2018 Reading Review

In some ways, 2018 was a great year for reading.  But it had its downsides, too.  I was once again able to read approximately 100 books this year (not counting re-reads).  But being a parent has really changed how and what I’m reading, which is disappointing to me.  Here are some notes from my reading this year and my goals for next year.

The Great American Read

PBS’s Great American Read was the highlight of my reading year.  I had great fun reading four of the books on the Top 100 list, bringing my total read to 36, and voting for my favorites in the contest.  To Kill a Mockingbird was the big winner, but many of my favorites rounded out the top five.  You can read more about it here.

Author Discovery: VE Schwab

When I was getting back to reading earlier this year, I picked up the A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy by VE Schwab and fell in love.  You can read my longer review here.  I then went on to read Vicious, which I may love even more!  I’m still working my way through the rest of her repertoire, so expect to see more about her other novels next year.

Audiobooks

I tried listening to some audiobooks for the first time this year and had a mixed reaction.  I listened to two romance novels and VE Schwab’s Venegeful (sequel to Vicious).  I did enjoy listening to them on my commute, but I actually like listening to music just as well.  Mostly, I felt very impatient with them.  I was listening to them on 1.5 speed, and it still took hours longer to listen to them than it would have to read them.  I also didn’t really like the voice performance aspect, because when I read of course I never do different voices for characters in my head, so that was a bit weird to me to hear that.  What do you guys think?  Should I keep trying?  Do you have suggestions for books that are really good as audiobooks?

Blogging Book Reviews

One of my goals at the end of last year was to review more of what I am reading here, and I’m happy that I did review a lot of my genre reads here on the blog.

Now for the downsides…

Although I read about 100 books, about 80 of these were Regency romances, and I would say only about half of those were worthwhile reading.  So I hit the mark for quantity but not quality.  Hence I want to change a few things in my reading next year.

  1. Read from more genres.  Although I did read a good mix of sci-fi and fantasy, as well as evenly from adult and YA, I barely read any manga or comics and no nonfiction at all this year.   I also want to read more short stories and historical fiction.
  2. Finish Heyer’s romances.  I’m not giving up Regency romance entirely! I mentioned last year that I began reading through the works of Georgette Heyer, and I was able to read several more this year.  I have yet to be really disappointed by a single one of her stories.  I want to finish reading her oeuvre of historical romances (I only have about five left) and maybe try some of her mysteries.
  3. Read books I already own.  I have shelves and shelves of books and people keep giving me more.  Yet I’m constantly requesting books at the library, and then I have to finish them first because there’s a deadline!  Which leads me to…
  4. Finish the books I started.  I started 11 books this year that I was unable to finish before they had to go back to the library.  Eleven!!  I would check out too many books on my Kindle, then not get to one until it was almost due, then be unable to finish it.  I couldn’t renew because they all have long wait lists.  It was a vicious cycle I want to break next year.  Because my reading time is more limited now, I need to be a little more focused in my reading and maybe not check out every single ebook that looks vaguely interesting.  I’ve also discovered that I can “suspend” holds, so instead of a library book just showing up on my Kindle when it comes available, it won’t come until I’m ready for it.

What books did you enjoy most in 2018?  Do you have reading goals for 2019?

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Christmas Songs Book Tag

I absolutely adore Christmas music (though I only listen from Thanksgiving to New Years haha), so I was excited to come across this tag on Madame Writer’s blog.  It was originally by The Artsy Reader Girl.

1. “All I Want for Christmas Is You”: Favorite bookish couple.

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I have a lot of favorite book couples, including Lizzy and Darcy from Pride and Prejudice and Eowyn and Faramir from LOTR.  But this said “bookish,” which makes me think nerdy, so I’m going to go with Anne and Gilbert from Anne of Green Gables.  Among other things, their relationship is built on academic rivalry.  This image is from the marvelous 1980s Canadian TV adaptation starring Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie.  One of my favorite scenes is where Gilbert gives Anne a standing ovation after she recites “The Highwayman.”  He’s always so proud of Anne’s intelligence and her hard work.

