not a review

2020 Books in Two Sentences: February Edition

At the very beginning of 2020 I saw The Knight is Dark and Full of Books do this with their 2019 books and I was in awe. I knew I wanted to do the same for my 2020 books but I also knew that if I didn’t make it a monthly habit it would be a hot mess at the end of the year. I may be doing slightly better getting February’s list out than January’s but, as you can see, it was a rough month for keeping up with my reviews. Onward to a better March! The solo link will take you to the one lonely full review.

Best Friends (Real Friends, #2) by Shannon Hale: The second in this graphic novel series highlights the ever-changing landscape of middle-school friendships. You don’t need to be 10-13 to fall in love with this story.

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner: An adorable look at the weird depths kids will go to to become closer to people they admire. I read it and loved it, read it again and loved it even more!

Snoopy: First Beagle in Space by Charles M. Schulz: A collection of Snoopy comics about the beloved characters and their dreams of space travel. It wasn’t my favorite book of the month but I enjoyed the highlighting of the less-popular characters.

The Zookeepers Wife by Diane Ackerman: A beautiful look at the day to day hardships endured by those who lived in Poland during the outbreak of WWII. It is still amazing the lengths people will go to in order to become the very worst, and the very best, versions of themselves.

The Plus One by Sarah Archer: A contemporary romance that gives us a female protagonist smart enough to build a humanoid robot in one weekend but not self-aware enough to communicate with anyone around her. This book missed my heart by miles.

Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Green Gables, #1) by L.M. Montgomery. This literary classic may have some historic racism and other issues but Anne herself is timeless. I have finally joined the ranks of people who just adore her!

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski: For a term I had never heard of before, “Burnout” is my new go-term term for being at the edge of insanity. This engaging and insightful book is a must read for women everywhere who are just about to give up.

I Hate Fairyland, Vol, 1: Madly Ever After by Skittie Young: What a violent weird graphic novel. I cannot wait to get my hands on the second one.

The Last Tsar’s Dragon by Jane Yolen and Adam Stemple: This book spend the first 80% introducing us to the cast of characters who will presumable move the story along in the next books but failed to capture my interest. If you are interested in Romanov history and dragons, this might be for you!

Austenland (Austenland #1) by Shannon Hale: I’ve watched the move countless times but I didn’t realize it was based on a book! Hale co-wrote the script and the stories follow closely but even the beautiful speeches made by the gorgeous Henry couldn’t overcome the loss of Jennifer Coolidge’s character.

Tell me, please!

How was your February reading?


not a review

The Lament of the Unfinished Series

It used to be different. When I was a kid, there was a new Nancy Drew every few months. You had to wait but it wasn’t uncomfortable. It was anticipatory and exciting.

And then there was Harry Potter. I am proudly old enough to not only remember the first book coming out but having to wait for the second book (and the third, and so on). The hype, the fun, and the fanfare just increased with each book! It was a joyful thing to read one, read it again, and then wait for the next book. Harry Potter pre-dates the massive use of social media and one-click access to our favorite authors and waiting was still fairly normal. But as we moved from book one, published in 1997, to book seven, published in 2007, use of the internet and social media changed dramatically. Not to mention the binge watching brought to you by streaming video services.

The first time I felt a shift in attitudes was with Patrick Rothfuss’s The Name of the Wind. This book was recommended to me by a friend somewhere around 2012. That meant I was able to zip through both book one in The Kingkiller Chronicle and book two, The Wise Man’s Fear. Then, I knew I would have to wait because the friend had warned me that the series was unfinished. Which is fine by me but apparently untenable to others. Just take a quick peek at the Goodread’s comments for book three. Some of them are hilarious, some are from the author himself, and some are just absolutely ludicrous. The main theme is: you owe us this book. And, man, people have absolutely no problem telling this guy that he is not supposed to go anywhere, write anything, or have any thoughts that are not focused on finishing the third book.

