Regular Rumination

January Wrap Up!

Posted by in Books

january 2014

Books Read: 

  1. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  3. Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David R. Dow
  4. On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee
  5. Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim
  6. The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin
  7. Tandem by Anna Jarzab
  8. Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  9. Someone by Alice McDermott

Favorite: Tie between Someone Things I’ve Learned from Dying. If the entirety of The Goldfinch had been written like the first 250 pages, then it would have been the best book of the year for me probably. But it was too long and I firmly believe needed more editing. What Someone and Things I’ve Learned from Dying  accomplish in around 250 pages each is incredible.

Least Favorite: Tandem by Anna Jarzab

Most thought-provoking: On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

Best concept with a disappointing outcome: The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin. Coincidentally, The Atlantic published an article about The Reconstructionist and the author, who was actually a reconstructionist for his day job! Who knew! I probably would have if I had read his author bio. The interview is a good read if you’re interested in the topic, but not quite sure if you want to read the book. There are some images of computer simulated car crashes.

Biggest surprise: Someone by Alice McDermott. This was my book club read for the month and I didn’t expect to hate it or anything, but I loved it. Favorite book of the year kind of love.

Most traumatizing: Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls. GOOD GOD. I didn’t know. I just didn’t know.

I did not finish my translation this month, which is okay because I already know that I’m going to be reading at least two for Comics/Graphic Novels February, which is happening right now! It’s the Super Bowl and I don’t have any plans (or any plans to watch it!) so I think I’m going to read comics all day. Yesterday I read Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang which was so so good.

State of the TBR: 

Out the Door: 3 books
Read & Kept: 3 books
Purchased: 2: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman, which I listened to on audio and wanted to own, and Going Clear by Lawrence Wright, which I knew I was going to buy as soon as the paperback was available.

Overall, January was a good reading month. I didn’t love everything, but I think that even the books I didn’t love, I am glad I read them. How was your January?


Quotes & Notes: Tandem by Anna Jarzab

Posted by in Books




“You can see it better with the lights off,” he explained.

It took a second for my eyes to adjust, but when they did I saw it: a river of undulating green light high in the sky. If I needed any more proof that Juliana’s world, the one I saw when I slept, was real, this clinched it.

“I don’t understand,” I breathed. I was captivated by the glow of the aurora borealis, something I’d never imagined I’d see in person. It had always been my favorite part of the dreams. A feeling of calmness and relief flooded my body.


One great thing about working in publishing is that people are always passing books around. I received this one from a coworker who wasn’t necessarily interested in reading it, but I have a soft spot for parallel universes. Sasha is a normal teenage girl who lives with her grandfather in a normal town. When her long-time crush asks her to prom, it’s too good to be true. And, of course, it is totally too good to be true. Grant is not Grant, but Thomas, his analog (aka double) from a parallel universe called Aurora. Aurora looks a lot like the US that Sasha remembers, but it has been thrown into political turmoil caused by two rivaling countries in what became the United States on Earth. The princess Juliana, Sasha’s double, has skipped town, unwilling to participate in a political marriage that was orchestrated against her will.

Oh, this book was so fast and so silly, I’m not sure it’s even worth writing a post. I am pretty good at turning off my critical eye for a book like this. I had no expectations for Tandem and I doubt I’ll keep reading the series, but I did enjoy reading the first book. Objectively, though, it’s not a good book and I’m just not sure I’m willing to devote more time to it.

I am interested, though, in reading more about parallel universes? Do you have any recommendations for excellent books about parallel universes and what happens when they collide?


Quotes & Notes: On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee

Posted by in Books, Quotes & Notes





She listened to his breathing, light and fine at first and then deepening to snoring, which did not bother her at all, in the way it did not bother her in the thinly partitioned row houses back in B-Mor, her uncles and aunties and cousins pitching their nightly calls in an unmelodious orchestration that heralded her blood.

But in fact we suspect she did not miss them, or us. We were still in view but as heatless as any patch of distant stars. For the enigma of her longing, it might be said, was of no-longing, not one borne of selfishness or egoism, some belief that she was scaled (and now colored) larger or brighter than the rest, but that after two and a half months away, and having trailed down those unmarked and twisted roads, and subjected to the warped designs (and hopes) of sundry citizenries, when it must have seemed each time that all was lost again, the tethers were now released, the moorings finally dismantled, and she was floated out alone. Which was strangely fine.


I’m very glad I waited to write about On Such A Full Sea because I think if I had written this post just after finishing the book I would have told you the book was just okay, but it has stayed with me in the way the most memorable stories do.