2. “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”: Name a book where a character is away from home (school, vacation, etc.).

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Jane, Unlimited is a unique speculative fiction story that relies on a classic premise: an orphan travels to a strange mansion.  Very gothic!  Jane is visiting Tu Reviens, the large and intriguing island home of her friend Kiran, where everything from art theft to alternate dimensions may be happening.  The premise is reminiscent of Jane Eyre as well as Rebecca, but spins off into an interesting type of choose-your-own-adventure story.

 

3. “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”: Name your favorite “little” book (children’s book, short story, novella, etc.).

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Ella Enchanted, a classic middle grade Cinderella tale, is one of the books that inspired my love of fairy tale retellings.  It is on the bookshelf next to my bed, along with 101 Great American Poems, which I think was a gift from my mother about fifteen years ago when I was in high school.  I have read both countless times, and they are great for when I want a quick, satisfying read before bed.

4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: What book(s) do you hope Santa brings you this year?

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I have a lot of books on my wishlist, and my family always gets me lots of books for Christmas.  One I’m really looking forward to is Daemon Voices, a collection of essays by the author of His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman.

5. “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: Which book turned your nose red (made you cry)?

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I scared my husband when I was reading The Book Thief because he looked over to see me silently sobbing with huge tears rolling down my face.  “What’s wrong?!” he said.  Oh nothing, just this book broke my heart into pieces.  What a beautiful, powerful book.  Narrated by Death, it’s the story of a young girl in Nazi Germany who steals books.

6. “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Your favorite book/kind of book to read during the holidays.

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In my Seasonal Reads blog series, I mentioned that I frequently read The Dark is Rising during December.  It’s full of both warm and cozy Christmas cheer as well as ominous Yuletide magic.  I love the whole series, but this one in particular is my favorite.  I also love Christmas cozy mysteries and Regency romances.

7. “We Three Kings”: Your favorite trilogy.

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I’m going classic for this one: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I first read in high school, right when the movies were coming out.  It’s still one of my favorite series.  Trilogies are very standard nowadays, especially for YA fantasy, and I think that can be traced back in part to LOTR.

8. “Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow”: A character you would love to be snowed in with.

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David Suchet as Poirot

If I were snowed in, I would want Hercule Poirot of Agatha Christie’s mystery series to be one of the party.  Because inevitably there would be a murder, and then we could rely on Poirot to solve it!  I’m imagining something like the premise to Christie’s play The Mousetrap, which places a bunch of guests trapped in a manor inn together.  But luckily Poirot would be there to solve the crime before any further murders take place.  Plus Poirot is just a genial guy.

9. “Last Christmas”: A book that seriously let you down.

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Sometimes I hear about YA books that are getting a lot of hype and figure I should check them out.  Spoiler alert: they don’t always live up to the hype.  That’s how I felt about Snow like Ashes and An Ember in the Ashes (maybe I should just avoid books about ashes?).  The first books in the series were fine, but nothing spectacular, and the follow-ups got less interesting so that I didn’t continue on with either series.

10. “White Christmas”: An upcoming release you’re dreaming about.

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Well, I don’t believe that The Winds of Winter will be released next year, and Peace Talks also doesn’t have a release date as far as I know, but there are a bunch of YA fantasy book by favorite authors coming out next, including King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo.  I’m also looking forward to The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders (sci-fi) and A Brightness Long Ago by Guy Gavriel Kay (historical fantasy).

 

Do you guys have favorite Christmas song?  I love all the old carols, especially obscure ones or ones in foreign languages.  And my favorite Christmas album is John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.

Nanowrimo Tag

If it’s November, that means it’s NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.  I love participating in NaNo even though I rarely “win” by writing 50,000 words; it’s just a good excuse to make writing a priority for a month.

This month I’m working toward finishing two drafts I have started, one a YA folklore retelling Ash and Team (read some excerpts here) and one a fantasy adventure The Gladiator and the Goddess that was my first NaNo win.

