April reading summary and other news

Hello there, readers! My April recap is going up pretty late. Sorry about that. The first week of May I was traveling, and this week I’ve been catching up on all the things I missed while I was gone. Now I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and write this post to tell you about what I read in April. Here we go…

I didn’t have to go anywhere in April, and I’m fully recovered from my eye issue. So, I only listened to one ebook this month. That was A Conspiracy in Belgravia by Sherry Thomas, the second book in her Charlotte Holmes series. This series is so good. Seriously. If you like Sherlock Holmes retellings (or re-imaginings) you really need to check this out. I probably said the same thing last month, but it’s still true. The third book comes out in October, so go and get caught up. I’m not kidding. I think I like this better even than BBC Sherlock, and that’s saying something.

Just as I was finishing that audiobook, two romance books that I’ve been excited to read and have been hearing excellent things about came off hold. So I dove into those two books next.

I read A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole first. It’s delightful. If you like movies like The Prince and Me, or you’re really into this upcoming royal wedding, you really need to read this book. It’s so good. The heroine is a science geek, and it’s not just a character gimmick. She actually gets to solve plot problems with science. The hero is charming and adorable. And he does a pretty good grovel after he messes things up (repeatedly).

After that, I devoured Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai. I have to say that I was highly skeptical going in because the entire plot revolves around these two characters being in a (contemporary) “Romeo and Juliet” sort of situation where they absolutely cannot be together. I didn’t think there was any (modern) scenario where that would be believable enough to hold up an entire novel-length plot, but I can safely say I was wrong. There’s a lot of heat in this one, in addition to the forbidden love thing. So, if that’s your jam, don’t miss this book.

Finally, I convinced my local (and new-to-me) sci-fi book club to read Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly. The easiest way for me to attempt to explain this would be that it’s like a queer John le Carré novel. I think you could make the argument for this being sci-fi or fantasy, depending on how you define genres. There’s real-world physics (read: no magic), but it’s set in a completely imagined secondary world. So if you like your SFF on the “light” side and you also like very political spy novels (like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy), definitely pick this up. Also, do it fast because it’s a finalist for the Nebula award (winners announced later this month) and the second book comes out on Tuesday, 15 May!

Overall, it was a great reading month for me. I consider all four of these to be five star reads. And May is off to a great start as well. I’ve already finished two highly enjoyable books this month, and I’m in the middle two more. One of the books I’m currently reading is another Nebula finalist (Six Wakes). I’d hoped to read at least four of the seven novel finalists before the awards were announced, but I don’t think I’m going to get the fourth book (Jade City) read in time. We’ll see…Stay tuned and find out in a few weeks when my May recap post goes up.

Until then, happy reading! And happy birthday month to me! 🙂

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March reading summary and recap

Audiobooks saved my reading life this month. My eye is getting better, but I’ve kept up with the audiobooks because I had a lot of travel this month, and I can listen to them everywhere.

Here’s what I read in March:

If you like Sherlock Holmes, you have got to check out A Study in Scarlet Women by Sherry Thomas. I’d been wanting to read this series for a while because I love the premise (Sherlock and Watson are both women in this version). But, I had no idea how much I would love the writing and the story. Listening to it on audiobook made it harder for me to guess the “who done it” part of the mystery. I find it’s harder to pick up on clues when I’m listening than when I’m reading. I have a very visual memory — I’m one of those readers who remembers where things are on the page and in the book — and names are especially hard for me to remember when I only hear them and don’t see them in print. In some ways, that made listening to the story even more fun. I was able to just enjoy it without trying to race ahead.

One thing I’m learning about audiobooks vs. reading in print is that pacing is so much more obvious in audiobook. When I’m reading and get to a particularly tense part of a book, I may skim ahead a bit, or read faster to get to the part where the tension is released. Similarly, when I get to lengthy descriptions, I also tend to skim. When I’m listening, I just have to go at the pace of the narrator. Admittedly, I’ve amped up that pace considerably. I listen at 1.25x to 1.5x normal speed. When I listen at normal speed it’s too easy to get distracted and tune out the narrator. The faster speed forces my brain to stay engaged in the story and not wander off. Luckily, the Libby app I use (because I’m listening to audiobooks from my library) doesn’t make everyone sound like chipmunks at that speed. Somehow, it still sounds “normal” to me.