The sentiment is tempting though, isn’t it? I know I have made at least one off-handed comment along the lines of, “please write faster dear author.” In fact, just last week I accidentally fell deeply in love with the Cursebreakers series by Brigid Kemmerer. I read A Curse so Dark and Lonely and immediately headed to my local bookstore for A Heart so Fierce and Broken. One hand closed the cover to the second book as the other hand reached for my phone to find out when the third book was going to be available. Some sources say 2021, others say later. And, you know, I was disappointed. I wanted it now. Which is just ridiculous.

In this day and age of on-demand full access, readers like me often extoll the virtue of books as being one of the last places you can find quiet. In fact, one of my favorite quotes about reading is,

“Reading forces you to be quiet in a world that no longer makes a place for that.” – John Green

I love that idea. The practice of reading. Of sinking into a favorite chair and becoming immersed in a story or another world. Finding that quiet.

I see a return to the emphasis of patience and anticipation in shows that debut weekly like The Mandalorian or the new Dr. Who series or (my personal favorite Schitt’s Creek). I have friends who are waiting for all the episodes to become available so they can binge watch them but I have re-arranged my schedule so that I can watch them one at a time as they become available.

The waiting is part of the fun. There are loads of other books to keep me company while I wait. Patiently and quietly.

Tell me, please!

How do you feel about reading unfinished series books?


not a review

November Wrap Up

Today is the first day of December! I always set aside November for NonFiction Reading and I was doing so well….until I wasn’t. I missed posting for both the 4th and 5th week of the NonFiction November but I plan to go back (hopefully later today) and look through all of the other participants posts. That way, my NonFiction shelves will be stuffed for the coming year!

The real question of what happened is that I decided to try NaNoWriMo this month. I’ve had a story in my head for years and years and with a break in a number of obligations I thought I would give it a try. At first, the more I wrote the more I blogged. Then I hit a wall and I had to put all of my energy into one or the other. I’m proud to say that I did finish NaNoWriMo even at the cost of my NonFiction November participation.

You guys, if you have ever though of participating….do it! It was a forced march through writing and my book is basically garbage. It was like the first time I made bread. I could see that the dough wasn’t going to rise but I had hope that it would at least be presentable in the end. It is decidedly not presentable. But, what a thrill to have tried it! And, I am excited to start again knowing now where the weak spots in my story are hiding.

Also, for all my super nerdy friends out there – if you finish, they give you are certificate you can print out. And a banner thing. Here it is. Total validation!


Tell me, please!

How did your November reading / writing go for you?


nonfiction · not a review

NonFiction November: Week 1

It has begun! NonFiction November is finally here. I am so excited!

Week 1: (Oct. 28 to Nov. 1) – Your Year in Nonfiction (Julie @ Julz Reads): Take a look back at your year of nonfiction and reflect on the following questions – What was your favorite nonfiction read of the year? Do you have a particular topic you’ve been attracted to more this year? What nonfiction book have you recommended the most? What are you hoping to get out of participating in Nonfiction November?

What was My Favorite Nonfiction Read of the Year?

These are all the NonFiction books I read (so far) in 2019. I thought there would be more but I think I kept some back specifically to read this month. My absolutely favorite was Atomic Habits. Whew. That book completely changed the way I think about myself and the habits that build who I am.

Do I Have Any Specific Topics That Attracted Me This Year?

There were two guiding things that drew me to nonfiction this year: self-improvement and holes in my knowledge. Each of these books was selected for one of these two reasons.

It is fairly clear which ones are for self-improvement. I am on an ever-changing quest to be the best version of myself. Some of these were better than others and I am certainly sick of the titles which are basically you + curse word.

I picked up Conan Doyle because I have always been curious about the creator of the world’s most famous detective. I want desperately to love Sherlock Holmes but I will admit, the stories bore me to tears. This was an amazing account of the real man though and I really enjoyed the book.

I’m from Springfield but I really didn’t know much about the Simpsons. Springfield Confidential made me finally feel that I could answer questions (questions people constantly ask me) about the show and its connection to my hometown.