This is a story of a hero, told by the multitude she left behind, in what remains of Baltimore, now B-Mor, a labor colony that produces fish and vegetables for nearby Charters, where the privileged will do anything to stay that way. Beneath the labor colonies in society are the counties, unregulated swaths of land that are dangerous for their lack of control. The settlers from New China who live in B-Mor rarely question what happens – people disappear, fewer people are able to change their status in society – but they are fed, they have roofs over their heads, they have jobs. Until Fan, a teenage free diver whose boyfriend disappears, does the unthinkable: she leaves.

Fan’s encounters are unlikely, but she is the hero and this is her story as told by the people she left behind. The story has been stretched and transformed and who knows what actually happened to Fan. What matters is this is the story that is being told. Fan is not a hero because she is exceptional, she is a hero precisely because she isn’t. Anyone could have been Fan and Fan could have been anyone.

There’s a lot of fuss about a literary writer who is writing a genre novel. But couldn’t we call Native Speaker a spy novel, a literary political thriller? Has Chang-Rae Lee been writing genre all along? Chang-Rae Lee has been playing with these labels since the beginning.

Let’s talk about the cover. It’s perfect and minimalist and right. It’s downright iconic. Damn they better keep it for the paperback. One of my favorite things about working in publishing is the cover reveal, when the editorial and art teams present their vision for a book long after we’ve heard what it’s about. Sometimes there are differing opinions, sometimes it’s universal dislike, but when it’s universal approval? When the designers get it? I love it. There’s a collective sigh of happiness, because sometimes you just nail it. I bet that’s what happened when this cover was revealed.

I sometimes found the plural narrator tiring, but I can’t imagine this novel being told any other way. It’s one of those stories that I’m glad I made myself finish, because even if I didn’t enjoy every page, the sum of its parts was worth it.

I received a copy of On Such a Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee from publisher for review.


This week in…

Posted by in Blogging, Books, Crafts, Life


I made two manageable goals at the beginning of the year: record a quote from every book I read and post at least once a week. So far I’ve kept that up! I’ve been posting very general thoughts about books, random things that occur to me when I am reading or when I begin writing the post. I’ve been calling these posts “Quotes & Notes” and so far, I’ve published ones on Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David R. DowThe Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Next week, you can look forward to reading about Tandem by Ann Jarzab, On Such A Full Sea by Chang-Rae Lee and probably Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls.


I’ve decided on a very basic reading schedule for 2014 based on what has worked well in January:

  • one book in translation
  • one book from work that is publishing in Fall 2014. I want to read the whole Fall fiction list, something I haven’t done in the almost 2.5 years I’ve been at this job.
  • one 2014 release (not from work)
  • at least one comic a week
  • the rest from my TBR in 2014 list

I feel like the reason I always fail at reading my TBR is because of all the new shiny books out there! This gives me two books that I’m allowed to buy a month, plus a third new book from work. All the excitement from Comics February has made me remember the days when I used to read one comic a week. It might not happen every week, but it’s good to have the goal. At my standard reading pace, this help me get pretty darn close to finishing off my 2014 list, while still not feeling bored by having my reading planned out for the year. ALSO I’m perfectly happy DNFing a book from my TBR list. I’ve already sent one out the door that I just couldn’t stand.

I’m not expecting every week to be perfect, but it helps to know what I want my 2014 reading year to look like (which I already talked about here and here) and actually applying that to a month’s worth of reading!


I’m working on a “scrap” blanket, in an effort to use up ALL THE YARN. For a while, I was just buying any pretty yarn I saw, and then never finished any projects with it. Fortunately, all the colors I own compliment each other pretty well, because it’s coming together nicely.

scrap blanket

As for what I’ll do when this is finished and I have no yarn… I have been thinking of trying out one of two new hobbies: bookbinding and hand quilting. I’ve been following Trish’s progress on her hex quilt and I really want to make my own! I even picked out the fabric I would use. I am also obsessed with this bookbinding tumblr and I watched a ton of bookbinding howtos from Sea Lemon this morning. Both of these hobbies are going to take a little investment, so I have to decide! I have dabbled in bookbinding and sewing in the past, but not seriously. I’m looking forward to learning something new!


  • Andi’s post “15 Topics for your Blogging Blues” – I shall keep this post in my pocket for all the rainy blogging days.
  • Sasha’s post “Into Whatever Crazy Beauty Awaits” – The last paragraph of this gives me  chills. It’s so so beautiful and such a wonderful way to anticipate the new year. I’m trying to hold onto all the New Year enthusiasm as long as I can. When is it no longer acceptable to say Happy New Year?
  • Jason’s post “Comfort Food” – “I love [pb&j]. Like, the actual emotion. Like, I have an intense, fraught, passionate relationship with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.” Yup.
  • Linda Holmes’s post “Chris Christie and Pulling the Red Handle” via Clare @ The Literary Omnivore – Amen is all I really have to say about that.

looking ahead.

