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.

Armchair Book Expo: Introduction

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

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!

What I’m Into + April Small Goals + My Top Ten Favorite Fandoms

In this month's review, I'm sharing not only my April small goals + what I'm into, but also my top ten favorite fandoms! | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my April small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into. I’m also linking up with the Broke & Bookish for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday meme.

I went into the month of March trying to keep my goals realistic. Because of that, I was actually able to complete all three goals!

  • Relax! I tried my best to do the things that were actually fun and fulfilling, not just time wasters. Nothing super memorable, but I am entering the month of April feeling a lot more refreshed than I did last month.
  • Hand letter every day. I’m counting this one as completed. I didn’t letter every single day, but I I got close. As I’m always reminding my music students, it’s amazing the difference that consistent practice makes!
  • Work on my massive cross stitch project. Yes, although not as much as I would have liked. Progress has been slow, but the pattern is starting to take shape.

Now for my April small goals:

  • Prep for all the concerts! I’m the piano accompanist for my church’s Easter program this year, and the week after Easter is my studio recital. I have a massive amount of students participating this year, so I’m going to put in a lot of work over the next three weeks to prepare them (and myself) for the big show.
  • Start volunteering. I work at lot at my church (see above!), and I love it, but I want to do more to volunteer in my community.
  • Do a spending freeze. The past couple of months have been filled with extra expenditures, some necessary and some not so much. I want to use this month, which is well past the holidays but not yet into summer vacation territory, to sock away some extra cash.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I have a whole stack of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series waiting for me by my bedside.

TV shows I’ve been watching: I finally got my husband to finish watching the Lizzie Bennet Diaries with me (it was my second time through and his first). Such a fun adaptation!

Music I’m loving: I can’t stay away from the Hamilton soundtrack. I’m still obsessed (see below).

Best recent purchase: I ordered some cloth napkins a few weeks ago, and they are making my life surprisingly better! It feels so much less wasteful than using paper napkins, and I have enough of them that I don’t have to do laundry every day in order to use them.

My favorite Instagram:

Here’s a part of that book stack I was talking about, plus the Victoria sponge cake I made with my sister when she visited us last month:

 

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

In this month’s review, as well as sharing my goals and recent favorites, I’m also including my Top Ten Tuesday response. When I heard Broke & Bookish was doing a fandom-based TTT, I couldn’t resist! In no particular order, here are my current obsessions.

  1. Veronica Mars. My husband and I watched this show well after it originally aired, but I am still in love with it. The series was great, the movie was wonderful, and I can’t wait to read the books.
  2. Hamilton. You know I’m still into Hamilton. The songs are catchy, the lyrics are so well written, and you might actually learn something about history while you’re at it.
  3. Doctor Who. Because obviously. I’m behind on watching the show, but it’s still one of my favorites.
  4. Sherlock. Another British import that’s just amazing. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman don’t hurt, either.
  5. Harry Potter. How could I call myself a book nerd and not be into Harry Potter? (Yes, I know there are bookish people who don’t like Harry Potter, but they’re definitely the minority.) But seriously, even though I didn’t read this series until most of the books and movies were already released, this is the series that captivated my generation. It’s one of the biggest fandoms out there, and I’m glad to be a part of it.
  6. The Great British Baking Show. This show is just fun. Who wouldn’t want to watch a baking competition where the bakers all have great accents, everyone supports each other, and you get to see weird bakes like the Charlotte royale.
  7. Parks and Rec. I resisted watching this show for a while because the first season was terrible. I finally gave it another shot by starting with season two, and I’m so glad I did! The characters are hilarious, but watching them grow is what keeps me coming back.
  8. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries. I’ve raved about this show before. The costumes, the music, the Australian accents, the wide range of social issues addressed, the will-they-won’t-they relationship between Phryne and Jack–what’s not to love?
  9. Disney. Specifically, Beauty and the Beast and Mulan. These are my favorite animated movies of all time, and the recent live action Beauty and the Beast starring Emma Watson was amazing.
  10. Jane Austen. The books! The Masterpiece Theatre movies! The countless adaptations (see: the Lizzie Bennet Diaries)! The wonderful book What Matters in Jane Austen?! I love it all.

Leave your links in the comments below; I’d love to read about your latest goals or your favorite fandoms!

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.

Top Ten Books I’ve Read in One Sitting

Linking up with Broke & Bookish to share the top ten books I've read in one sitting. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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I’m linking up with the Broke & Bookish for their Top Ten Tuesday meme.

It’s rare that I have time to sit down and read a whole book in one sitting, although I love when that happens. In light of that fact, I’m interpreting this prompt as “books I couldn’t put down, even when it was inconvenient to continue reading.” These are all books that I enjoyed so much that I would have read them in one sitting if it weren’t for those pesky things like work or family obligations…

The Passenger [ARC]

I love me a good mystery, and this thriller kept me engaged all the way to the end. I read it in two big chunks, not even putting it down to eat dinner.

Winter

This installment in the Lunar Chronicles series is the one I took with me for my sister’s wedding. Despite all the chaos and swirl of activity, I kept sneaking off to quickly devour another couple of chapters of this book.

Life After Life

I was so excited to reach the end of this book that I didn’t even get out of my car when I pulled into the parking lot before reading through the last chapters.

Geekerella [ARC]

This book is my most recent can’t-put-it-down favorite. The sweet romance and fun twist on the Cinderella story kept me up late until I finished reading it.