Finally, Yes, Please I picked up because Amy Poehler is one of the few famous female comediens that I just haven’t completely embraced. I adore Tiny Fey but for some reason I all but ignored Amy. This book completely altered by perception of her and her comedy and has provided me with my new favorite quote to be used in the countless times I am given advice, “Good for her, not for me.”

Similarly, I don’t understand the Isreal / Palestinian conflict. A friend recommended the book Against Our Better Judgement to grasp the Palestinian perspective. It was interesting but written like a term paper.

What Nonfiction Book Have I Recommended the Most?

My most recommended nonfiction will probably always be The Poisoner’s Handbook by Deborah Blum. But, if I limited myself to this year’s reads I could not stop recommending Atomic Habits. This book really changed the way I look at myself and my habits. Factfulness by Jans Rosling is another that I consistently recommend people read. These two books together made me feel like I was capable of great things while simultaneously trusting that the world wasn’t as awful as it seemed. The pure power of books.

What am I Hoping to get out of Participating in Nonfiction November?

I have two main goals for this year. First, I want to see all the glorious books people are reading. Second, I want to prioritize reading nonfiction. I’m keeping it simple!

Tell me, please!

What is Your Favorite NonFiction Book?


FrighteninglyGoodRead · not a review

Frighteningly Good Reads 2019 Wrap Up

Whew! As usual, my lofty plans for this month went….sideways. I pictured myself blogging nearly everyday and interacting with other bloggers and, and, and…. it didn’t happen. I do not know how people sustain the energy for hosting these huge thematic readathons but, bless them!

What Did I Read This Month?

I started out by picking out 31 good spooky books.256E220F-F018-4598-8DFD-A31ADB36A2D7.jpeg

I ended up reading ten books this month. Many came from the list and a few were discovered alone the way.

I don’t know if you can tell or not but I was obsessed with The Illuminae Files. Obsessed!

Who Participated?

I had three wonderful bloggers join me this year for FGR. Muse With Me always selects the best and most terrifying reads as well as wonderful graphic novels. Two of my favorites reviews from this month are the those for Dr. Sleep and for Hellboy: Odder Jobs.

What’s NonFiction didn’t feel like there was enough “frightening” in their TBR pile but, just look at this review of a former Westboro Baptist Church member and you’ll see – this blog is sheer GOLD for all kinds of NonFiction that will keep you up at night.

Finally, the awesome blog, The Writerly Way participated this year. I love this blog because, without fail, every time I read it I find something new to add to my ever growing TBR. My favorite post from this month was about Gideon the Ninth. Even though I’m not sure I would ever have picked up this book, The Writerly Way has convinced me that I have to give it a try.

Thank you to all who participated! I hope you come back again next year where (hopefully) I will have a better plan and make it more social!

What Did I Learn?

Blogging consistently while reading all new thematically appropriate books is a near impossibility for me. Add to a chaotic event this month and everything just went sideways. Next year I need to start working on this in August….or July. Either way, I need to think of blogging for October like crafting for Christmas and start early.

The best thing about focusing on the spooky and frightening this month is that I have wrung every bit of joy out of my favorite holiday – Halloween. I’m not even sad that tomorrow is November because I enjoyed everything October had to offer – even the snowstorm we had today in Chicago!

Tell me, please!

How did you celebrate Halloween?


not a review

My Top Ten Tips from BookCon 2019

For the last six months I have been hoping and planning to attend BookCon in New York City. Life has been chaotic this year so until I sat down on the plane I wasn’t certain I was going to make it – but I did! What an experience. I have never been to a Book Conference of any kind and I found myself transported to this crazy world inhabited by book enthusiasts for two whole days. I had a wonderful time and it has made me excited to either go again or attend a different book conference. I had the opportunity to meet Jen Calonita, Danielle Paige, the editor of the Fablehaven series, and more and each and every one of them was kind and lovely.