This week, I’ll be reading If on a winter’s night a traveler by Italo Calvino (my monthly translation!), Someone by Alice McDermott (book club read), and The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. Plus anxiously anticipating Comics February!!!

What did you do this past week? What are you looking forward to next week?


Quotes & Notes: The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin

Posted by in Books

the reconstructionist



“What are you to think? What’s even the right question to ask? Is it: Who’s to blame? Who can be sued? Probably not. ‘It changes life forever,’ they say. So it’s like an inflection  point, an instant of chance where the curve of life changes directions.” Boggs joined his hands in an inverted V. “The change of direction is important, but life is what happens before and after. That’s the implication. But what if that’s wrong? What if what’s actually essential is the point of change? The instant where everything is altered: the accident, the collision, the rollover? What if that’s life? Where everything changes.” (266)


The Reconstructionist mostly left me feeling perplexed. The narrator Ellis is an accident reconstructionist, piecing together the data and evidence from fatal car accidents to find out exactly what happened. His older step-brother was killed in a car accident at the intersection near their home when they were kids and his girlfriend Heather witnessed it. Ellis and Heather reconnect years later and she gets him his job as a reconstructionist with her husband John Boggs. But when Ellis and Heather begin an affair, that’s when everything changes and their world spins out of control.

When I turned the last page in this book, my only thought was “why.” Why did this story need to be told?

Ellis’s job is interesting and some of the most interesting parts of the book were when Ellis and Boggs were working on accidents together. The last one hundred pages are completely engrossing and disturbing, but the character’s motivations for any given action were often fuzzy. Boggs and Heather, and even Ellis to a certain extent, felt very one-dimensional.

Boggs is an avid audiobook listener. I liked that touch.

I imagine there actually are accident reconstructionists. I’m a little bit terrified of accidents, so reading this book was occasionally difficult. The framing in this book is excellent – these three characters are thrown together and their lives are defined by accidents, their relationships created and destroyed by them. The execution, though, left a little bit to be desired.

I received a review copy of The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin from the publisher. 


Quotes & Notes: Things I’ve Learned From Dying by David R. Dow

Posted by in Books

things i've learne



High school English is where I first learned not everybody can be understood by everyone. It’s in As I Lay Dying, chapter 19. Vardaman says, My mother is a fish.

That’s it. End of chapter. My teacher wanted to tell us what Faulkner meant. I didn’t feel the need to know. You can like a rhythm or savor a sound, and not have a clue what it means.

Not knowing is itself knowledge. At the beginning I think I can learn. At the end I know I cannot. It is the middle where I see the truth.

Perhaps it is merely fortuitous that Vardaman’s soliloquy begins the middle third of Faulkner’s book

The deepest knowledge, I’ve learned, can be awareness of the chasm separating you from someone else. (87)


I declared that David R. Dow’s book The Autobiography of an Execution was the book that had the greatest impact on me in 2011. It opened my eyes to injustices in the legal system, especially on death row, and I still think about the book, now 3 years later. When 12 asked if I wanted to talk about Dow’s newest book Things I’ve Learned from Dying, I didn’t even think twice.

The Autobiography of an Execution is an important book, but the writing style got in the way. If I remember correctly, it is disjointed and occasionally metaphorical in a distracting way, and just generally in need of a better editor. Fortunately, Dow seems to have found one. I had none of those concerns with Things I’ve Learned from Dying. It’s beautifully written, elegant prose, that doesn’t mask Dow’s unique voice.

Things I’ve Learned From Dying is about death row and an inmate named Waterman who most people decide doesn’t deserve to die. It’s also about Dow’s father-in-law’s short battle with terminal melanoma. It’s also about their family dog Winona’s sudden death from kidney failure. It’s not an easy book to read, you know how each of these stories end. In a way, Things I’ve Learned From Dying is a way to keep all three living, immortalized; it’s also a rumination on what it means to know that death is near, for yourself, for a loved one.

This is a hard book to recommend, but I do think you should read it. It is a book that is filled with tragedies, but it is also filled with love.


Graphic Novels/Comics February

Posted by in Books

Last year, one of my favorite reading months was Graphic Novels/Comics February, the brainchild of Debi. She commented on my State of the TBR post asking if I would forego the TBR during February so I could participate and the answer is: OF COURSE. I wouldn’t miss this month for anything! I loved reading different types of comics/graphic novels the entire month. I’ve been thinking about what I want to put on hold at the library since I don’t think I have any unread comics hanging around the house. Those are read almost as soon as they are purchased!

