Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Things That Make My Reading & Blogging Life Easier

fireworks2Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week.

This week’s theme is Top Ten Things That Make Your Life as a Reader/Book Blogger Easier. This is a toughie. Can I get to ten?

1) Goodreads: What is there to say? I love being able to keep track of my reading, love seeing what my friends are reading, love the great resources. One nifty aspect (yes, I used the word “nifty”) is being able to access so many cool stats about my reading. Author I’ve read the most? Check. All books I’ve rated 5-stars in 2013? Check. No end to the awesomeness of Goodreads.

2) The public library. I love my neighborhood branch. It’s clean, it’s bright, it has views of the ocean, and it has everything I could possibly want! I especially love being able to put in requests and have books transferred to my branch.

My library. I love it so.

3) Good book sections in the newspaper: My local newspaper has an excellent Sunday book section. In addition, a couple of years ago I treated myself to a mail subscription to the Book Review section of the Sunday New York Times. Both are wonderful resources for me to use to stay current on new releases, see what’s being promoted and what’s coming up, and keep up with all the various bestseller charts. Maybe (okay, more than likely) I’m a dinosaur for continuing to rely on paper resources, but I do find these invaluable.

4) NetGalley: A huge and heart-felt THANK YOU to NetGalley for providing access to all those wonderful pre-release review copies. Even though I don’t always get approved for the books I want, I get approved for a lot — and have read and reviewed some wonderful books thanks to this terrific resource. Plus, their Wellness Challenge earlier this year was so helpful!

5) Other bloggers: Oh, you guys! You rock! It’s such a thrill to interact on a regular basis with so many smart, funny, insightful people. I’ve found the book blogging community to be so warm and supportive in the 1+ year I’ve been blogging. Couldn’t do it without y’all!

6) Free tools: How I love the free stuff! My superstar go-to resources right now are Pixabay for free public domain images and Picmonkey for awesome photo editing tools. Of course, every once in a while, I’ve wanted a special something that I couldn’t find via a public domain image library — and I’ve found some great items via IStockPhoto. The prices are reasonable, and the selection is terrific!

7) Social media: For keeping up to date, as well as heaping doses of pop culture wackiness and nerdgirl fun, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest are endlessly helpful — and totally diverting, especially when a little procrastination is called for.

8) Post-It flags: Silly, right? But since I prefer to do my reading with physical books, and since I refuse to highlight or underline, these little flags are my go-to item for marking pages or passages that I want to find again. Especially for books I know I’ll be reviewing, they’re essential. (You should see my current book — it’s like a little rainbow flag all along the edge!)

photo 2v

I get a bit carried away sometimes.

9) Kindle/E-reader: I really do prefer physical books, but most of my review copies are e-books. On the down side, the review copy formatting is often problematic. On the plus side, I do love Kindle’s highlighting feature, which makes it so easy to mark and return to passages of interest.

10) My family: Much as they may mock me at times (“Reading? Again???”), my loved ones are pretty good about giving me quiet time when I need it to read, to write, to edit… so long as I come back and play board games or otherwise make myself useful when I’m done.

Oh, and I guess I’ll add in a #11! This one occurred to me on the late side, and I don’t want to delete any of my first ten…

11) Authors who rock! I really, really appreciate the authors who take the time to answer questions, interact with readers on a regular basis, and respond with warmth and friendliness when contacted. And the authors who’ve appeared in my local bookstores, signing books, and even taking pictures with fan after fan? Priceless!

I guess getting to ten wasn’t that hard after all! What’s on your list this week?

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Bookish Goals For 2013

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is:

Top Ten Bookish Goals for 2013

I recently did a blog post about my bookish resolutions for 2013, and at first thought this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic would be a bit redundant. But thinking about it further, goals and resolutions are not necessarily synonymous. After all, a resolution is something that I’m committing to seeing through, generally something that’s a stretch or that takes real effort. (I know, I know, resolutions are make to be broken. How well I remember those pounds I was going to lose last year…) But goals? Goals, to me, represent attainable results, maybe more of a work plan than a grand ambition.

So, in no particular order, my bookish goals for the new year:

1) Concentrate on reading books that I already own. Do less buying and borrowing. I love my public library and the wonderful used books stores in town, but really, I have plenty on my shelves to keep me busy. Time to tone down my obsessive need to get my hands on every new book that comes out.