The tag was created by Seihren the Bookish Witch and I saw it on Darnell’s blog.

1. How many years have you participated in NaNo?

This is my 6th year.  I started in 2013, when I wrote not even 6,000 words.  I finally won in 2016!  I’ve also participated in Camp NaNo during April and July over the years (which I prefer because you have “cabins” and can set your own goals).

2. Are you a planner, pantser, or plantser?

A planner! I outline nearly everything I write, even blog posts. Of course, I don’t know everything ahead of time (there are always twists and surprises in the process), but I usually know what will happen in all the key scenes before I write. For me, the story comes first in my head, and then I interpret it onto the page in writing.

3. If you are a planner/plantser, what are the first story elements that you flesh out?

Whatever plot points happen to have come into my head.  I guess I don’t really do it intentionally at first, I just kind of daydream about the story until I see some scenes and conversations taking shape.

4. NaNo Forums? Do you use them?

Nope. Time spent on the forums is time not spent writing.

5. Writing Buddies? Do you prefer to write socially or alone?

I generally like to be alone but around people; I write in Panera and libraries a lot.  But I find being with other writers does help my productivity.

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6. Do you diligently write 1,667 words a day, or do you write in spurts?

Definitely spurts. I don’t have time to dedicate every day, and I hate having to stop and start.  Once I get going, I want to keep going.

7. Do you have a writing totem?

No, I didn’t know this was a thing. Maybe I’ll get one now!

8. Do you go to kick-off, write-in, or wrap-up parties?

Not typically. I did make an effort two years ago to break out of my comfort zone and attend some write-ins. It was really great for my productivity and word count, so hopefully I can find some near me again this year.

9. When writing, are you an analog (handwritten) or digital writer? Does the same apply to when you’re taking notes or brainstorming?

Almost all digital. Even my notes are in Google Docs files. I just like the ease of editing so much.

10. Share your NaNo username (if you feel comfortable doing so) so that others can connect with you on the NaNo site!

Meimei21 (feel free to add me as a writing buddy)

Anybody else writing this month?  How’s it going so far?  Feel free to participate in this tag!

6th Blogiversary

birthday-cake-cake-birthday-cupcakes-40183.jpegIt’s hard to believe I’ve been blogging for six years this month.  I don’t plan on stopping any time soon!  My blog is never going to be huge and famous, but it is exactly what I intended: a way to practice my writing and express my thoughts on various nerdy topics.  Along the way, it also turned into a way to connect with other nerdy people and have great nerdy discussions.

I thought it would be fun to look back over what I’ve written in six years, so I went through all my blog post and pick my favorite from each year.  These aren’t necessarily the best or most popular posts, just the ones I had the most fun writing or were the most meaningful to me.

Year One

Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon

Honestly, most of what I wrote on this blog in my first year was crap.  I didn’t really know what I was doing, and I didn’t really care about attracting readers; I was just putting words to screen.  And that’s fine, it just doesn’t make for compelling reading.

This is one of the first posts I did that’s actually interesting to read: it gives a bit of original analysis on the manga of Sailor Moon and Cardcaptor Sakura, but with a personal touch.  Plus, it has some images, which immediately makes it more readable.

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Year Two

Fall leaf identification

I love sharing “everyday” science, and what is more everyday than leaves?  If I had unlimited time and coding skills, I would write an app to let people identify trees by answering simple questions about its characteristics.  As with most of my favorite posts, I learned some new stuff I hadn’t known before while writing this.  I also really enjoyed taking pictures of the leaves.

Year Three

Birthday Jungle

WP_20150118_18_56_47_ProHere is a post that combines two of my favorite things: zoology and baked goods.  My mom made adorable jungle animal cupcakes for my birthday, so of course I had to go and analyze how similar the cupcake animals were to the real things.  I had fun doing the research, and also eating the cupcakes.