It’s time to start thinking about my library requests for Graphic Novels/Comics February since they can take a while to come in.

sunny locke key same diff julio

Locke & Key Volumes 2 & 3 by Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez - I really want to start buying these, but they are so expensive! I don’t think I can justify it on my current budget, so library it is. I remembered sometime in 2013 that I really like ghost stories – even if they really freak me out. I also very much like Joe Hill and the art by Gabriel Rodriguez, so I’ve been meaning to continue this story pretty much since I read Volume 1.

Julio’s Day by Gilbert Hernandez - I read a few year-end best comics list and this was high on the AV Club’s list and the Comics Alliance list. It begins in the year 1900 and ends in 2000, with each page representing one year in Julio’s life.

Same Difference by Derek Kirk Kim - Co-author of The Eternal Smile with Gene Luen Yang, Same Difference is his first comic and one that is considered a classic now 10 years after its publication. 

Sunny by Taiyo Matsumoto - In the epic Comics Alliance article on the best comics in 2013, they give Sunny the superlative “The Best Comic About Actual Human Beings With Actual Human Feelings God Dammit” and that just appealed to me.

super prime saints boxers ncpgw

Prime BabyBoxers, & Saints by Gene Luen Yang - Prime Baby is Gene Luen Yang’s NYT comic strip about Thaddeus and his new baby sister, aliens, and math. Boxers and Saints, a two-volume series about the Boxer Rebellion. I already have a copy of Boxers and I don’t think I’m going to be able to wait until February to read it!

Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe by Tim Leong - I think it was Melissa of The Feminist Texican Reads that made me put Super Graphic on my wishlist right away. I can’t wait to read this!

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Faith Erin Hicks and Prudence Shen - I loved loved loved Friends With Boys by Faith Erin Hicks last February, so I’m very much looking forward to reading this one.

jane matter castle french

A Matter of Life by Jeffery Brown - Well, when NPR compares you to Blankets by Craig Thompson, I sit up and listen.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley - I adored Relish by Lucy Knisley this year and I must read more.

Castle Waiting Vol. 2 by Linda Medley - I was thinking that this list is filled with too many dudes, so I went looking for comics penned by women and then I remembered that the Castle Waiting series exists! I read it so long ago. Remember when I read a comic a week? I should do that again.

Jane, The Fox & Me by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault - This sounds lovely and it’s also a translation! Just look at that cover. Beautiful.

I happy with this list. There are a lot of favorite authors I’ve been meaning to return to, a couple translations, several writers of color. I wish it were easier to find women on these best-of comics list. It was hard to find a list that included women other than Marjane Satrapi and Alison Bechdel. Obviously those two women are immensely important in comics and they should be on every list, but it was so hard to find new-to-me comics written by women and when I did find them, the library did not have a copy of the book. Once I’ve read my way through my TBR it’s going to be time to seriously think about the books I’d like to have on my shelves permanently and I would like to have a whole section devoted to women in comics. So, what should I buy? I’d love to hear your suggestions for women in comics I MUST be reading!


Quotes & Notes: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Posted by in Books, review

the goldfinch


The other section of Honors English was reading Great Expectations. Mine was reading Walden; and I hid myself in the coolness and silence of the book, a refuge from the sheet-metal glare of the desert. During the morning break (where we were rounded up and made to go outside, in a chain-fenced yard near the vending machines), I stood in the shadiest corner I could find with my mass-market paperback and, with a red pencil, went through and underlined a lot of particularly bracing sentences: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” “A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind.” What would Thoreau have made of Las Vegas: its lights and rackets, its trash and daydreams, its projections and hollow facades? (234)

I was too disoriented by my surroundings to listen very closely and with almost painfully heightened senses I stirred at the potato mess with my fork and felt the strangeness of the city pressing in all around me, smells of tobacco and malt and nutmeg, cafe walls the melancholy brown of an old leather-bound book and then beyond, dark passages and brackish water lapping, low skies and old buildings all leaning against each other with a moody poetic, edge-of-destruction feel, the cobblestoned loneliness of a city that felt – to me, anyway – like a place where you might come to let the water close over your head. (649)


If I had to tell you in just a few words what The Goldfinch is about, I would say it is about grief and guilt. It’s about all the ways we punish ourselves  because we think we deserve it.

It was difficult not to compare The Goldfinch to The Secret History and I have a general question about both:

  • Do people really talk that way? Or do Theo and Richard from The Secret History just wish they do? Both are people who come from humble beginnings and find themselves thrown into a group of wealthier people and everyone seems to talk with this almost  caricature intonation of what I imagine wealthy people sound like. Is that intentional on Donna Tartt’s part?