Before attending, I researched BookCon and I thought I knew what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for the thousands of people and hundreds of exhibits. The number one piece of advice you get before going to BookCon is this: plan. Well, I had a plan! It started with me getting in line to get a book signed at 10:30. The doors opened at 10:00 and I was one of the first people through. At 10:06 the line to get a ticket to get in line for my author had closed. And the line to get the ticket was nowhere near where the map said the event would be located. The rest of the morning was the same. I was a natural at finding the end of a closed line. By 12:00 I gave up and just enjoyed walking from booth to booth, admiring the books and book related merchandise, and chatting with other beautiful bookish people.

It was clear I had no idea what I was doing. But, if I ever get to go again I wanted to be ready. So I chatted with everyone I could and I asked for advice. Loads of them just kept telling me to “plan” but when you don’t know where to go it is nearly impossible to plan. Outside of that tip, here are the most useful pieces of advice I learned the hard way or received from other people.

Tip #1

When you get your badge, open it, register it, and read the directions. If I had done this I would have know that a full month in advance I could have requested two tickets for two different author autographs. Instead, I carefully put them away in my suitcase and only opened them the night before I left. By then, everything was sold out. Two free author tickets, wasted.

Tip #2

Download any apps, follow everyone and everything you can on social media, and pour over the website. I had downloaded the app but neglected to use the website to the fullest and I certainly could have done so much more on social media. Saturday night I went back to my hotel and just 30 minutes of cruising around on Instagram and Twitter opened my eyes to what was possible for me on Sunday.

Tip #3

Find one thing everyday that matters to you and go there first. If you want to be part of an event at 3:00 in the afternoon at Penguin, go over to their information booth and ask about it. They will tell you exactly when and where to get in line or to wait for tickets. I found that most people’s complaint was that the lines and booths change every year so even repeat BookCon participants were confused.

Tip #4

Don’t have your heart set on being able to do anything. By that, I mean, don’t have your heart set on meeting an author or attending a panel. There are far more people in attendance than there are seats and tickets. I had to console someone outside the building on Saturday because she was devastated didn’t get to meet Eoin Colfer. Rides break down at Disney and events get full at BookCon. Don’t let one missed thing ruin your day.

Tip #5

bookcon3If you have time, go to a variety of events. Many people are I it for the free books or author autographs. But, if you have a break or you just don’t know what to do don’t forget the panels. My favorite was how audiobooks are narrated and it featured some wildly popular narrators. It was fascinating, it was the last thing that day, and I wouldn’t have gone (necessarily) except I missed the tickets for something else. Every missed opportunity could be something else amazing! The woman pictured here is Saskia Maarleveld who narrator Ash Princess! It was actually one of my favorite things about this conference.

Tip #6

If the line is short you are probably cutting the line. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had found the end of the line but instead it was a line break to keep the isle open. I would have been embarrassed if it wasn’t so common. On Sunday there seemed to be more “Mind the Gap” signs and “Middle of the Line” signs to guide people. Saturday was chaos.

Tip #5

A conference this large is not dissimilar to couponing. If you try to jump right in and organize coupons at every store you shop in you will become quickly exhausted. Instead, focus on one store / publisher. On Sunday morning I went directly to Penguin’s information booth and they walked me through the rest of the day. Doing this, at even this popular a publisher, meant that I got five signed ARCs and tons of ridiculous swag.

Tip #7

Read the rules. I knew that I couldn’t bring a wheelie bag into the conference but I didn’t know that I could check it downstairs. That means I could have just walked downstairs every once in a while and deposited all my lovely new books. Instead I walked miles and miles carrying everything. I slept like a baby but I really staggered home.

Tip #8

Ask questions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking people, “What are you in line to do?” This will prevent you from waiting in line for thirty minutes to spin a wheel and win a wristband you didn’t really want. Or cutting.

Tip #9

Have a way to get all of your new books safely home. I thought I would be walking away with, perhaps, ten new books. I planned on buying a couple and hoped to grab some new ones. Instead, this happened.