Where I noticed pacing the most was when I started listening to Court of Fives by Kate Elliot. The pacing in that book is relentless (in a good way). Listening to this book made me think a lot about pacing for my own fantasy novels. Every time you think things will slow down, there’s another twist. I didn’t think listening to epic fantasy on audiobook would be a good fit for me because secondary world fantasy usually means lots of new names and terms that (for me) are a lot easier to follow in print. I did have to back up and replay in places, and several times I wished I could easily turn back to check something that happened earlier in the book. I probably only picked up on half the clues I normally would have, which makes me wonder if the political aspect of this story would seem too obvious if I’d been reading instead of listening. But the narrator was great and the story and world were engaging. So, I definitely will be continuing with the series, and I’ll probably stick with the audiobooks.

Names and places, and the fact that it had been a while since I read the first book, also threw me off while listening to The Rose & The Dagger by Renee Ahdieh. It took me a while to remember who was who and where things left off in book one. But, once I got through a few chapters, I was completely sucked into this world again. As the story grew closer to wrapping up, I didn’t want to hit pause. That’s how I ended up listening to a very emotional bit near the end while eating my breakfast at work and tearing up over my yogurt and granola during the morning rush in the mini-kitchen. I think I managed to be discreet enough that no one noticed.

Another thing to file under “listening to romance audiobooks in public places can get awkward,” while reading both No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean and Buns by Alice Clayton, I somehow always managed to get to the “sexy times” scenes at the worst moments. One example: I was listening to No Good Duke… in the car while waiting for my husband to get out of a presentation he was attending in the very small town we’ve moved to. Things between the hero and heroine started getting steamy right about the time the presentation let out. What felt like the entire small town started walking past my car parked outside the venue. It took me a minute to realize they could probably hear the audio from outside the car, and I scrambled to turn the volume down.

Since I seemed to be on a roll with finishing up books in series I’d started but hadn’t gotten around to finishing, I picked up Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton on audiobook. I enjoyed this ballerina thriller just as much as I’d enjoyed the first book (Tiny Pretty Things). I love dance books, especially ballet, especially when there’s a lot of focus on how much work goes into being a professional dancer. I’m a sucker for the reading equivalent of the “training montage.” If you also like that stuff, plus girl-focused thrillers like Megan Abbott’s Dare Me, definitely check out these books.

The only non-audiobook I read this month was A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. This was one of my favorites as a kid. Like many people, I wanted to re-read the book before I saw the movie. I ended up re-reading the first few chapters before I saw the movie and the rest after. It brought back everything I loved about Ms. L’Engle’s books. Now I kind of want to re-read this entire series — especially the ones that come later when Meg and Calvin’s kids are the ones having the adventures. I’m so excited that they made this book into such a visually stunning movie. The big-name cast and the fact that they had to cut a lot of the detail in the plot made it a little hard for me to suspend reality and enjoy the movie. But, I’m hearing that kids are loving it, and that’s the point. I’m no longer the target demographic for this story, but the idea that a new generation of kids might love it as much as I did makes me very happy.

That’s it for me for March. I hope your March reading made you happy, and your spring is sunny and bright!

February reading summary and bad luck

I didn’t get much reading done in February even though there was a road trip and a vacation involved. This month, I finished three books and got hit by at least two doses of bad luck. People say bad luck comes in threes. So, I’m really hoping we can leave it at two, but I’m hanging on in case there’s one more to come.

Here are the books I read in February:

The month started off great with a weekend writing retreat to Grass Valley with my San Francisco Area romance writer friends. I had a very productive weekend, and then hit the road with my husband for a fun camping road trip to the desert. Along the way, I managed to devour The Cruel Prince and soak up little bits from Scalzi’s Don’t Live For Your Obituary.

The Cruel Prince was my first Holly Black novel. I think it was an excellent introduction to her writing and her version of the fae, which I enjoyed a LOT more than the fae as depicted in SJM’s ACoTaR series. Holly Black’s fae are more traditional tricksters that don’t show up on the page like humans with pointy ears and magic. There’s a creepy otherness to her fae, similar to the ones in An Enchantment of Ravens, that I appreciate. Plus, I really enjoyed her world-building. I didn’t enjoy some of the plot points or how some of the relationships developed (especially the one between the human sisters). Also, I felt like there were some frustrating character inconsistencies. But, overall I enjoyed the story and will definitely be requesting book 2 from the library as soon as it’s available.