Theo was a very frustrating narrator. Not in a bad way, I think it was very intentional. Theo feels very real to me in a way that Richard did not.

I was talking to a friend at work about Donna Tartt’s two books and I feel like they are always presented as being big and important and inaccessible when really they are long, plot-driven books about all the different ways a perfectly normal person’s life can be derailed until it is unrecognizable through a mix of fate and their own choices. I don’t think the cover of The Secret History really does it any favors in terms of changing this reputation. I do love the packaging of The Goldfinch. It’s a beautifully designed book.

The Goldfinch is a good book, but I just liked The Secret History more. The first two sections of The Goldfinch are amazing and I’d like to go through and reread the first one again. I often feel this way, because I don’t really get into the swing of a book until I’m about a third of the way in and I always wonder what I missed in the beginning. I wish I had quoted something from the first section.

It looks as though the actual painting The Goldfinch is in The Frick? I think I’ll go see it.


The State of the TBR

Posted by in Books

It’s time to get serious.

This is the year I get rid of my TBR! (I can hear you all laughing from here, don’t worry.) I’ve decided to take stock of my TBR now at the beginning of the year to see if there is some way I can prevent books from entering my home this year as fast as I send them out the door. Can it be done? We’ll see!

First, let’s talk about the books I got for Christmas. My most recent additions to the TBR:


Yes, my Christmas tree is as big as the pile of books. For Christmas this year, I’m very excited to add the new Harry Potter box set with the covers designed by Kazu Kibuishi. I love these. I got chills opening the box and looking at all the covers. Thank you, Michael! I also got:

  1. Duplex by Kathryn Davis
  2. Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Mitford
  3. From the Forest: A search for the Hidden Roots of our Fairy Tales by Sara Maitland
  4. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins
  5. The Etymologicon: A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth
  6. Canada by Richard Ford
  7. Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead
  8. An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield (This was technically a gift from me to Michael, but I’m so excited to read it.

Now, onto the TBR. Let’s start with nonfiction. I cannot believe how much nonfiction I had on my shelves. I should have a Nonfiction Year instead of just a Nonfiction November:


  1. The Language of the Night: Essays by Ursula Le Guin
  2. Time Traveler by Michael Novacek
  3. Nothing: A Portrait of Insomnia by Blake Butler
  4. A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
  5. Truth & Beauty by Ann Patchett
  6. Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue by James McWhorter
  7. The Beekeeper’s Lament by Hannah Nordhaus
  8. The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
  9. The Unwanted Sound of Everything We Want by Garret Keizer
  10. Migraine by Oliver Sacks
  11. The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker
  12. A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson
  13. Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill
  14. Escape on the Pearl by Mary Kay Ricks
  15. Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David R. Dow
  16. A North Country Life by Sydney Lea
  17. Rocket Men by Craig Nelson
  18. Life After Murder by Nancy Mullane
  19. A Voyage Long & Strange by Tony Horwitz
  20. Island Practice by Pam Belluck
  21. The Pattern in the Carpet by Margaret Drabble
  22. The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell
  23. Wendy & The Lost Boys by Julie Salamon
  24. Unnatural Selection by Mara Hvistendahl
  25. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Now fiction:

  1. The Green Mile by Stephen King (which I have read, but would very much like to reread in the coming year)
  2. Tokyo Cancelled by Rana Dasgupta
  3. City of Women by David R. Gillham
  4. Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra
  5. The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield
  6. The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
  7. A Happy Marriage by Rafael Yglesias
  8. Matterhorn by Karl Marlantes
  9. Blood Fugues by Edgardo Vega Yunque
  10. Burning Bright by Tracy Chevalier
  11. Evening is the Whole Day by Preeta Samarasan
  12. The Chaperone  by Laura Moriarty
  13. 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami
  14. The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
  15. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
  16. Lost & Found by Carolyn Parkhurst
  17. Daughter of the Blood by Anne Bishop
  18. The Reconstructionist by Nick Arvin
  19. Waterline by Ross Raisin
  20. Snow Angels by Stewart O’Nan
  21. The Wrong Blood by Manuel de Lope
  22. City of Tranquil Light by Bo Baldwin
  23. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster
  24. Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman
  25. A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L’Engle
  26. The Small Rain by Madeleine L’Engle
  27. The Bone People by Keri Hulme
  28. Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell
  29. Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
  30. I Am Forbidden by Anouk Morkovits
  31. An Atlas of Impossible Longing by Arnuradha Roy
  32. Schroder by Amity Gaige
  33. Empire Falls by Richard Russo
  34. Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
  35. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
  36. The Orchardist by Amanda Coplin
  37. Tandem by Anna Jarzab
  38. Jasper Jones by Craig Silvey
  39. Starry River of the Sky by Grace Lin
  40. The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
  41. A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliot
  42. Above World by Jenn Reese