You may not be able to see but some of these books are even in piles because the publisher gave me duplicates and triplicates. I turned some books away! Of all of these books, I only bought five.

Tip #10

If you can, take a friend. Many wonderful events, signings, and give aways happen at the same time or the tickets for the events are given out at the same time. Having a friend doubles your chances of getting into more lines. If you have to go alone, there were whole groups that formed at the event to work together or just walk around together. Even if you go alone and talk to no one, you won’t be lonely because every three feet is a new wonderful book to read.

There you have it! My top ten tips from BookCon.

Tell me, please!

Have you ever been to a Book Conference? Do you have any tips or tricks?


not a review

In Defense of Buying Books

One of my Challenges for 2019 is to read and enjoy the books that I already own. To support that goal I vowed to celebrate every five books I read of my own by purchasing a new book. Theoretically, I would get ahead.

One of my other challenges was to use the library more. This one has been easy since I love my library. They have a great option where you can request books online and they put them aside for you. And, because I live in one of the best library systems in the United States, the selection is unbelievable.

In January I read sixteen books. But, only four of them were from my own shelf. I read wonderful books and listened to even better stories as audiobooks from my library. Still, the experience was not as satisfying as usual. The rest of the year has followed in a similar pattern.

Today is independent book store day. Walking around these wonderful stores is one of my favorite things to do. But today it made me sad. I know I have a lot of books. It is something people comment on (usually derogatorily) when they come into my home. I felt like I shouldn’t buy any more. It felt like being surrounding by people that I knew couldn’t talk to me. It was the unique feeling of being utterly alone while simultaneously surrounding by people.

I’m done with not buying books.

Owning books means that I have them in my home. I can flip to the middle and just read one little section again. If I want to relive how Neville got those last 10 points for Griffendor, I can. I can pile them up in front of me on a Saturday night and feel the excitement of the night in front of me. I can call on them at any time and they never ever tell me they are too busy. If I put them aside, they wait for me. Always. I can pick up a book and travel to the moment it first became precious to me. Unread, but owned books, are the promise of adventure.

Some people see books as unnecessary. Countless studies tell us how important it is for children to own books and have them in their home. Dolly Parton has given away more than one million books in an effort to give kids the same feeling I have when I see my books lined up on the shelf. Finding an adult that opposes putting books in the hands of kids is difficult. But once you are grown suddenly owning books is clutter.

It is undeniably a privilege to be able to buy books when I don’t need to do so. But why is book buying so different than owning a basement of wine or a closetful of shoes? Is it because I keep them out in the open? A privilege is a privilege. Just because it’s not your interest doesn’t mean that it is hoarding.

Books are my friends. They are my memory keepers. I can remember where I bought a book, when I bought a book, and sometimes, more importantly, why I purchased a new book. I have books from my childhood that I can remember my Mom or Dad buying for me.  I buy books as souvenirs on vacation and they are tangible evidence of my history. I get books for presents. They bring me joy.

And I know I need to read the books I buy and not just lovingly store them on a shelf. That is akin to buying art and not framing it or displaying it. Still, the more I promise NOT to buy books, the more I want them. Perhaps this, like a diet, needs to just have a more healthy approach than this all-or-nothing that I have tried in the past.

In the end, the world feels like a mess right now. Some people are prepping for a disaster by stockpiling food. I’m going to go ahead and do the same with books that I love. If something bad happens, come on over. I’ll be here reading and I’m happy to share.

Tell me, please!

How do you feel about buying books? Is it important to you to own your favorites?


not a review

My Non-OWL April 2019 Reading List

I am not an organized reader. Yesterday I posted my first quarter challenge updates and some things are going really well and others are suffering from the persistent mod reading. Something has to change! In addition to joining the OWL Readathon that was put together by G @ Book Roast, I am going to try making a general April 2019 Reading List. Here is what I hope to read to keep my challenges going during the month of April.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

One NonFiction book about Sherlock Holmes (Waiting to see what the library provides!)