Year Four

My Star Wars pilgrimage: Skellig Michael

After seeing the title of my blog, you will not be surprised that I frequently write about Star Wars topics.  In 2015 I took a trip to Ireland with my mother, and one of the highlights was visiting Skellig Michael, which is the setting for Ahch-to, the rugged island where Luke is hiding out in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi.  I even got to meet the real-life porgs (the puffins that inhabit the island by the hundreds).

But the journey to Skellig Michael was not easy; this post chronicles my personal experience of the visit.  It was special to me in many ways, and hence the post is special to me, too.

Year Five

Ok, I couldn’t pick just one favorite from this year, so we have two:

Fan Art Friday: More Star Wars Coloring Book!

This post has one of my favorite coloring book pictures I’ve done, a kind of art nouveau Leia on Tattooine.  But even more importantly, this is also the post that gave birth to the monthly Fan Art Friday that I share with Kiri at Star Wars Anonymous.  Every month we color the same picture in our Star Wars coloring book and compare our results.  Over a year and half later and we’re still going; it’s so much fun!

The Lunar Chronicles/Sailor Senshi team

This post occupied my brain at work for days while I was writing it.  It combines two wonderful franchises: The Lunar Chronicles (beginning with Cinder) by Marissa Meyer, and the anime/manga Sailor Moon that helped inspire it.  I had started to see some similarities in the cast of characters, and once my brain got a hold of that it wouldn’t let go until I had matched all the Lunar girls up with their anime counterparts.  I also really like the look of this post, with all the fun images of the Sailor Senshi.

Year Six

My Top 5 Versions of Cinderella

Fairy tale retellings are another of my obsessions, and this year I did posts with my favorite versions of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella.  These posts were super fun to write because I got to talk about some of my favorite books and movies, both popular and lesser known.  I also got great interaction from the blogging community with some likes and comments which is always great.  To me, that’s definitely one sign of a great post!

Which year’s is your favorite?  Here’s to more years of fun blog posts!

Welcome to 2018

Another year has come and gone here on the blog, and it was a big one for me personally as I was pregnant for most of the year and then had my first kid just in time for Thanksgiving.  Being a new mom has definitely been a big change, and I’m still not sure what it means for my blog except that I’m not able to write as often.  I hope to continue this year with my Weekly Photo Challenges and participating in the bimonthly GeekyNerdy Book Club and the monthly Star Wars coloring book Fan Art Friday.  Apart from that I hope to do a “real” post every week or two.

The topics I want to cover this year include more book reviews of all kinds, video games, and a few brief science literacy topics.  Also I’m watching a lot of TV and Netflix right now (thanks, kid), so you might see some of that here, too.  Of course, I will always have various Star Wars topics.  What would you guys like to read about this year?

In 2017, I had 14,255 views from 9,735 visitors, which is down a bit from the previous year, but I also didn’t post as much.  I did have 604 comments which is a few more than the previous year, so I’m glad I was able to still have a high level of engagement with visitors.  Here are some of the posts that drew people to the site.

Top Posts from 2017

  1. Hello, I’m an #ActualLivingScientist (AMA)
  2. Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadow
  3. My Top 5 Versions of Beauty and the Beast
  4. Weekly Photo Challenge: Satisfaction
  5. Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise

Most visited posts during 2017

  1. There is no hot air balloon in Around the World in Eighty Days
  2. We all got a chicken-duck-woman-thing waiting for us: Star Wars Bad Lip Reading
  3. Famous Introvert-Extrovert Pairs
  4. The chemistry of Payday 2
  5. More Star Wars Bad Lip Reading

My year end posts were:

  1. 2017 Reading Review
  2. My Favorite K-pop videos of 2017

In 2017 I got hits from 126 countries, including such gems as Gibraltar, Myanmar, Greenland, Kyrgyzstan, and Syria.

No surprise that my top 5 countries were:

  1. United States
  2. United Kingdom
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. India

Best wishes to everyone in the new year!  What are you looking forward to in 2018?