2) Purge! See # 1 — I have plenty of books on my shelves (and spilling off my shelves…), but let’s face facts: There are books in my house that I picked up years ago, and every time I think about reading one of them, my first reaction is “nah, not in the mood”. When this continues happening with the same books for a really long period of time, it’s time for those books to go! One of my big goals for 2013 is to pull out all of those books that I’ll never get around to reading and find them a new home. If I donate my unwanted books to our local library sale, I’ll be doing a good deed as well as improving my overly-cluttered habitat. Two birds, one stone!

3) Organize! I bought beautiful new bookshelves earlier this year, assembled them, shoved lots and lots of books on them in an initial frenzy of moving books off the floor and out of boxes and bags… and I’ve done nothing since. My shelves lack any semblance of rhyme or reason. I look forward to a few leisurely afternoons of taking books off the shelves, figuring out a system, and reassembling my little personal library. Preferably while holding  a nice, hot cup of coffee. Or maybe something a wee bit stronger.

4) Find new ways to engage my child in reading. My adorable, smart, funny son practically runs in the opposite direction whenever I ask him to take time to read. He loves stories, loves being read to — just doesn’t want to sit and read himself. I think we may have achieved a bit of a breakthrough recently: I downloaded a book for him on my IPad, and suddenly reading became fun! I hate the idea that technology has to be involved, but I suppose I should count my blessings and be glad that he’s reading at all. Still, I know the newness of the IPad will soon fade and I’ll have to find new and creative ways to get this kid to read.

5) Read a classic that I’ve never read before. I’ve read all of Jane Austen, but only one book by Charles Dickens. I’ve read Jane Eyre and Vanity Fair, but I’ve never read The Grapes of Wrath or The Sun Also Rises. I don’t know what it will be, but I do know that I want to read at least one classic book this year. Which fits in with #6…

6) Read outside the box. I’m a fiction-lover, through and through, deep down to my bones. But I do enjoy other genres when I read them, even if I really have to force myself to depart from the fiction world. I’d like to branch out a bit, maybe read a little history, a science book, maybe some social commentary, a biography or two. Again, I haven’t picked anything in particular yet, but this is a good “note to self” to remember to make time to branch out a bit.

7) Attack the fairies! OK, that’s my cutesy way of trying to force myself to commit to reading the book I was so excited to get a couple of months ago: Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm by Philip Pullman. I have a well-documented problem with short story collections, and despite the fact that I love fairy tales and I love Philip Pullman, I still haven’t been able to sit down and open this book. Perhaps I need some serious psychotherapy to figure out why I have such a problem with stories… or perhaps I just need a good list like this one to force me into action. Time will tell.

These next two are really more blog-related than specifically bookish, but since I blog about books, it works for me.

8) Explore the blogosphere. My blog was born in 2012 and I’ve spent the first several months of its life just feeling my way forward. Now it’s time to reach out a bit more, try to connect with other readers and bloggers, and expand my reach and my online community. My goal is to participate in more blogging events, challenges, bloghops, etc. I hope to meet some cool and interesting people along the way, get some great new ideas, and really get a better sense of what’s out there and what I can do with a blog.

9) Get techie with it. Again, in the world of blogging, I’m sure there are a lot more resources and tools than what I’m currently using. My other bloggy goal is to explore the technical resources that can help make me a better blogger. (Ideas? Suggestions? Referrals? I’m all ears!)

Finally, the one that really matters, probably more than all of the above:

10) Slow down. Stop focusing on the numbers. Stop worrying about stats. Read for pleasure. Pick books because they’re what I want to read. Take as long as it takes to read, savor, enjoy, contemplate, consider, ponder, and reflect. Remember that I read because I love it, not because I have a challenge to meet or a blog post to write. When I stop enjoying my reading and start finding it more of a chore, I know I’m doing something wrong. READ FOR LOVE. That is all.

2013: My bookish resolutions for the New Year

Forget working out more (or at all…), eating healthier, and doing good deeds. (Oh, shush, I’ll try to do those things too).

My extra special New Year’s resolutions are all about reading. It’s a new year, a new opportunity to make some pledges to myself, and perhaps try a new approach or two when it comes to my reading life.