Everything, Everything [ARC]

I’m so excited that they’re making this book into a movie! I can’t wait to see it. I was in the midst of reading this book when my husband came home from work, and I refused to speak to him until I raced my way to the end of the book.

The Age of Miracles

I took this book with me to Europe and read it on the train, and I was so enthralled by it that I actually looked forward to the end of the day so I could finish reading it on the ride back.

Because of Winn-Dixie

I had read this Newbery book as a child, but it wasn’t until I re-read it recently that I realized how sweet it was. It’s short enough to read in one sitting even if you don’t have a lot of time.

Adulthood is a Myth

Is it cheating to list a book that’s made up mostly of comics in a list of “read in one sitting” books? Oh well, I’m including it either way.

Hyperbole and a Half

See above.

Thus Was Adonis Murdered

This was the book I read in close to one sitting when my husband and I got stranded in Nowhere, Florida when our car broke down. It was a fun escape from an otherwise stressful situation.

What books have you read in one sitting, or close to it? Leave your links in the comments!

Top Ten Books on My Spring TBR List

Linking up with Broke & Bookish to share the top ten books on my spring TBR list. | NewberyandBeyond.com
I’m linking up with the Broke and Bookish for today’s Top Ten Tuesday post!

As always, my TBR list is extensive and continually growing, so it’s nice to take a close look at it and figure out what I’m going to read next. These books aren’t in any particular order, they’re just the first ten books on my list that struck my fancy to read over the next couple of months.

Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

This one sounds fascinating, but also depressing (which is why I haven’t read it yet). I’m going to be requesting this from my library very soon.

Heart of a Samurai

I’m always working on reading more Newbery books, and I think this one might be the next one I read.

The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman

This is a middle grades book that has been on my list for so long, I can’t remember a single thing about it. I’m trying to read through some of my super-backlist books, and this is one of them.

Truckers

The only Terry Pratchett book I’ve read is Good Omens, which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman. I think it’s time to get into some of his work.

Nineteen Eighty-Four

This is one of those classics that I’ve never actually read. Now might be the time.

Bridget Jones’ Diary

This is more of a modern classic. I didn’t like the movie much, but I’ve heard the book is great, so I’m willing to give it a try.

The Flavia de Luce series

I started this series years ago (the first two books were some of the first I reviewed on this blog!), and I’ve never gotten around to finishing it. I need to finally read the latest additions.

The Little Book of Hygge

This one just sounds fun. I need some of those books interspersed with my more difficult reads.

The Trespasser

I’ve read two of Tana French’s other books in this series, and I’d love to read her newest one. I just need to get in line to check it out from the library!

Anna and the French Kiss

Another one that just sounds fun. It’s not my typical genre (I’m not a huge romance fan), but I’ve had a lot of friends recommend it to me, so I think I’ll give it a try.

What books are on your spring TBR list? Leave your TTT links in the comments so I can check them out!

What I’m Into + March Small Goals

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

I tried to keep it simple this month, but I still struggled a bit:

  • Make breakfasts ahead of time. I’m counting this as completed, although I changed the goal a bit. Instead of prepping breakfasts, I decided to prep lunches for the whole week. On Sunday, I’ve been making mason jar salads to take with me to lunch. Not only has this given me quick, cheap, and healthy meals for the whole work week, but we’re not throwing away rotting spinach and broccoli nearly as much as we used to. Hooray for limiting food waste! (For breakfast, I compromised and bought some snacks from Nature Box instead of making my own granola bars–that will have to wait for another month.)
  • Read and review the 2017 Newbery books. This one is about half done. I’ve read three of the books, and I’m waiting for my library to have the fourth available. My sister and I plan to do a joint review of the newest Newbery books like we did last year, which will be really fun.

1.5 isn’t too great, but I am super excited I got my work lunches figured out. Maybe that will give me more time to complete my March small goals:

  • Relax! I started out the month of February with strep throat, and I felt like I never really got my feet under me after that. I’m struggling to find a sustainable rhythm for my new work schedule, and even yesterday I wasted more time than I’d like to admit being frustrated at myself for wasting time! I’m hoping to make March the month I get back on track with all my weekly to-dos, and hopefully that will include time to relax (on purpose, rather than just wasting time and feeling guilty about it…).
  • Hand letter every day. I’m challenging myself to letter every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
  • Work on my massive cross stitch project. This has been on my small goals list before, but I think it will go well with my goal to relax. When I’m listening to an audiobook, podcast, or TV show, it’s just as easy and way more relaxing to pick up my stitching rather than trying to multitask by doing paperwork or mindlessly browsing the internet.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: Of course, I’m excited about reading the last 2017 Newbery book. So far, they’ve all been wonderful.

TV shows I’ve been watching: Netflix has a new season of The Great British Baking Show! It’s a lovely show to watch after a long, stressful day.

Music I’m loving: The Hush Sound is my go-to right now.

Podcasts Audio books I’m listening to: I just finished listening to Symphony of the Dead, about Shostakovich, his seventh symphony, and the siege of Leningrad. I knew a bit about Shostakovich from my music history classes, but this book was fascinating and horrifyingly informative. (Review to come soon!)

My favorite Instagram:

This is pretty much my life motto.

Hand lettering by NewberyandBeyond.com
All rights belong to me. Please don’t use without permission!

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