABEA: Aesthetics in Books and Blogs

A quick discussion of aesthetics in books and blogs (aka judging a book by its cover). | NewberyandBeyond.com

Today’s Armchair BEA prompt is about aesthetics in books and blogs. In other words, I’m getting ready to judge books by their covers! I’d like to say that never happens, but if I’m honest, a poorly designed cover (or an overly simple one) will definitely keep me from picking up a book. Fortunately, I pick most books based on reviews from other bloggers, so I’ll often request a book from the library or buy it for my Kindle before I ever see the cover.

Part of this prompt asks, “How often are you surprised by what you find?” and I have to say, for the most part, covers are a decent indicator of the quality of the book. I read and review a lot of ARCs and books by self-publishing authors, and I’ve found that if time and effort (and probably money) has been put into the cover design, the same can probably be said for the book itself. If the cover is gimmicky or just has the title and author’s name, there are likely to be some serious flaws inside. (That said, I have been surprised in the past by books with terrible graphics on the cover that were actually well written and entertaining.)

Really though, when it comes down to it, I don’t much care if the cover art matches the story inside perfectly. It’s nice when it does, but as long as the cover looks pretty and the story is well written, I’ll be happy.

In terms of my own blog branding, I have to admit I’ve been a little haphazard. (Long-time readers will remember the various styles of photos I’ve used over the past few years!) I’m not much of a photographer, so I’ve finally settled on trying to take pictures of the physical books I read and review and buying a bundle of stock photos that I love. I try for simple, clear, well-lit photos (generally nature-themed) with typewriter-esque text on top. I know my blog itself could use an update, but I’ve yet to make the leap to a specialized theme. One day! In terms of my reviews, I’ve been a little more consistent. I tend to write the same way I talk, so sometimes that means using long, college-y words and sometimes that means incoherent fangirling. (I try to keep it real.)

Do you judge books by their covers? What’s your take on blog branding? Leave your thoughts or a link to your post in the comments!

ABEA: Introduction

I'm kicking off my first year of participation in Armchair BEA with an introduction! | NewberyandBeyond.com

This is my first year participating in Armchair BEA, and I’m super excited about it! Since I’m unable to travel and go to BEA (Book Expo America) itself (at least this year–one day I’ll make it there), this is the next best thing. The next few days will be filled with book-related link ups, Twitter parties, and Instagram challenges. So let’s get started with an introduction!

1.  What is the name you prefer to use? My name is Monica, and this is my blog, Newbery and Beyond (or N&B for short).

2.  How long have you been a book blogger? Gosh, almost three years now? Hard to believe it’s been that long.

3.  Have you participated in Armchair BEA before? Nope, this is my first time! I’m excited to get started.

4.  What is your favorite genre and why? I am a huge mystery fan! As a kid, I was addicted to the Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown. As I got older, I started adding Agatha Christie to my list, and now I’m into cozy mysteries and even thrillers. I just love how a good mystery can hold your attention and keep you guessing all the way through, and then feel so satisfying when you finally figure out whodunit.

5.  If you could recommend one other book blogger, who would it be and why? Jenny at Reading the End. Her reviews have introduced me to books I loved (and a couple books I hated), but I enjoy her reviews regardless of whether or not I think I’ll read the book. She’s smart, thoughtful, and funny.

6.  What book are you most excited for on your TBR? What are you most intimidated by? I can’t wait to read Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson (aka the Bloggess). I love funny memoirs, even ones about sad topics, and this one promises to be hysterical. I’m most intimidated by Les Miserables, because even though I loved the movie and the musical, there’s no getting around how doorstopper-y this book is.

7.  What is the most interesting thing that you have learned through your reading this year so far? I work with kids, so I was fascinated by the information in Untangled. It shows the different areas teenage girls deal with and how parents and teachers can help them grow into strong, independent women. So good!

8.  If you could choose three characters to have lunch with, who would they be and why? Definitely Tommy and Tuppence because they are the sweetest, most fun couple I’ve ever read. Also Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles, because she’s funny and strong. And the Casson family (particularly Saffy and Indigo), because they are hilarious, flawed, and loving.


What are your answers to these questions? Are you participating in Armchair BEA?

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