My resolutions for 2013:

  1. Maintain a healthy ratio of old to new: I have piles and piles of unread books in my house, at least 20 unread books on my Kindle, and yet I still gravitate toward grabbing the newest releases, checking new titles out from the library, and ignoring what I already have. Well, it has to stop! Stop, I tell you! My resolution for 2013 is to aim for at least a 2:1 ratio. For every new book, whether purchased or borrowed from the library, I will read at least two that are already in my collection. I think this will be my biggest challenge, to be honest, and I thought of settling for even a 1:1 ratio… but hey, let’s aim high.
  2. No new series! I simply will not start any new series in 2013 — with the following exceptions (because, of course, any good rule has exceptions):
    1. New series by authors I love are allowed. Because I simply must read Gail Carriger’s Finishing School books as soon as they’re released. (Etiquette & Espionage is due out in February. Hurray!)
    2. It’s okay to start a new series if the entire series has already been published. For example, I read the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher all the way through, books 1 – 6, once the 6th and final book had been released.
    3. It’s also okay to start a new series if the final volume will be released in 2013. A friend has been urging me to read Patrick Rothfuss’s Kingkiller Chronicle series, but I’m holding off until there’s a release date set for the final book.
    4. Obviously, if new books come out that are part of a series I already read, they’re totally fair game.
  3. Patronize local books stores. I’ve made a conscious effort in recent years to rely more and more on the library for new reads, and then supplement my shelves with amazing finds at the library’s annual used book sales. But I’m as guilty as the next person in terms of relying on Amazon for cheap prices and quick delivery. I’ll never totally stop buying from Amazon, but I will try to funnel more of my book dollars toward the wonderful people who work so hard to keep independent bookstores alive in our communities.
  4. Housekeeping. It’s time to do some culling. Yes, there are a lot of books on my shelves that I intend to get to eventually. But, facing facts, I admit that there are some that have been there long enough that if I really wanted to read them, I would have done it already. Impulse buys, unfortunate duplicates, books that sounded more appealing than they ended up… they need to go. I resolve to do some serious sorting and put together a bag or two (or three) of books to donate for the next library sale.
  5. The same goes for kids’ books in my house. My son, world champion reluctant reader, has shelves full of books that he’s never going to read. Every time his school has a book fair or his teacher hands out Scholastic book order flyers, he begs me to buy stuff and swears that this time, he’s really, really, really going to read them. I’m a sap and never say no when it comes to books, but of course, it turns out just how you’d expect. So, another culling is in order. I resolve to go through my son’s shelves — with him — take out the books that he has no interest in or that he’s already outgrown, and donate them to a good cause.
  6. Try something new! I’m a fiction reader, head to toe and deep down in my bones. But it’s nice to stretch one’s wings, expand one’s mind, branch out a little bit. So I resolve to read at least 3 – 5 non-fiction books in 2013, preferable from a few different areas. History, biography, social commentary, science — I’ve actually got some terrific-looking books on my shelves already, and it’s times I paid them some attention. I’m such a fiction junkie that this may be one of my hardest resolutions to keep, but I intend to at least make the effort.
  7. Face facts. I don’t like short stories. I’ve never particularly liked short stories. So maybe it’s time to face facts and stop trying to force myself to read them. Every time I go to the used book sales, I come home with at least a few volumes of either fairy tales, science fiction stories, or horror stories. And no matter how much I like the author, I just never feel motivated enough to pick up a story collection rather than a novel. So my resolution for 2013 in this regard is to let myself off the hook and admit that it’s just not going to happen.

They say that resolutions are made to be broken. Remember those 15 pounds we all vowed to lose last year? Or the year we were all going to become fluent in Spanish?

Well, I’m determined to give all of my bookish resolutions a fair try. Some may stick, some may not. But here’s to 2013! May it be full of good cheer, good health, and good reading for all!

Survey: You don’t like the book you’re reading. Now what?

Has this happened to you? You start a new book — perhaps one by an author you’ve enjoyed previously, or a much-hyped book, for example — and it just doesn’t work for you. Maybe it’s the subject matter. Matter the characters are unrelatable. Maybe the writing itself just doesn’t grab you, or worse, maybe it’s just not good writing.

What do you do? I’m asking sincerely, since this is where I find myself once again. I’m about 100 pages into a new book (which shall remain nameless at this point), and despite my best intentions, I’m just not feeling it. The plot is pretty scattered, there are scads of characters who seem indistinguishable one from the other, and the whole thing seems like a bit of a directionless mess at this point. And yet, I hesitate to just drop it. I’ve read several other books by the same author, and I’ve really enjoyed some of them. The author is considered tops in her genre and typically gets all sorts of awards. So maybe it will improve. On the other hand, all those books I just brought home from the library aren’t going to read themselves, and life’s too short to waste on books I don’t enjoy.

For now, I’m sticking it out, although if this were school or work, I’d say it’s on its final warning.

So tell me: