2018 Book Stats and Challenge

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Hello January! It’s a fun time of year to reflect back on last year’s reads AND on the self-imposed book challenge I made up for myself.  How did I do?  Well, in 2018 I set my Goodreads reading goal to 35 books.  By the end of December, I’d completed 47 books!  Yay me!  That was the most I’ve ever read in one year. Then it began to dawn on me that I found myself waaaay too focused on the numbers of books read.  Reaching and surpassing my “goal” overtook the sheer pleasure of reading. Crazy. I also noticed that I was bypassing large books that I knew would be great reads, simply because reading them would take “too long”.  So this year I’ve ditched a numbers goal.  This opens me up to reading some big, fat, chunkers of books that have been on my shelves forever.  Check out the tab at the top of the page under “Books 2019” to read about my first HUGE book of the year!

Early last year, I made myself a reading challenge – similar to many of the challenges you can find in cyberspace, except that I compiled this list myself.  Here is the list of prompts and how I did on each one:

  1. Read a True Crime Book —  I chose “An Innocent Man” by John Grisham    I generally like true crime, and enjoyed this one, but didn’t love it.
  2. Read a book set in a place I normally don’t read about  —  This time I read “The Saffron Gate” by Linda Holeman – which was set in Marrakesh.  Years ago I read a great book by this author (The Linnet Bird) and loved it, so was prepared to love this one as well – except that I didn’t. It started out quite good, but fizzled badly towards the end.
  3. Read a bestseller from the year I was born  —  I got my hands on “Marjorie Morningstar” by Herman Wouk.  This was a huge book, but totally enjoyable. I shouldn’t have been surprised – I’ve read other big books by Herman Wouk and thoroughly enjoyed them. As an aside, Mr Wouk is still alive and kicking at age 103!
  4. Read a book by an author who is of a different ethnicity than me  —  I read “The Secret Lives of Baba Segis Wives” by Lola Shoneyin.  Started out ok with an interesting premise, but unfortunately fell flat for me.  I should have read “The Color Purple” by Alice Walker! No worries, I still have it and hope to get to it this year.
  5. Read a childhood classic that I’d never read  —  XXXX  Failed on this challenge. I thought I might read A Wrinkle in Time, but it never happened. Kids books just don’t appeal to me.  I don’t even like YA much.
  6. Read a bestseller from the year I graduated from high school  —  I chose “The Camerons” by Robert Crichton.  Dang, this was a mistake.  I’d already read some of the bestsellers from that year, so I wanted to try something more obscure.  This was just a dumb book and the writing drove me crazy. I didn’t finish it.
  7. Read a book that’s been on my shelf waaaay too long  —  Finally, a great read – “Turn Left at the Daffodils” by Elizabeth Elgin.  Ms Elgin is an English author who wrote many books that I’ve enjoyed over the years. This was no exception. Set in my favorite historical time period/era (WWII England), I truly enjoyed this one. I think I purchased this book the last time we went to England in 2009!  It was definitely past time to read this one!  Unfortunately, Ms Elgin died in 2005.
  8. Read a book with Food as a theme (cookbooks don’t count!)  —  XXXX Failed on this one as well.  I did have a book on my shelves that would have suited for this challenge, but I just didn’t pick it up.  I guess the food theme just didn’t grab me!
  9. Read a book with a Month or Day of the Week in the Title  —  For this one, I listened to the audiobook “The Dry Grass of August” by Anna Jean Mayhew. I liked it but didn’t love it and gave it 3 stars.
  10. Read a book from a genre I don’t normally read  —  I should have read a Thriller or Mystery for this category, but instead I read a romance book.  It was “Distant Shores” by Kristin Hannah.  Now Kristin Hannah had just written my favorite book of 2018 (The Great Alone) so I figured that this would be a least a decent read. Wrong. It was your typical romantic storyline: Couple are happy, couple have a falling out, couple figure out a way to get back together – or not – but probably do. Blah blah blah.  Don’t waste your precious time reading this one!
  11. Read a book with more than 500 pages  —  “Jubilee Trail” by Gwen Bristow.  Oh my goodness, this was a wonderful book, 576 pages of fabulous historical fiction set in the 1800’s, mostly in California.  This book was first published in 1950! SO good!
  12. Read a book by a first-time author  —  I chose “The Two Family House” by Lynda Cohen Loigman.  This one starts out in 1947 Brooklyn and ends in about 1969 – all about a big secret between two families. Really liked this book and can’t wait to read this author’s newest book which is coming out soon!
  13. Read a Classic novel that you’ve never read  —  I read “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier for this challenge.  Some would call this more of a modern classic – and maybe it is, but it’s a classic and I thoroughly enjoyed it!!
  14. Re-read a book you once loved — do you still love it?  —  I wasn’t sure which of the many loved books I would like to re-read, but ended up reading “Tapestry” by Belva Plain again.  Ms Plain has passed on, but I believe I read every single one of her WONDERFUL novels – and highly recommend them all.  Yes, I still loved “Tapestry” and wouldn’t mind re-reading them all.  I’d also love to re-read ALL of Maeve Binchy’s and Rosamunde Pilchers novels.  Such great books!

