Category Archives: Books and Reading

Tracking My Monthly Reads with Goodreads

Goodreads

It really isn’t such a big surprise that I’ve been slacking off when it comes to tracking my monthly reads. I have these lovely reading spreadsheets, but they’re not much use unless I’m actually using them!

Last month I started keeping track of my reads by creating a folder for April reads on my  laptop and then saving jpgs of book covers into the folder every once in a while when I was creating a blog post, since I normally talk about my reading so I usually need to download book covers to go with a post.

At the end of the month when I was writing my monthly wrap-up post, I had to spend some time entering everything in that folder into my spreadsheets (I use two because they track different things and I’m not Google spreadsheet-savvy enough to merge the two spreadsheets into one). A bit time-consuming and I’m not looking forward to going through the process again when I write my May wrap-up post.

So it occurred to me the other day that Goodreads might be a better way for me to track my monthly reads. I haven’t exactly been diligent about updating my bookshelves there, but the thing is, the Goodreads iPhone app is easy to use and I’m thinking the increased accessibility will probably make it easier for me to track my monthly reads. I’m thinking about using bookshelves tagged with the month and year, and I can sort other bookshelves (like “audiobooks” and “POV characters and authors”) by date so I can see what my stats are like for each month.

I also decided to see how other people were using Goodreads. This post, Get Organized on Goodreads, gave me some good ideas (like temporarily hiding my activity from my update feed so I don’t flood my friends’ feeds with all my changes—definitely going to do that when I roll up my sleeves and wade in to get my shelves organized!).

And there was a Bloggiesta mini-challenge on How to Make Goodreads Work for You from The Book Addicts Guide back in 2013! Very interesting read, and I learned something very helpful: in addition to the three “exclusive” shelves Goodreads gives you (Read, To Read, Currently Reading), you can make other exclusive shelves. Not that this has anything to do with tracking my monthly reads, but I’d love to set up an exclusive shelf called “TBR-Books Owned” so I can keep track of what books are on my to-read list that I actually own. That way, I can use the “To Read” shelf as my Wishlist.

I seem to go through phases with Goodreads, sometimes being very diligent about updating my currently reading progress, and sometimes not bothering to even add a current read. My Read shelf should hold so many more books than it currently holds. But it’s definitely an easy way for me to track my monthly reads, so come June, I’m going to get those shelves organized and start tracking my June reads!

How are you using Goodreads right now?

So Tempted

I don’t really have a lot of extra time on my hands these days, not even for reading, but I am so very, very tempted right now … very tempted.

Have you ever seen someone close to you really enjoying a book—enjoying it so much you want to join in on the reading of it?

Last week, my older son Sean said to me, “So, you said you have A Game of Thrones book?”

game of thrones

Why, yes. Yes I do. Along with the next three, as I’d bought a boxed set quite a few years back, before the fifth book in the series was released.

This series has been on my TBR for ages.

Well, Sean blazed through the first book in the series. Then the second book. And now he’s halfway through the third book.

I’ve actually been encouraging him to read them for ages, because he enjoys the series, and I also like to see him reading. I just never thought he’d take me up on it (he’d always say, “No, I want to watch it happen on TV).

I’m not sure what happened to change his mind, but change his mind he did. He’s been staying up until all hours of the night, just devouring these books. I just ordered the fifth book because I’m pretty sure he’ll be finished the fourth by midweek sometime.

When I ask him, “How are you liking it?”, he starts telling me how there’s so much more to the novels than in the series, and how he’s really enjoying all the extra things.

(And yes, I did say a few times, “I told you you’d enjoy it.”)

But now I have a dilemma. I really want to start A Game of Thrones now. But it’s over 800 pages. And book 2 is over 900 pages. And the chunkster status doesn’t let up with books 3, 4 or 5. I mean, A Dance with Dragons is 1152 pages long.

Anyone have some willpower they can lend me?

My Current “In My Bag” Book

I have a little Kobo mini that stores a whole bunch of my ebooks. I keep that in my bag, so I can pull it out when I’m out and about and have some unexpected (or expected) reading time.