That’s a total of 75 books that I would like to have to pass the shelf-worthy or not test by the end of 2014. Fortunately, quite a few of those are from international authors or are translations! Not as many as I would like, but a decent number. I also have more books at my desk at work that I use for when I finish a book on the subway and need something to read on the way home that I’m not including in this list (though I’m going to try not to add to that pile in 2014!) Let’s say I read 104 books in 2014. That leaves me with 29 books I can get from the library, acquire and read immediately, or borrow from friends.

Suddenly this feels VERY manageable! It helps that today I got rid of all of these books:

2014-01-01 12.48.36


These are all books that I have given a fair shot, were unsolicited review copies, or books I grabbed from the free pile at work without really giving it a good thought. Back to the free pile they go!

I think I’m going to start out with a few highly anticipated chunksters: The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt and The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling. From the nonfiction pile, I’ll pick Things I’ve Learned from Dying by David Dow and Everybody Was So Young by Amanda Vaill. We’ll see how it goes from there!

Wish me luck. If prior years are any indication, I don’t necessarily have high hopes for this one! But getting rid of so many books I was probably never going to read makes me feel like I’m taking a huge step in the right direction. Plus, organizing all these books got me VERY excited to read them again!!

What’s the state of your TBR?


2013 Reading Stats

Posted by in Blogging, Books

I haven’t posted reading stats here in a while and I didn’t do a very good job of keeping track the past few years. Life just got in the way. In 2013, though, I made it a point to keep track of a few things: date finished, page count, publisher, pub date, male/female ratio, where the author was from, and whether or not the book was a translation. I think it is interesting to see how my reading changes over time and how it shifted throughout the year. It’s mostly for me, but I know that I love reading other people’s stats posts. I’m fascinated by what people decide to keep track of. As for my 2013 reading, I’ve talked already about how I only read one translation this year and how I want to make it a priority to read more in 2014, but how did my other stats fair?

Total Books Read: 104. One hundred seems to be my magic number. Sometimes I read a little bit more, sometimes a little bit less, but it is always around 100 books, no matter what I do.

Total Pages: 33,259! I loved how Care pulled out her chunksters (books with more than 450 pages) to see what percentage of this year’s page count was chunksters. I read 14 chunksters, which were a total of 11,477 pages or 34.5% of my total reading for the year.

Age range: 65 books for adults (62.5%), 24 YA (23%), 3 Middle Grade (3%), 1 Children’s (1%) and 11 that were vague crossovers that could have fit into two or three categories (10.5%). I’m pretty happy with this split, though I wouldn’t necessarily mind if there were more YA books next year.

Genre: This is so hard to pin down, I’m almost hesitant to even track it every year. This is, in reality, a combination of form and genre, to make it a little bit easier.

  • 27 comics, 5 of which were nonfiction/memoir (26%)
  • 17 fantasy/science fiction/speculative fiction (16%)
  • 28 general fiction (27%)
  • 7 horror (7%)
  • 18 nonfiction (17%)
  • 3 poetry (3%)
  • 2 historical fiction (2%)
  • 1 romance (1%)
  • 1 book of short stories (1%)

I’m so surprised that the comics number is so high! I did read a lot this year, but I didn’t think it was that many. Once again, I’m happy with this, but I wouldn’t mind if fantasy or horror jumped up a bit. And definitely poetry! I want to read more in 2014. Why did I split out horror from the fantasy/science fiction/speculative fiction category? I don’t know. I just did.

Female vs Male Authors: 54 female (52%), 46 male (44%), 4 both (4%)

Book format: 90 print books (86%), 6 ebooks (6%), 8 audiobooks (8%). This number is more for curiosity’s sake than anything else. I might try to listen to more audiobooks, but I’m not overly concerned with my print vs ebook number. Though I would like to see more of the print books I own heading out the door! I have way too many.

Library books vs my books: 29 library books (28%), 65 books from my shelves (62%), 10 borrowed from other readers and returned (10%). This number LOOKS really good, but I’m pretty sure I acquired just as many as I sent back out the door.

Author nationality: 

  • 75 from USA (72%)
  • 12 from UK (12%)
  • 8 from Canada (8%)
  • 3 from Australia (3%)
  • 2 from New Zealand (2%)
  • 1 each from the Netherlands, Nigeria, and Spain (3%)

The remaining three were essay collections that featured several authors, so I did not track them. This is the number, along with the number of authors who are POC (only 10 books!) and the number of translations (just 1), that I’m most disappointed with and is something I’m seriously going to work on in 2014. I should be reading books from around the world by a variety of people, not just my own familiar corner.

