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!

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!

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.

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 + February Small Goals

I'm linking up and sharing my February small goals, along with my favorite things from January. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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As always, I’m linking up with writes like a girl for my February small goals, and Leigh Kramer for my monthly what I’m into.

January wasn’t the greatest month for me. I’ve been battling stress and illness (strep throat is no joke, people), but I managed to get a couple of things done anyway.

  • Start meal planning. …Nope. My husband and I collected a bunch of recipes, but we didn’t actually get to the “planning” part of this goal.
  • Do a joint book review with my sister. You can read it here!
  • Take care of home maintenance tasks. I’m counting this one mostly complete. There’s still a burnt out lightbulb that we haven’t gotten around to replacing yet.
  • Continue to carve out time for relaxation (and reading!). Yes. I’ve been organized about my work schedule and the things I need to do at home, and I’ve worked hard to make space for relaxing and being unproductive.

I’m keeping it simple for my February goals, since January didn’t go as planned:

  • Make breakfasts ahead of time. This is sort of related to my meal planning goal from last month, but it’s (hopefully) a lot simpler to accomplish. There are a couple days a week that I have to get up much earlier than the rest of the week, and I rarely feel like making breakfast when I get up, so I want to pre-make breakfast bars and other healthy, easy options.
  • Read and review the 2017 Newbery books. I’m so excited about this year’s Newbery books! One was already on my TBR list, but the others are books I had never heard of.

What I’m Into

Books I’m looking forward to reading: I’m currently making my way through the NetGalley review books I ordered. Lots of YA coming up soon!

TV shows I’ve been watching: Whenever I’m sick or stressed, Unlikely Animal Friends (on Netflix) can always cheer me up.

Music I’m loving: After several months of waiting, because I just can’t handle that level of awesomeness every day, I’m finally re-listening to the Hamilton soundtrack.

Podcasts Audio books I’m listening to: Did you know that the movie Hidden Figures is based on a book? I’m listening to it on audio book right now.

My favorite Instagram:

I love this quote!

Hand lettering by Newbery and Beyond | newberyandbeyond.etsy.com
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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 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.

Top Ten Best Books I Read in 2016

Linking up with the Broke and the Bookish to share my top ten best books I read in 2016. | NewberyandBeyond.com
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It’s the end of the year, which means tons of reflection posts and best-of lists (which I love!). I read many wonderful books this year, but these ten were the best books on my list. I recommend each of them wholeheartedly!

The Penderwicks series

If you enjoy Hilary McKay’s delightful writing style and quirky families, you must read this series. The Penderwicks are a family of sisters whose different personalities often clash, but who deeply love and take care of each other. They have fun adventures together and help each other adjust to the changes of growing up. I’m currently reading the fourth and latest book in the series, and so far each one has been just as wonderful as the last.

The Passenger

I don’t often read thrillers, but I greatly enjoyed this one. I read it practically in one sitting because I couldn’t put it down.

Come, Thou Tortoise

I was surprised at how much I enjoyed this book. Audrey has to come to terms with her recent loss, and as odd as our main character is, the writing style is just as strange–there are no question marks or quotation marks here. A quirky book with surprisingly lovable characters.

The Secret Adversary

I absolutely love Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence mysteries, so I really liked reading their first adventure together.

Thursday Next series

This series is a must read for book lovers and anyone who thinks a humorous time travel/alt history SFF series sounds awesome (it is).

Last Stop on Market Street

This is just a lovely picture book. Whether or not you have kids, you should pick this Newbery winner up.

Half the Sky

Heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time. If you care about women’s issues, you should read this book.

Abandoned America

I have a weird obsession with abandoned buildings, and reading this book made me realize I’m not alone. The author treks through various abandoned places, from a classic ghost town to an enormous mall, from hotels and vacation spots to theaters and mental hospitals. The photos are amazing, and he tells the fascinating stories of why each place was abandoned.

Dumplin’

A wonderful YA book about an overweight girl trying to fit in and stand out in her beauty pageant-obsessed town. All the characters are wonderful–they make bad choices sometimes, sure, but none of them are cringe-worthy–and I love the Texas setting.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls

This picture book is definitely one of the best books of this year. For any child (or adult) who wants to look at some beautiful artwork and read about the amazing women who shaped our world.

What were your favorite reads of 2016?

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