But lately I’ve taken to keeping a print book in my bag when I go out, too. Much as I love my various e-readers, I like having a print book with me as well. The Kobo Mini is for those times when I’m bored with the current “in my bag” book and want something different (plus it contains all my Pocket articles, a plus for me because sadly  I don’t have enough room on my iPhone to actually sync my Pocket app with my Pocket account).

Since I’m doing longer hauls on public transit nowadays in order to visit my mom, I’ve been pulling out my print book a lot.

For a while, it was a copy of Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey, because that’s a good book for dipping into every now and then, but my copy is a hardcover and I realized it was making my bag too heavy to shoulder around.

So I replaced it with a paperback copy of Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, a book that’s been in my TBR stacks for a while. I’ve taken to pulling it out on the ride to my mom’s place and back, and it’s just perfect for my new commute.

Good Omens

The best thing about Good Omens? Every few pages it makes me smile. Occasionally a half-strangled laugh slips out. It’s a book that makes me feel good, and that really makes it such a perfect subway book.

Only problem is, the story’s gotten so engrossing, I’ve pulled it out of my bag so I can read it around the house. Which means the next time I head out, I’ll probably forget to slip it into my bag. That’s if I haven’t finished it by then!

Do you keep a paperback with you when you’re out and about? Or do you rely on your e-reader for those times when you have an unexpected wait or travel time?

Reading journal: a novel I can’t put down

It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel I just couldn’t put down (although, life being what it is, I did eventually have to put it down). I love when this happens, though, because it usually means I’ve got a seriously good read going.

 

The Fifth Gospel

I’d picked up Ian Caldwell’s The Fifth Gospel because Caldwell had co-authored The Rule of Four with Dustin Thomason and I remembered quite enjoying The Rule of Four.

Going into it, I hadn’t realized The Fifth Gospel would be one of those books that are tough to put down. I mean, it sounded like it would be good, but lots of good books aren’t necessarily ones you can’t put down.

Here’s the summary:

In 2004, as Pope John Paul II’s reign enters its twilight, a mysterious exhibit is under construction at the Vatican Museums. A week before it is scheduled to open, its curator is murdered at a clandestine meeting on the outskirts of Rome. That same night, a violent break-in rocks the home of the curator’s research partner, Father Alex Andreou, a Greek Catholic priest who lives inside the Vatican with his five-year-old son. When the papal police fail to identify a suspect in either crime, Father Alex, desperate to keep his family safe, undertakes his own investigation. To find the killer he must reconstruct the dead curator’s secret: what the four Christian gospels—and a little-known, true-to-life fifth gospel known as the Diatessaron—reveal about the Church’s most controversial holy relic. But just as he begins to understand the truth about his friend’s death and its consequences for the future of the world’s two largest Christian Churches, Father Alex finds himself hunted down by someone with a vested stake in the exhibit—someone he must outwit to survive.

I’m halfway through, and while I have a busy week coming up, I’m hoping I’ll be able to grab some time to finish it.

And while the title and the synopsis might make you think, “oh, another Da Vinci Code kind of read”, I’m here to say, no, it’s actually not a Da Vinci Code kind of book at all.

I’ll be writing a review of this one, so stay tuned! I just have to finish it first—and even with all my upcoming deadlines, I’m definitely going to find the time to sit down with this one and finish it.

Monthly Wrap-up: April 2015 Reads

I hadn’t thought April was a good reading month for me. My mom broke her hip in the middle of the month and I’ve been running around pretty tired ever since. And when I’m tired, I tend to read less. I certainly didn’t think I spent much time reading—not even for the Readathon, where I managed to read only about 200 pages and didn’t finish a single book.

But when I took at look at my reading spreadsheet I was surprised: I read 13 books in April! It turns out audiobooks were what saved me. I’ve been way too tired to feel like reading much in print, but I listened to a lot of audiobooks, especially the first week after my mom’s accident. She was in a hospital out in the suburbs during that week, which meant an hour and fifteen minute commute there and back for me, and I visited her daily, so that added up to a lot of additional listening time.