So, there you have it.  I thought it was fun, choosing books to fit the categories, but obviously I didn’t succeed in each one, and I’ve decided not to participate in any additional book challenges for this year for reasons already discussed.

Goals for 2019 —- in addition to reading some of my largest books, another goal I have is to BUY FEWER BOOKS and try to read what I’ve already got on my shelves. I was trying to convince hubby that I needed another bookshelf, but maybe what I really need is to just stop collecting (easier said than done!).  I love going to library sales and normally find remarkable books at terrific prices, but beyond the $$, I need to think of storage, and frankly, I’m running out of room!  We shall see how I do…. so far this year (which is yet very young) I’ve purchased just one book “Forever Amber” by Kathleen Winsor, originally published in 1944 and has over 900 pages. It was only $3, but does take up a lot of room on my shelf.  For those who might be wondering, no, I don’t generally keep books I’ve already read.  I pass them on to friends/family, donate them, or swap them on the online “book club” – Paperbackswap.com      So what are some of YOUR bookish goals for the new year?

 

Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

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Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg                August 23

I have read a lot of books by Elizabeth Berg and enjoyed them all – this was no exception! First off, I was unaware that while this is read beautifully as a standalone book, it’s actually a continuation of a previous book by Ms Berg called “The Story of Arthur Truluv”. Many of the same characters make appearances here, in a small fictional town in rural Missouri. We meet friends and neighbors of our likable main character, Lucille, who loves to bake and is very proficient at it. Lucille is elderly (80’s) and much of the book is from her perspective. As a slightly “older” person myself, I could sure relate to many of Lucille’s thoughts, opinions, and feelings. I truly enjoyed how this community of quirky characters interacted with one another, both young and old. There is romance, sickness, joviality, tenderness, and love interspersed throughout the pages of this book. It reminded me a lot of a Fannie Flagg novel (another author I adore) – so down to earth and yes, even heartwarming! Definitely recommend for a light, easy read — sort of like comfort food, in book form. 🙂
I was kindly given this book prior to it’s release by Netgalley for my honest review.

As a side note, my favorite book by Ms Berg is one I read quite a few years back – “The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted”. If you have ever struggled with “dieting”, you’ll love this one — I sure did!!

 

 

The Great Alone – one fantastic book!