So, I’ve told you about my blogging goals for 2014. Now for the reading goals! Like with the blogging resolutions, it’s all about keeping it simple:

  • Read more books that I own! And stop buying as many as I send out the door!
  • Read more books from around the world, in translation, and by people from a variety of races.
  • Blog about each book I read in some way, but not necessarily a review. I started keeping a book blog to remember the books I read, so even if it is just a monthly wrap up of what I read, I’d like to have some kind of post that at least mentions each book I read in 2014.

And that’s it! If you keep stats about your reading, were there any big gaps you noticed in 2013 that you’d like to fix for 2014?


Goodbye 2013, hello 2014!

Posted by in Books


Happy New Year! I hope you have a safe and happy holiday. With only a few hours left in 2013, here is my End of Year Book Survey, hosted by the lovely Jamie at The Perpetual Page Turner. I’ll see you next year!

1. Best Book You Read In 2013? (If you have to cheat — you can break it down by genre if you want or 2013 release vs. backlist)

I obviously do have to cheat.

Fantasy - Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones – Holy cow, friends. I know you’ve been telling me for (literally) years to read Diana Wynne Jones and I don’t know what kept me away for so long. I loved LOVED loved this book. Everything about it.

Middle Grade - The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly – I want to give this book to every man, woman, and child that I know and love, it was that good. I’m so glad I received this for my birthday. Alyssa knew I would love it.

Nonfiction - Parasite Rex by Carl Zimmer – SO GOOD. This is the kind of book that sticks with you long after you read it. So so good.

True Crime - People Who Eat Darkness by Richard Lloyd Parry – I totally admit to cheating right now. This is the only true crime book I read this year, but I wanted a reason to talk about both Parasite Rex and People Who Eat Darkness. This book is so interesting because not only is it a story of a crime that shocked two countries, but an in-depth look at the Japanese justice system and how it works.

Comic - Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire – I read so many comics this year, it was hard to pick just one. This one, though, is brilliant and I still think about it all the time. It shows up in my dreams. It’s drawn in Lemire’s signature style and there are many things about it that feel familiar – cold landscapes, absent families, innocence shattered by the real world – but it is set in a disease-ravaged future where mutant children are either a sure sign of our destruction or our only hope. It’s just perfect.

Poetry - Dear Darkness by Kevin Young – Perfect, perfect, perfect. I wrote about this one for a BookRiot Buy, Borrow, Bypass post.

2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

The Dinner by Herman Koch. I love literary thrillers about bad people behaving badly. I also love books that are contained in a short time period, so the framing of the story in one meal appealed to me, too. But overall, this really fell flat for me.

 3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2013? 

Someday, Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham. This is definitely not the kind of book I usually read, but Someday, Someday, Maybe is funny and nostalgic in the best way.

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?

I’m desperate to get non-fantasy readers to read Seraphina. I’ve also recommended the audiobook of The Raven Boys more times than I can count. Will Patton’s voice makes that book sing.

 5. Best series you discovered in 2013?

Definitely Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire. And, of course, The Raven Boys.

 6. Favorite new author you discovered in 2013?

Kelly Braffet. I read and loved Save Yourself. I can’t wait to read her other two novels!

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

I read a regency romance for the first time this year and I had a blast reading it. Nine Rules to Break While Romancing a Rake by Sarah MacLean is ridiculous and charming and fun, just as advertised.

 8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?

I didn’t love everything about Night Film by Marisha Pessl, but I still could not put it down, especially the last third. I just had to know what happened.

 9. Book You Read In 2013 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. I listened to the audiobook and it was a good audiobook, but I do feel like I missed things. I want to read this one again before the sequel comes out. 

10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2013?


You just need to see this in person. It’s stunning. The cover actually looks water damaged and the front and end papers are full color photographs of the hospital during the flood.

11. Most memorable character in 2013? 

Sophie, Howl, and Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle.

 12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?

Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet.

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013? 

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot. I don’t know that there are any books that have really changed my life or made me think about something in a new way. I’m hoping that I do have a book like this in 2014!

 14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2013 to finally read? 

Howl’s Moving CastleThe Great Gatsby. I Capture the Castle.

 15. Favorite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2013?

I wish I had been better about keeping track of quotes from the books I read this year, but I did really love this quote from the poem “Ode to Catfish”: “Remember the day, po boy,/you fried up catfish/with grits for breakfast, your mother/& sisters surrounding us/& you declared it/perfect? Sweet Jesus/you were right./Fish hooks in my heart./My plate full of bones/I’m scared to swallow.”

