Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Americanah - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Title: Americanah
Author: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Publication Date: 5/14/2013
Pages: 477
How I Found It: It's been critically acclaimed since its release, but I finally picked it up because the Pantsuit Politics book club read it in December.
Date Completed: 12/24/17

Summary: Ifemelu and Obinze are high-school sweethearts at their school in Lagos, Nigeria. They intend to spend their lives together, as all high-school sweethearts do. Life, however, distributes them to opposite sides of the planet and they both must learn what it means to be an immigrant and a Nigerian. 

What I Thought: Much as I felt after reading The Book of Unknown Americans, Americanah gave me a fresh perspective on what it is like to be an immigrant. Adichie lays the practicalities and emotions of the experience bare. She does not glamorize, but rather takes a magnifying glass to the ups and downs of life in a new country. 

Monday, January 15, 2018

Movie Monday: Big Little Lies

Big Little Lies
When opportunity arises, I feature Movie Monday. I recognize few people have the time or desire to read the amount I do. Luckily, Hollywood loves adapting a classic and I love a good story in any form.

Show Title: Big Little Lies

Book Title: Big Little Lies
Release Year: 2017

Summary: California mommy wars are real, women are complex, and a murder investigation is imminent.

What I Thought: I really loved this book, which I honestly picked up mostly because I wanted to read it before watching this star-studded adaptation. I loved the book for its drama and willingness to tackle tough issues with grace and nuance.

The show delivers on that same front. It did not keep me guessing as much, but I imagine that is because I already knew the twist. So, there was nothing to guess. Can't fault it for that! 

I think the show did an even better job in some ways of portraying these women as complex. The actresses involved did an amazing job presenting the public and private versions of their characters. This had to be especially hard because we don't get the inner monologue that Moriarty is able to give us. All that information had to be portrayed in facial expressions and body language. It's no surprise AT ALL that Nicole Kidman won a Golden Globe for her performance or that Laura Dern won one for hers. I imagine this show will clean up pretty well at the Emmys also. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Harmony - The Prince of Wales

Title: Harmony: A New Way of Looking at Our World
Author: Charles, Prince of Wales
Publication Date: 11/2/2010
Pages: 336
Genre: Royals / Nonfiction
How I Found It: I can't remember exactly, but it obviously stemmed from my interest in the royal family.
Date Completed: 12/22/17

Summary: Charles, Prince of Wales opines on his famously pet topic: environmentalism and caring for the Earth properly. 

What I Thought: When I learned the Prince of Wales had written a book, I honestly did not know what to expect. Prince Charles has long been known as an environmentalist, although it was his father, Prince Philip, that really started the interest within the family. His Royal Highness has gotten himself in trouble a few times over the years because of his outspoken nature on the subject, even as it relates to political decisions, which the royal family are supposed to steer clear of. Knowing all of that, I knew the book would likely be fairly preachy. Anyone familiar with HRH's personal history knows the man can have that tendency.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Crows of Beara - Julie Christine Johnson

The Crows of Beara
Title: The Crows of Beara
Author: Julie Christine Johnson
Publication Date: 9/1/2017
Pages: 300
How I Found It: TLC Book Tours graciously provided me with a copy to review.
Date Completed: 12/23/17

Summary: Annie's life is falling apart. She's an alcoholic fresh out of rehab, trying to reconcile with the consequences of her previous life. With her marriage in shambles and her job hanging by a thread, she heads to Ireland to manage a big account. There, she finds herself fighting old and new demons and trying to discover her new self while juggling old responsibilities. 

What I Thought: I have gotten away from book tours in the past couple years. I always have a few scattered throughout the year, but I don't do nearly as many as I did when I started blogging. This book was a reminder to me of the joy of book tours. They introduce you to things you would never read otherwise, books that are often outside of comfortable genres. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

2018 TBR Challenge

I started this blog because I wanted to read 52 books in one year. That challenge seems small now; I've read over 100 the past several years. It was that challenge, though, that pulled me back into reading for pleasure. I had not done nearly as much of it throughout my high school and college years. Through that goal, I rediscovered the passion I felt for books as a child.

Then, I took on the 100 Best Novels challenge. It took four years, but it felt amazing to accomplish. I feel much more versed in classic literature and have cultivated some strong opinions about what it means to be a classic anyway. It also opened my eyes to the importance of celebrating diverse authorship. 

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what will come next. I am a goal-oriented person; I like having something concrete toward which I am working. When I finished the 100 Best Novels challenge this summer, I mused about my next challenge. I floated several different ideas and the pros and cons of each. Now, at the start of the year, I'm ready to announce my decision. 

I'm going to tackle my TBR (to-be-read) list. Like, really tackle it. I started actively keeping the list in Goodreads in January 2013, although I've had an "On Reserve" page of books I want to read since I started my blog in January 2012. As of now, I have just under 350 books on my Goodreads list. I did a purge of it a few months back, so that number feels relatively solid. That is a whole lot of books.

I'll add this image to every post that falls under the challenge.
Now, the list is also always growing and morphing. New books come out or come to my attention. My interests shift and change. It's not a static list by any means. So, how is this going to work logistically?

I thought about laying out a bunch of rules for myself, but I still want to feel the freedom to add books as will. I know I won't get through 350 books in a year. That's a pipe dream. However, between reading and more intense purging as I go, I think I can get the list down to 200 by the end of 2018. That's a big goal, but a hopefully realistic one. I'd love to get closer to 100, but I have to have a life, too. 