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Just finished reading this amazing book and decided I needed to do a review on my blog, ASAP!  I waited seven weeks to receive this one from the library, and whoa buddy, this was SO WORTH THE WAIT!  It’s not often I get so engaged with characters in a book, but this one grabbed me from page one, and would not let me go.  Starting in 1974, we follow the lives of Ernt, Cora, and Leni Allbright. Ernt is a Vietnam veteran and spent several years in a POW camp – and no surprise, the camp had big time ill effects.  Ernt can’t hold a job, so as a last ditch effort to find happiness and stability, the family move from Seattle up to Alaska {dubbed “the Great Alone” by poet Robert Service, many years ago} to a remote, sparsely populated village on the Kenai peninsula. As a Northwest native, I thought that all the descriptions of Alaska would be “ho-hum…. been there done that”, but oh my goodness – Kristin Hannah the author brought that state alive!  She made me think how cool it could be to live up there in the wilderness, without all the pressures of daily life in a city. The sights, sounds, smells, and traditions of our beautiful 49th state really come to life in this book – and I’m just guessing here, but I have a hunch there will be an influx of folks heading north in the near future – looking for one heck of an adventure. Anyway, we quickly discover that Ernt Allbright has a serious anger and jealousy problem and becomes very abusive towards his wife, Cora. Cora blames it on the long winters, the POW camp, and also herself. Leni, their daughter, is witness to the violence and is horrified to see her mom harmed…. and as Leni becomes a teenager, she’s horrified that Cora “loves” Ernt too much to leave him.  Now here is where some people say that the story is flawed.  They say that any woman who was being hurt by her husband repeatedly would never stick around and believe the promises that “it’ll never happen again”.  The sad truth is that MANY women do stay, even in today’s world – believing that it was their fault or that he is ‘so very sorry’.  So yes, there were parts of this book that made me mad – REALLY mad.  But what a read.  Oh my goodness, a wonderfully woven tale of love, anger, adventure, resilience, hope, and perseverance. Of raw nature and raw emotion.  I’m happy to say that Ms Hannah weaves this story in a VERY realistic way, without the use of profanity, which is something that I personally admire.  We get the drift of Ernt’s anger and foul moods without having to hear all the cursing that a guy like him would probably spout off.      This book is a definite 5 star read for me.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  It’s raw, realistic, and remarkable. Read it.

Random “book” questions answered

pexels-photo-247644.jpegI’ve recently discovered “Book Tube” – a community of folks who love reading and are on YouTube making videos about their books.  I saw a thing they called “The Book Tag” and thought I’d randomly answer some of the same questions that were going around BookTube last summer.  So, here goes!

  1. Do you have a certain place at home for reading?  Not really.  I enjoy reading in bed at night and in the summer, I love to sit out on our back deck with a book.  I also love reading when we are on RV trips, and will even curl up on our couch and read during the daytime.
  2. Bookmark? Or a random piece of paper?  Definitely bookmark.  I collect bookmarks whenever we go to a National Park. I like to stamp the back with the rubber stamp date thing that they have in all the visitor centers – to remember the day we were there.  I also have bookmarks from fun trips and still use the ones I picked up on our wonderful trip to Australia, years ago. My most recent National Park bookmark is from Volcanoes on the big island of Hawaii.
  3. Can you just stop reading or do you need to read a certain number of pages or quit at the end of a chapter?  I like to stop reading at the end of a chapter, but I rarely give myself a certain number of pages to read….although, thinking of it, sometimes when I’ve borrowed a library book and therefore have a deadline to return it, I do sometimes divide up the pages with the number of days I have left.  Usually, I just stop whenever I want to or need to.
  4. Do you eat or drink while reading?  I don’t usually eat while reading, but will often pair a hot mug of tea in the winter or an icy glass of tea in the summer with my book.
  5. Music or TV while reading?  Preferably, no. I love to read in silence. BUT… I do live with a certain someone who has been known to watch soccer for hours on end, and I can tune it out pretty well these days if I’m into a good book.
  6. One book at a time, or several at once?  Often, I’ll have two, sometimes three books going at the same time. One physical book, one e-book, and once in a while, an audio book also.
  7. Do you prefer E-readers or physical books?  I like them both, but honestly, I prefer a physical book. I also love audio books, but only if the narrator/reader is good at what they do. I’ve listened to horrible narrators, and wonderful narrators, and the difference is monstrous. One reason I prefer a “real” book is because it’s nearly impossible to share an ebook with another person. When I find a gem of a book, I love to pass it around.
  8. Do you read ahead or skip pages?  No. That would spoil things!  I have been known to skip over a paragraph or two for various reasons, but not pages.
  9. Do you break the spine of a book, or try to keep it like new?  Just depends on the book. If I feel like I have to keep “prying” it open to read it, I’ll break the spine.  Of course this is not an issue with hardbacks.
  10. Once you start a book, do you force yourself to finish it?  Oh my goodness, NO!  If I can’t get into a book after about 50-60 pages, I will call it quits. Too many good books, too little time!