And this one from Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter:

Weren’t movies his generation’s faith anyway — its true religion? Wasn’t the theater our temple, the one place we enter separately but emerge from two hours later together, with the same experience, same guided emotions, same moral? A million schools taught ten million curricula, a million churches featured ten thousand sects with a billion sermons — but the same movie showed in every mall in the country. And we all saw it! That summer, the one you’ll never forget, every movie beamed the same set of thematic and narrative images — the same Avatar, same Harry Potter, same Fast and Furious, flickering pictures stitched in our minds that replaced our own memories, archetypal stories that became our shared history, that taught us what to expect from life, that defined our values. What was that but religion? (21)

16.Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2013?

Shortest book: Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra and Double Shadow by Carl Phillips (both 80 pages)

Longest: A Storm of Swords by George RR Martin (1177 pages)

 17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It? (a WTF moment, an epic revelation, a steamy kiss, etc. etc.) Be careful of spoilers!

The ending of Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet. Ugh! Can we talk about this SOMEONE PLEASE? I also squealed a lot about dramatic turns of events in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

18. Favorite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2013 (be it romantic, friendship, etc).

Sassmasters Sophie and Calcifer from Howl’s Moving Castle. Franny and Dan from Someday, Someday, Maybe.

19. Favorite Book You Read in 2013 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

Locke & Key by Joe Hill. I’m really excited to continue reading this series.

20. Best Book You Read In 2013 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else:

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones recommended by the entire blogosphere. Even though I loved the movie, I don’t know that I ever would have read this book if you hadn’t told me how much you loved it.

21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2013?

I’m actually surprised by this: it’s adult contemporary fiction. But really not by much. Next up after that was fantasy.

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

I totally have a friend crush on Lucy Knisley after reading Relish. Lucy, can we be friends? And we can cook and you can teach me how to draw? Ok?

23. Best 2013 debut you read?

I didn’t read a ton of debuts, so I’m going to pass on this one!

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?

I know, I’m sounding like a total broken record here, but the world-building in Howl’s Moving Castle was just spectacular. Also Seraphina. And The Raven Boys. 

25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2013?

Honestly, one of the most fun books I read in 2013 was the absolute worst book I read this year. My coworker and I have a book club of two, and we decided to read Indiscretion by Charles Dubow. We spent the whole time we read it texting each other about how unbelievably bad it was. I nearly threw it across the room when I finished it, but I was in the subway and I probably would have hit some poor commuter. It was only fun because there were two of us reading together and, fortunately, we both agreed about its terribleness. Otherwise I never would have finished!

As for more traditionally “fun” I’m going to go with Nine Rules to Break When Romancing A Rake by Sarah MacLean and Cinder by Marissa Meyer.

26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2013?

The only reason I didn’t outright sob my way through the ending of A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is because I was on the subway and I didn’t want people to have to do the awkward “is this girl in serious trouble or is she just crying because of her book?” glance.

27. Book You Read in 2013 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?

I really want more people to read Save Yourself by Kelly Braffet. It’s a beautiful, dark, suburban tale that I loved. I read it because Joe Hill recommended it on tumblr, but I haven’t really heard much about it other than that. Go out and read it!


5 Years Later

Posted by in Blogging

Five years ago today, I was a sophomore in college and without a thing to read over my winter break. I wanted something new to read, so I got online to find book reviews and discovered that there was such a thing as a book blog. I knew that this was how I wanted to spend my time and a baby blog was born.

Since then, a lot of things have changed, but one thing is still the same. I feel so fortunate for that day, because book blogging has changed my life in more ways than I can count. I have met amazing people, been fortunate enough to have many opportunities, and hope to be a blogger for a long time.

Usually, I don’t do much for my blogiversary, because there is just so much going on. It’s the end of the year! There are year-end surveys and book lists, New Year’s Resolutions, and holiday posts. But lately I’ve felt the blogging bug and I thought I might share some of my blogging resolutions.

  • Blog at least once a week. I know this won’t happen every week, but I’d really like to try to make this a priority in 2014.
  • Blog about books, but not necessarily reviews. I like my book lists, my conversations about books, but I’ve been tired of writing reviews for a long time. I think it’s time to just let them go.
  • Post a quote from every book I read. Weekly post about this, maybe?
  • Blog about other things. I’ve thought about blogging about NYC, crafting, recipes. I’d like to find a way to do this consistently. I want my blog to reflect my life.

And that’s it. I want resolutions that are doable. I want 2014 to be the year of getting it right in all aspects of my life. Or at least trying my best. Will you join me?