That was the only book I managed to finish while on vacation. On the way home, our car got broken into and a ton of stuff got stolen (bad luck #1). So, I’ve been having to deal with that mess, which didn’t leave a lot of time left over for reading (or writing, for that matter).

I did manage to squeeze in some much needed reading breaks to read and finish Beneath the Sugar Sky, book three in the Seanan McGuire’s Every Heart a Doorway series. I didn’t love this one as much as the first two. Something about the story in this one just didn’t come together for me, and I didn’t connect with it as much as I did the other two. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is still my favorite of the three, with EHaD a close second. I think I may have liked it more if more of the book had taken place in Sumi’s world. As it ended up, we only got a brief glimpse of that world instead of the full immersion we got in Jack and Jill’s world during DAtSaB.

After that, I was psyched to dive into The Belles, which I’d pre-ordered and have been so excited to read for over a year now. But, I ended up with an eye injury that’s making it very hard to spend time staring at any screens, Kindle, computer, or otherwise (bad luck #2). So, I’ve had to put The Belles on hold (temporarily) and switch to anything that was available on audiobook through my library.

Luckily, Cream of the Crop (book 2 in Alice Clayton’s Hudson Valley series) and A Study in Scarlett Women (a Sherlock Holmes re-telling with a female Sherlock) were both available to download. These have both been on my list for a while, and a little romance is always good medicine for when you’re down in the dumps.

I started with Cream of the Crop, which was a fast and fun listen. I love the main character, and the hero. I love all the food descriptions in this series (this one made me crave all the cheese). There’s a lot of hot physical attraction in this book, mostly because the main character has been lusting after the hero (a dairy farmer she’s seen at her local farmer’s market) for a long time. But, even with the HEA, I was not convinced that the characters ever got past the hot sex. When I read this with my writer brain on, I can’t help noticing that I’m not entirely sure what these two characters like about each other besides all the physical attraction. That doesn’t necessarily keep one from enjoying the story, but it is frustrating if you’re looking for more than just a physical connection in your romance. I will say that conveying this aspect of the romance is already set at a high degree of difficulty given that the story is told entirely from her POV (except the epilogue), and he’s not a man of many words (strong, brooding, and silent type). So, if that’s going to bug you, then maybe this isn’t the book for you. But, if you like sassy, bold heroines with a ton of competence and confidence, and you like humor and heat in your romance, you should definitely check this one out (not entirely necessary to read Nuts first).

I have a feeling that there will be a lot more audiobooks in my future for March because my eye is not 100% yet. Outside of audiobooks, I’ve got Unearthed by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner on my kindle from the library. So, I’m trying to read that when I’m feeling up to it. I’m about 10% in and not quite engaged in the world / characters yet, but I’m going to keep going a bit further before I make a go/no go decision because I like these authors and have enjoyed their previous books.

These are all the books I have either downloaded on audiobook or are in-progress on my kindle right now:

I keep wanting to make a huge TBR list each month. It’s been a struggle to hold off and pick the next book after I’m done with my current book. But, so far, I’m enjoying just seeing where the reading takes me… and hoping that March is a little luckier for me than February.

January reading summary and other happenings

Well, January turned out to be an excellent month for reading. I finished six books! Here’s what I read in January (links go to Goodreads):