So there you have it, my answers to “the Book Tag”. I am just about done with my first book of 2018 – one I’d never even heard of before watching some of the BookTube/YouTube videos.  Be watching for my review to appear soon under the tab “Books 2018”.  Time for me to go finish book #1 for the year!  🙂

Reading goals for 2018

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This year, 2017, I set myself a reading goal of finishing 25 books.  I think I’ve completed about 35 books so far, and I’m pleased about that.  Today I watched a vlog from a woman who completed the PopSugar Reading challenge for 2017. I’d never heard of that and was intrigued. So I looked over the categories for both 2017 and 2018, and picked 12 (and added a couple of my own categories) that I thought might not be TOO difficult to complete, yet stretch my normal reading boundaries a bit. Some things I refuse to compromise, however. I simply won’t read a book that is riddled with foul language, or anything in the horror genre. Just isn’t my thing – at all.  I’m also not “into” sci-fi but did read The Hunger Games years ago and liked it, so who knows?  So anyway, here is my list for next year:

    • A True Crime book
    • A book set in a place that I normally do not read about
    • A bestseller from the year I was born
    • A book by an author with different ethnicity than me
    • A childhood classic I’ve never read
    • A bestseller from the year I graduated high school
    • A book that’s been on my TBR pile way too long
    • A book about food (cookbooks don’t count!)
    • A book with a month or day of the week in the title
    • A book from a genre that I don’t normally read
    • A book with more than 500 pages
    • A book by a first time author
    • A Classic novel I’ve never read
    • Re-read one book I once loved, do I still love it?

This shouldn’t be too hard…. I mean, I’m retired and I love to read…. so lets see how it goes!!!  I’ll be reporting back here often. Happy reading everyone!

I’m ready for Fall!

Okay, so it’s obvious I’ve neglected my blog for awhile.  I could probably dream up a long list of “whys”, but I won’t even try.  I think it will suffice to say that I’ve simply been focused elsewhere.  Who knew retirement would be so busy, so fun, so time consuming?! Ha!  I’m really enjoying my life these days and am thankful that I CAN enjoy it.  It’s not like we are busy every moment of every day – going somewhere, doing something, because that is not the case. Sometimes (oft times) the joy for me is in the NOT going and doing. After all, up until my retirement a few years ago, my every moment was pretty much planned out for me. Now *I* make my schedule, and frequently my “schedule” includes things like sitting on the back deck, reading my library book!   I am so happy, so content, and so grateful for both.  Sometimes people get bored as they age and don’t have a job to keep them involved in life so to speak – well, that is not me. A long time ago I used to love a song by James Taylor called “The Secret of Life”.  The first line goes: The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time……  I remember hearing that when I was young, really young, and wondered if I’d enjoy my “older years” as much as I was loving my younger ones.  Yes, life is sure different now, but I’m still enjoying the passing of time. Here’s a link to a video of that song – one of my all time faves.    So here are some of the things that have been happening here this summer…..