I'll be marking my progress in each month's chapter update. Realistically, this means removing 12.5 books from the list each month. 12 books is a big reading month for me. Plus, figure in the fact that I usually add 5 or so books a month. Let's round up and say I'm dealing with 20 books per month. Wow, that's a lot.

Obviously, some of those will come off because I delete them from the list. I want to get serious about removing books from the list I just don't care to read any more. I want to be an intentional reader. This may mean quitting part way through some books, a practice with which I have a very hard time. 

As a part of this, I'm taking the natural step to join up again with the Roof Beam Reader 2018 TBR Pile Challenge. I did this challenge in 2015, which is the last time Adam hosted the challenge. I loved it then and was disappointed to see it go while he wrote his doctoral dissertation. His challenge, specifically, is to pick 12 books off the list that have been there for over a year. While I'm hoping to do way more than that this year, here are my official picks for that challenge:

My 2018 TBR Pile Challenge List
  1. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
  2. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
  3. Beloved - Toni Morrison
  4. Out of the Silent Planet - C. S. Lewis
  5. The Monsters of Templeton - Lauren Groff
  6. We Two - Gillian Gill
  7. In Defense of the Fatherless - Sara Brinton
  8. Salt to the Sea - Ruth Sepetys
  9. Evolving in Monkey Town - Rachel Held Evans
  10. The Thousandth Floor - Katharine McGee
  1. Nine Parts of Desire - Geraldine Brooks
  2. A Darker Shade of Magic - V. E. Schwab
So, there it is. My next reading challenge. We'll see how this goes. I'm cautiously optimistic. I hope at the end of this year, I feel good about the intentional reading I have done and also am more discerning about what I put onto the list in the first place!

Friday, January 5, 2018

2018 Blog Goals

I have spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about this post. After I finished the 100 Best Novels this summer, I began mulling over what what would come next for me as both a reader and a blogger. On Monday, I'll deal with what comes next specifically as a reader. Today, though, I'm doing my annual post laying out goals for the blog. 

Before I do that, though, I want to take a minute and reflect on the goals I set forth for 2017 and see how those played out. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

2017 Chapter

Happy New Year!

Ok, so technically Monday was the kickoff to 2018, but this post is my traditional way to start the new year here on the blog.

As I do every year, I'm laying out everything I read and some stats from the past year. Coming on Friday, I have a post looking forward where I wax loquacious about goals and such. For today, though, I'm still focused on 2017 accomplishments.

Let's start with some highlights:

  • I read 126 books. This is down from 136 last year, but I read a lot of heavy stuff this year. 
  • Readership was all over the place this year. I think Google is messing with SEO algorithms. Some months were huge and some were not so much. Overall, though, I'm not worried about this. I basically don't do anything to actively seek readership. I do this for personal pleasure and am especially thankful for those of you who show up here consistently. 
  • I finished the 100 Best Novels challenge! This was such a huge undertaking and I'm so proud to have finished it.
  • The Read.Write.Repeat. Facebook presence has stayed stable, but I've gotten increasingly active on Twitter. Like or follow if you haven't already! 
  • I continued the monthly "chapter" posts and some off and on Movie Mondays as well as a few Let's Talk About... posts. I haven't done one of the LTA posts since the spring, but I'm hoping to bring them back in the new year. In fact, I have one brewing right now. I have some thoughts to share about the latest installment in a certain blockbuster science fiction franchise.
  • I started offering personalized book recommendations last year and they are consistently the way people most engage with the blog (besides reading). I've done nearly 100 of them since starting the service. They are fun and I've made a better system to manage them better.

Monday, January 1, 2018

December 2017 Chapter

Welcome to the Read.Write.Repeat. monthly wrap-up.  Every month, I give a quick overview of what books I read, the progress made on my reading goals, a few book-related links, and general blog news.  

December News 

Happy New Year! I hope you rang in the mile marker last night safely and happily. It's always such an invigorating time of year, despite the fact that I struggle to stay up late enough to mark the occassion. We'll get to talking about the future in a bit (mostly later this week), but today I'm looking back on the last month.

December has been a nice reprieve. It really was a long, crazy year for us. I needed these last few weeks of peace and self-care. I had not really read much for the last couple months, so it was nice to get in some concentrated time over the Christmas break.

I took a full week off of blogging, which is something I haven't done in a long, long time. I felt a little guilty at first because I had posts I could have just sat down and pounded out, but I didn't feel like it. It was another intentional way this month that I gave myself a pass. I'm trying to do that more. I don't have to do everything all the time. It's ok to say no to things.

Honestly, I don't feel as though I have much to report here this month. I feel like the early "chapter" posts of 2017 were so nice and substantive and here I am limping to the finish line. Hopefully, I can reignite some of that thoughtful, impassioned spirit in the new year.  I'm planning to get back on the exercise and healthy living train starting today, as are many of you, I'm sure. We're actually starting a Paleo/SCD diet today in hopes that it will benefit Kevin's auto-immune struggles. I'll let you know how that goes. I'm not going full Paleo, but all meals we eat together will be. Of course, I have some blog goals as well for the new year. Make sure you come back on Friday to read my post talking about that exact thing.