  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (audiobook) — You may remember that I started this audiobook in December but couldn’t find time to finish it before the end of the year. I had some airport travel, public transit, and good chunk of walking back and forth to work in January, so I managed to plow through the rest of it. I really enjoyed this book more than I thought I would when I started it.
  • The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin (Kindle) — I’m sad to see this series end, but this was an excellent ending to a fantastic series that has become one of my all-time favorites. I got to buddy read this with two friends, which was great because it meant I had people to talk with about it after I finished. I’m going to miss these characters and this world.
  • An Enchantment of Ravens (Kindle) — I really like the depiction of the Fae in this book. These are not your ACoTaR Fae. These are creepy, tricky, almost alien creatures – more like the traditional folklore, I think. But don’t get me wrong, there’s still a solid romance here between Fae and human, and a good adventure that keeps you moving through the world. There were a few weak spots in plot, but the characters were engaging and overall I really enjoyed it.
  • The Spymaster’s Lady by Joanne Borne (Kindle, library) — Here’s another book that I enjoyed more than I thought I would. From the cover, you’d think this is an older “bodice ripper” romance, but it was published only ten years ago. I’d heard it recommended on something like three consecutive Smart Bitches Trashy Books podcasts. What they said about how much they loved this author and this series convinced me I needed to read it. Luckily, my library had a copy on Kindle because there’s no way I was going to be toting around a book with that much bare man-chest. Sorry. The banter, the plot, and the characters (spies!) had me hooked. Definitely recommend.
  • Modern Tarot by Michelle Tea (Kindle, library) — I’ve been pretty curious about tarot and wanted to learn more about it. I heard about this book in a Rookie podcast and requested the digital copy from my library so I could check it out. I didn’t really read it cover to cover. It’s not really that sort of book. But I skimmed through it and may come back to it after I try a couple other books to learn more.
  • Take the Lead by Alexis Daria (Kindle) — The premise of this book had me hooked. The heroine is the equivalent of a “Dancing with the Stars” professional dancer, and the hero is a reality TV star from an Alaskan wilderness survival show. It’s a fast, engaging read, but I was a little disappointed in how it wrapped up because it felt like the main challenge that kept the couple apart was dealt with a little too easily. But, if you like the premise you should definitely check it out. I’ve heard book two is even better.

Right now I’m at a writing retreat with my local RWA chapter. They’re awesome and so much fun! I should probably get back to work on my writing. I’ve been working on final edits and series planning for “Eve of the Fae.” It’s going well so far, and I’m really excited about getting started on my outline for book two.

Stay tuned for more reading (and writing) updates…Until then, happy reading!

Book stack

I made a stack of physical books I have on my shelf that I haven’t read yet, but want to read.

I always find it hard to read physical books when I’m traveling a lot. So, it may take me a while to get through these. But I’m definitely excited to dive into this delicious stack of books.

Reading List: Powell’s Books staff’s best books of 2017

Powell’s just released their Staff Top 5 Picks of 2017, and I’ve crunched the numbers* in order to calculate their “consensus” Top Ten. Presented in order of most to least total points, they are (links below take you to Powell’s, because that seemed appropriate):

  1. The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld (34 points)
  2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (29 points)
  3. Borne by Jeff VanderMeer (26 points)
  4. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (23 points)
  5. Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward (21 points)
  6. American War by Omar El Akkad (21 points)
  7. Homesick for Another World by Ottessa Moshfegh (19 points)
  8. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund (19 points)
  9. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie (16 points)
  10. We Are Never Meeting in Real Life by Samantha Irby (14 points)

So far, the only book on this list that I’ve read is The Hate U Give. That one made my top five best of 2017 list as well. But, I’ve had my eye on Borne and American War for a while now. Both sound fantastic. I may bump these up on my library hold list based on how well loved they were by the Powell’s staff.

Overall, this looks like a pretty solid list of great books. In general, Powell’s staff recommendations are a pretty reliable source for me of great reads, especially for literary fiction. So, I’ve added these to my to-read shelf and created a separate PowellsBestof2017 Goodreads shelf to keep track of them.

If you’ve already read anything on this list, or if you are planning to read anything here, let me know what you think/recommend in the comments.

 

* In case you’re interested, here’s how I came up with the total points… I did some good old “copying and pasting” of all the lists into a spreadsheet. Then I assigned points to each mention of each book based on where it appeared in each list (5 points for first place, 4 points for second place, etc.). Then I made a pivot table and sorted the results by total number of points in descending order. There was an obvious cut-off after the first ten books. So I capped the list at ten books.

I did this same analysis for the past 2 years. You can check out my analysis and summary of the 2016 best of post here and the 2015 best of post here if you’re looking for more recommendations.