  • Since returning home from southern California in early June, we’ve gone camping 4 times and are slated to go again in a week or so.  We love camping and it’s especially fun when we go with our neighbors who also have a motor home. I wish that our kids would also get RV’s so we could plan trips with them as well!!
  • We have had fun with our now 9 1/2 month old kitten, Frankie.  Frankie has been with us since February – he’s made a trip down I-5 all the way to So-Cal and back. He spent 3 months in Palm Springs, and is now an official RV Cat too.  He seems to enjoy camping almost as much as we do.  He’s great on his harness & leash as well. Our late kitty, Jinx, was an indoor/outdoor cat.  He was pretty savvy regarding all the wildlife around here.  Frankie is an outdoor-only-on-a-leash kinda kitty.  BUT, he loves watching out the windows at the birds every day and alerts us the moment a raccoon or deer appear on the back deck!! I’ve only seen Frankie hiss twice, and both times were at large, bold raccoons. We put peanuts out daily for the Blue Jays and squirrels, and have suet hanging for the wild birds as well… so the window is like “cat TV” for little Frankie, who, by the way, is NOT so little anymore! He’s a robust 12 pounds now!
  • I’ve been doing lots of reading lately – check out the tab above, “Books 2017”. In the summer, I love slipping out onto the back deck with my latest read in the afternoon and spending an hour or sometimes two, in another time and place.
  • My nemesis “Mr Diverticulitis” has unfortunately reared his ugly head this summer as well.  Now that I’m over the latest flare-up, I’m trying some different things in the hopes of preventing these attacks from happening.  I’ve added drinking ALOE water to my daily regimen. It’s supposed to be very soothing to the digestive tract. I’m trying to be much better at remembering to take my Vitamin D, Flax Seed Oil, and other supplements. I am now consuming some raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar daily. I actually don’t mind the flavor, mixed in with my aloe water. I’m still culturing kefir also.
  • We went kayaking once so far this summer, and oh my how I love it!!  Hubby just ordered new roof racks called “J-Hooks” to make transporting the kayaks much easier. I’m thinking that we’ll get one or two more kayak expeditions in before the cool, wet weather arrives.
  • Speaking of weather, it has been exceptionally dry this year. I think we’ve had only two or three days of rain since returning in early June!  I hate to say it, but I’m actually getting a little sick of sunshine!  We traveled to Palm Springs in early March and if you count the three months of nothing but sun down there, and now three months of nearly nothing but sun up here, well, I haven’t hardly seen a cloud or raindrop for SIX MONTHS!  I’m ready!  I’m ready for some cool, crisp autumnal weather — the kind that makes you want to light amazing smelling candles and cook soup!

Yes, I’m more than ready for some cool weather – but there is none in our forecast at the moment, that’s for sure.  I always proclaim Sundays as “Soup Sunday” in the autumn and winter, and make some pretty darn delicious meals…. some of our faves are: Split Pea; Lentil-Veggie-Barley; French Onion; Cheesy Potato; Broccoli-Cheddar; Beef, Mushroom, and Barley; Hot & Sour…. oh my I could go on and on.  Chili is one of my personal faves too, both “con Carne” and “vegetarian” chili.  Hubby will eat it, though he doesn’t crave it like I do.     Another reason I love fall is —- FOOTBALL!!!  I truly enjoy watching both our Seattle Seahawks as well as the University of Washington Huskies. It’s in my blood. I’ve been a huge sports fan since I was about 10 years old and my dad started taking me to local high school games.      One more wonderful thing about cooler weather – I can put away my shorts and T-shirts and move into sweats, long sleeves, and jeans!  I’m just ready for a change, I guess.

Some years we have made an October through November trip to the Palm Springs area. This year, that’s not in the plan, and frankly, I’m thrilled.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and I’ve missed it the past few years.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, and let’s face it, the years we have are finite, so I feel as if  I appreciate the gorgeous changing leaves and magnificent colors so much more than I used to. I’ve missed you, Autumn, but this year, we’ll get up close and personal once again!

 

Is it March already?

Oh my goodness, how quick this year is flying by already!  This will be a short post, but I  wanted to explain the new header photo on my blog.  Yes, it’s the group of friends and family who attended my son and daughter in law’s wedding in Hawaii, back in January!!!   I need to do a big blog post about our 10 glorious days in Hawaii, as well as another one dedicated to the newest addition to our immediate family – Frankie the kitten!  So be looking for those two posts to come soon, as well as some (hopefully) awesome adventures in SoCal this Spring!! We’ve got a myriad of fun stuff planned for the near future.  I just need to be better at documenting it all here!!  See you soon!!