One Sherlock Holmes Fiction Book (A Study in Charlotte)

Finish the Magnus Chase series or The Fate of the Tearling series

And read my backlist!!! It is not getting any better by ignoring it! This is where I hope the OWL Readathon will help clear some decks.

I also need to read my three ARCs; Highland Crown by May McGoldrick, Dreaming in Code: Ada Byron Lovelance, Computer Pioneer by Emily Arnold McCully, and Solving for M by Jennifer Swender.

I realize this is a pretty unimpressive reading list and that many people have 10-15 books specifically picked out. But, that would be a recipe for disaster for me. I need flexibility to see what books call to me. And yet, I also need to suck it up and read certain books already. If I manage to finish all of these and my books for my O.W.L. Readathon I am going to celebrate (probably with a new book).

Tell me, please!

Do you have any tips on how to plan your upcoming reading to achieve your goals?


not a review

2019’s First Quarter Update

I would love to be the kind of person that is organized enough to do a monthly update but between my WWW posts and my backlog of reviews I was thinking maybe four times a year would be more my pace. With the first three months of 2019 behind us it is time to look back at how I did during the first quarter of the year!

Challenge Updates

Harry Potter Canon: I have read exactly ONE. Which is really a shame because I loved every single page.

Serious Series Love: I finished Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians trilogy and it was delightful. You can see my full review here.

I started a new series which has been on my shelf for quite some time and I love it! One Fine Myth by Robert Asprin. I need to continue reading these as they are delightful.

Beat the Backlist: It is embarrassing to think I have only managed to read six measly books off of my backlist. I need to really get serious about these beautiful books! I also bought way more books than I should have when I was sad. I’ve got to get a grip!

Audiobook Challenge: Meanwhile, I am feeling quite proud of my audiobook list! I have already enjoyed NINE audiobooks this year!

Learn Something New: It took me a bit to think of what I wanted to focus on but I finally selected Sherlock Holmes / Arthur Conan Doyle after reading Conan Doyle for the Defense. There are a LOT of books about Sherlock and Arthur and I hope to get a chance to read at least five before the end of 2019.

Library Love Challenge: My library love knows no bounds! By my estimation (and believe me, this is an estimate – this doesn’t include DVDs, magazine or books I checked out and didn’t finish) I have saved $334.96 since January 1st!

Goodreads Challenge: I am also ahead here even though I had an abysmal March and have read 35 books so far this year.

Tell me, please!

How is your 2019 Reading so far?

not a review

Books I Bought When I Was Sad

When I was a kid the scholastic book people would give you a flimsy little mailer and you could pick a book. What felt like 100 days later your book would arrive, right in the middle of class, and my teachers would hand them out like trophies. My Mom and Dad always made sure that I got to order a book so it was the happiest day ever. Usually, I couldn’t remember what I had picked out and so it was a present. Past me had picked out something for future me to enjoy. And enjoy them I did!

When I see a book that I love (not just like but really really want to own) I will add it to my online cart. I try to only do so if the book is unavailable at my library. Occasionally when I get really sad I will just blindly order the cart (this is a very good reason to only store gift cards on your account and not credit cards). A short time later a box arrives at my house full of books from me-in-the-past to cheer me-in-the-future immediately up.

Most of February and March I have been in a major funk. And, one day I ordered all of the books in my cart. When I opened the box it was just full of friends ready to cheer me up. Did it work immediately (like it usually has in the past)? Not really. So I boxed them carefully back up again until I got in the right headspace. Not that I have broken though the slump from hell I am ready to celebrate by getting out my new books. Here I give you…..the books I bought when I was sad!

I feel so lucky to be able to afford to buy books and to have the ones I want readily available to me. I have some slight remorse over not sticking to my book buying plan but not as much as the joy I feel at cracking into my new books.

Tell me, please!

Do you ever buy books to cheer yourself up?