December reading summary and 2017 reading wrap-up

First day of the New Year and time to wrap up what I read in December and see how I did on my 2017 reading goals…

First, here’s what I read in December (links go to Goodreads):

  • Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (audiobook, library) — I enjoyed this. There are so many things I didn’t know about Carrie Fisher. I loved the stories and her dry sense of humor. And I especially love that she narrated the audiobook.
  • The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown (Kindle) — I bought this on Kindle on 7/1/2014. It’s taken me 3.5 years to finally get around to reading it. If not for the “Read a book about sports” task in this year’s Read Harder Challenge, it might have remained unread on my Kindle for who knows how much longer. That would have been a shame. As I expected, it reminded me of my 4 yrs as coxswain for Purdue Crew and brought back so many great memories. It’s fascinating to see that not much has changed from the 1930s to the 2000s in the sport of rowing.
  • Jane, Unlimited by Kirstin Cashore (Hardcover) — It took me a while to get into this book. There were so many aspects that I loved (the house, the characters, the sea stuff, the umbrellas, the spies and the art…). But, I started this over the Thanksgiving holiday, got about a quarter of the way into it, put it down, and didn’t feel an overwhelming urge to get back to it. I think maybe just didn’t give myself enough time to get immersed in the story, because when I finally picked it up again (on the second to last day of the year), I finished it in nearly one sitting. It’s clever and also cute. If you read Kirstin Cashore’s blog, you can see so much of her personality (or at least her blog personality) in this book, which is charming.
  • 1984 by George Orwell (Kindle, library) — I read this for the “Read a book published between 1900 and 1950” Read Harder task. This book was published in 1949. So, it just makes the cut off. Plus, since people keep talking about it, and I never had to read it in school, I wanted to read it anyway. Unfortunately, I can’t say that I loved it. It pretty much falls into that genre of “polemics in the form of a novel” like The Circle which, as we’ve already established, are not my jam. The entire first quarter of the book is basically a world-building dump. Plus, at about two thirds of the way in, the main character reads two chapters from “the book” that are included verbatim in the story, serving up another hefty world-building info dump. This would NEVER fly in modern fiction. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the world. I just was expecting there to be more of a story set in the world, rather than a massive info-dump of world-building with a tiny bit of story.

In-progress (unfinished):

  • Information Doesn’t Want to be Free by Cory Doctorow (Hardcover) — I’m reading this aloud with my husband. So, even though it’s a short book, it’s going very slowly.
  • The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas (audiobook, library) — This audio book is nearly 50 hours long. I’ve manage to listen to about 10 hours, but I’m nowhere close to being done. I’ll have a chunk of commuting time in January where I think I’ll be able to finish it. But, it’s going to have to wait until then.

I really hate leaving books unfinished at the end of the year. I always try to finish everything in-progress before midnight on New Year’s Eve. Plus, I was reading both of these for Read Harder Challenge tasks. So, not finishing them means that I don’t get to check off those tasks either. Double bummer.

So, for the purposes of my end-of-year stats below, I’ve included the hours of audiobook I’ve listened to so far. (I’ll include the remaining hours in my 2018 stats, assuming I finish it next year.) And I’ve given myself partial credit in the total books read.

Here are my overall reading stats for the year:

  • Number of books/comics read (total): 53
  • Number of pages read: 17,840 pages
  • Hours listened: 3 hrs
  • Books published in 2017: 19
  • Published before 2017: 34
  • Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 20 of 24 (83%)
  • Format: 45 digital, 7 print, 1 audio
  • Owned vs. borrowed: 19 of 53 borrowed from the library
  • Fiction vs. Non-Fiction: 46 fiction and 7 non-fiction
  • Genre: 58% sci-fi and fantasy, 25% realistic, 8% romance, 4% comics, 5% other
  • Age category: 57% adult, 40% YA, and 4% MG
  • POC authors/artists: 36% (19 books)

Not bad. I finished slightly better than my goal (50 books), but didn’t quite complete my Read Harder Challenge. As usual, fiction and ebooks dominate my reading life. But, there are a few surprises to be found in the stats. I’ll have to go back and check previous years’ stats, but I think I read a lot more adult books this year than I’ve been reading in the past few years. I was also a little (pleasantly) surprised to see that I made excellent use of the library this year. Over a third of my books read came from the library! And, over a third of my books read were written by POC authors! It’s not a full 50% yet, but it’s heading in the right direction.

And that wraps up another year in reading! Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year, and hoping that your reading in 2018 takes you on delightful adventures!

Swearing off reading challenges for 2018

I know. I say this every year. But this time I really mean it. I am not participating in any reading challenges in 2018. Not even Book Riot’s 2018 Read Harder Challenge. Sure, I looked it up. And, yeah, I read through the tasks. But, I’m not going to write them down. I’m resisting the urge.

It’s not that I have anything against reading challenges. I really like them. Reading challenges have helped to introduce me to new books in genres I don’t usually gravitate toward. I’ve found new authors I like. They’ve forced me to finally get around to reading books I’ve always meant to read but haven’t made time for. Reading challenges are great.

But, this year I’m determined to try for one year of guilt-free reading. I will only let myself read exactly what I want, when I want to read it, and I refuse to let myself feel bad because I *should* be reading something else. I’m going to let my curiosity drive my reading list this year and see where it takes me.

I’m still planning to keep track of my reading. I’m still setting my usual target of reading 50 books in 2018. But that’s it. No “guilt list” of books I paid full price for but haven’t read yet. No “backlist bust” where I try to eat through the hundred odd ebooks I’ve purchased but haven’t read yet. And definitely no reading challenges.

So, if you’re doing any reading challenges this year, let me know so I can follow your blog or progress on Goodreads or whatever. Just because I’m not participating doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy a few reading challenges vicariously through others, right? Plus, I’m a pretty good cheerleader and not bad at recommending books if you need suggestions. 🙂

Setting up my #BuJo for the New Year

It’s the last week of December, so it’s time for me to get my bullet journal set up for January 2018. Since it’s not only a new month, but also a new year, that means I also need to re-do my future log and start thinking about my 2018 goals.

You may remember from a previous post that I’ve been on the fence about the future log. It wasn’t really working for me. But, I came up with a new layout that I think might make it a little more useful. Plus, I have a lot of travel coming up this year that may make this view something I refer to more often.

I love the little mini month-at-a-glance calendars. I’ve started by highlighting birthdays and other important days. Next up, I’m going to start adding in the travel I have planned. But first, I have to nail down a bunch of trip planning.

With my future log sorted, I moved on to my January month-at-a-glance spread. It’s pretty standard. Unfortunately, I started filling it in with stuff before I remembered to take the picture. So, I resorted to creative use of card stock and my snitch necklace to obscure my calendar and goals.

There are two things I want to point out on my monthly spread… one is the Boho Berry Challenge prompts for January, and the other is the section I added to track my January reading.

This month, I started using the Boho Berry Challenge prompts for December as a daily journaling exercise. It’s been pretty fun and useful to reflect on 2017 in a slightly more organized fashion. So, I thought I’d try to keep up this practice in January. I’m not posting these publicly anywhere, which is (I think) how you’re supposed to be participating. But, lots of people are. So, if you’re interested in seeing how others are doing their prompts in their journals, definitely check out #BohoBerryChallenge on Instagram.

I’m going to do a whole post on my reading wrap-up for December and reading goals for 2018. So, I won’t spend much time talking about that here except to say that “what I’m reading in January” box was left blank on purpose. The little vertical bars are the start of boxes that I plan to draw around titles that will be written down as I start reading them in January. I know. No TBR. Shocking. Again…more on this later.

Then, I remembered that I had some “bigger than just January” goals for 2018, and I probably should have put that in before I jumped into my January month-at-a-glance. Oh well. I guess that’s what the index is for… So, I added this spread next:

When I took this photo the page on the right was still blank, but I’ve since started adding my 2018 goals on that page. The page on the left is a running training log.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that swimming is my main sport. However, due to travel plans and other life stuff going on, I’m not planning to have regular access to a pool for much of 2018. That means it’s time to get back into running shape. However, “walk” days will probably become swim days if I have access to a pool.

I haven’t been running regularly for about seven or eight years. So, I’m being smart about it and using a beginner running guide from Runner’s World. Even though I’m in pretty decent shape for swimming, swimming doesn’t translate well to running, and running doesn’t translate well to swimming. This is why (IMO) it’s pretty rare to see folks who are really good at both running and swimming. So, I’m going to take it slow, but I will say that one of my goals that I wrote on the right side of this page is “run a 10k” in 2018. But, I probably won’t be ready to tackle that until late spring at this rate.

I think that’s all the high-level planning I need to get started in the New Year. So, the next spread is my first weekly spread for January, and it looks like this:

I’ve been using this layout for a couple of weeks now, and it seems to be working for me. I can fill the boxes with day-specific events and tasks. When I’m not busy (like the last two weeks), all my “to-dos” fit nicely inside the boxes, and I don’t even need to break things down to daily spreads.

I’ve left a space in the upper right for my top goals and/or things I want to accomplish by the end of the week to keep it in my face. And, I’m working on adapting my habit tracker to this format. I’m not 100% sure which habits I want to track in January. I already have the running plan spread on the previous page where I’ll be tracking my exercise. So, I don’t think I’ll add exercise here. As I discovered during November’s NaNoWriMo tracking, I hate having to check things off in multiple places. So far, I know I’m tracking reading and writing days. I’ll probably also add “healthy eating” and meditation.

We’ll see how this format adapts to post-vacation life and if it keeps working or if I need to adapt it again.

By the way, if you’re thinking of getting started with your own bullet journal, my local bookstore had a copy of Dot Journaling, so I picked it up to get some inspiration. It’s a pretty great introduction to the expanded world of the original bullet journaling idea and has a ton of great ideas for layouts. Definitely check it out. (PSA: I am in no way affiliated with either of those links and get nothing for recommending them to you. I’m just a fan.)

Happy planning! And happy (almost) New Year!

Goodreads: not so good anymore

Here’s a hot take for you…2017 is apparently going down as the year where everything you once loved revealed itself as trash. Somewhat related: I’ve been kind of “Marie Kondo-ing” my social media applications. Goodreads may be the next to go because it’s no longer bringing me joy.

There was a time, not very long ago, when I couldn’t even imagine my reading life without Goodreads. Now I’m basically like: “Meh.” Or, worse, sometimes I think: “Ugh. I have to go update Goodreads.”

I think Goodreads sort of lost the plot. I don’t go there for book reviews anymore because their book reviews are, for the most part, easily-gamed trash. Their website design feels clunky and badly in need of an overhaul. And their Android app is even worse. I finally just deleted it off my phone in frustration. The emails they send (with the one exception being their daily deals) are annoying (“You just finished a book. What are you going to read next?”). Plus most of their integrations with Kindle annoying, not helpful (ex: I really don’t want you to automatically add that book to my currently-reading shelf just because I opened it on my Kindle, thanks).

So what have I found myself doing this year instead of using Goodreads? I’m so glad you asked.

For book recommendations, I’ve been heavily leaning on a few podcasts I love (Reading the End, Smart Bitches Trashy Books, Galactic Suburbia), the Tor.com mailing list, the BookRiot SFF Yeah mailing list, and a handful of “BookTubers” who appear to have similar book tastes to me (Little Book Owl, Thoughts on Tomes).

I’ve found other ways, better and easier ways, to track my reading. In parallel to tracking my reading on Goodreads, I started using a spreadsheet. I started with the one provided in this Book Riot post, then personalized it a little. It’s mostly been working well. It can be a little more time consuming to fill out because I have to look up all the book data, but it makes summarizing my reading stats very easy. I’m kind of a nut for spreadsheets, so I actually find this way more satisfying that updating Goodreads.

The only problem that I haven’t completely solved is where to keep track of all the books I want to read. This one is a little more complicated. On the one hand, I really like that Goodreads emails me when ebooks on my TBR shelf go on sale. But, they also email when all sorts of other books that I’m way less interested in go on sale. And I don’t really need to know when books go on sale because I’m trying to use my library and not to buy more ebooks.

So, if I can get by without the ebook sale emails (narrator: she can), then I really just need a parking lot for the various books I see and want to remember to someday put on hold and borrow from the library. I think this problem is relatively easy to solve by just adding a tab in my spreadsheet to keep track of books I want to read. The great thing about adding this to my spreadsheet is that I can then also keep track of where I heard about the book, or who recommended it to me. This is supposedly something you can do in Goodreads, but has always been such a hassle that I’ve never bothered to figure it out.

Can I get by without Goodreads? Yes, I think I can. Am I ready to give it up completely? Who knows. Place your bets and tune in to find out what I decide…