Here are the books I read in April (not in chronologically-read order):

April reads 1

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie (audiobook) (reread)

Cat Among the Pigeons by Agatha Christie (audiobook) (reread)

Black Coffee by Agatha Christie (audiobook)

Behind the Curtain by Peter Abrahams (paperback)

 April reads 2

Leader of the Pack by David Rosenfelt (audiobook)

One Dog Night by David Rosenfelt (audiobook)

Dog Tags by David Rosenfelt (audiobook)

Unleashed by David Rosenfelt (audiobook)

April reads 3

Pet Sematary by Stephen King (paperback)

Strong Female Protagonist by Brennan Lee Mulligan and Molly Ostertag (trade paperback) (my review here)

Working Stiff by Judy Melinek and T.J. Mitchell (audiobook)

Motive by Jonathan Kellerman (audiobook)

April reads 4

Lumberjanes, issues 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9, by Noelle Stevenson (counting these as one book)

So altogether, eight audiobooks this month! I’m actually finishing up another audiobook right now, but I’ll probably listen to less audiobooks in May.

How did your reading go in April?

Post-Readathon Thoughts: Notes to myself for my next readathon

The Spring 2015 Readathon has come and gone, and I had a blast. This was my first year participating as a reader as well as a cheerleader; in previous years, I’d cheered, but never read. I have always enjoyed the cheering part of the Readathon, but I’ve decided, now that I’ve actually experienced both reading and cheering, that participating in both is even better.

I had so much fun! And even though I spent a great deal of the day out of the house, I think I kind of made it work. But now that I’ve actually participated as a reader, I have a much better idea how to make my next Readathon experience even better.

Book selection. I did give some thought to picking out the books I might want to read on the big day, but now I know better what kinds of books will work for me during a Readathon, especially if I’m also cheering.

Greenglass House

I started the Readathon with Greenglass House, by Kate Milford. I read 102 pages before I decided to move on to another book, but most of my Readathon time was spent on Greenglass House. I am loving it so far—it’s exactly what I like to read.

It’s the kind of book you want to read slowly, savouring the story as it unfolds before you, absorbing the hint of mystery as you become involved with the different personalities you’re encountering. But for me it’s not the kind of book that stands up well to the distraction of popping onto Twitter every once in a while to cheer on other Readathon participants.

when the bough breaks

I realized this when I ending up whizzing through 52 pages of Jonathan Kellerman’s When the Bough Breaks, the first in the Alex Delaware series. When the Bough Breaks is one of those highly readable thriller-ish mysteries where you’re racing to turn the pages so you can see what happens next. There’s no slow savouring needed here. You read without even realizing you’re holding your breath, as your eyes scan the words as quickly as you can, getting the gist of the story into your mind so you can turn the page for more of the same.

In addition to being a quick read, a page-turning thriller is also much easier to pop in and out of. I found I could tweet some cheers and then go right back to reading.

So my next Readathon? More page-turners.

Adding short stories to the mix. While I had planned to, I didn’t actually end up reading any short stories this time around, but I wish I had. Just so I could have the satisfaction of finishing something! Next time I think I’ll actually select the short stories ahead of time—and pay attention to length while I’m doing so.

Balancing cheering with reading. This is a tough one. Because the bottom line is, cheering on Twitter is FUN! There’s the immediacy of reaching out to someone who’s doing some heavy-duty reading, there’s the pleasure of the occasional short conversations that ensue, there’s that really lovely feeling of meeting and getting to know other readers you never knew before.

So next time, I’m going to time myself when I’m cheering. And when I’m reading. Maybe use the Pomodoro technique. Actually, using the Pomodoro method might work really, really well in terms of balancing cheering with reading.

Resting my eyes. My eyes also seemed to tire more quickly than they normally do when I’m reading. It was a little odd, since I really didn’t read all that much. But I think taking some breaks to rest my eyes would also be a good thing. Maybe I could work that into a modified Pomodoro technique, too.

Not feeling sleepy. I am normally a night owl so I found this bit a little strange. I was feeling sleepy at around 9:00, even though most nights I don’t go to bed until after 1:00 a.m.! Someone on Twitter mentioned walking around while reading, and I think I might give that a try. After all, I do this when I’m talking on the phone for long periods of time, and afterwards I tend to feel charged up with energy rather than tired. It’s worth a shot, right?

Hopefully I’ll be able to take part in the Fall Readathon, both as a reader and a cheerleader (a lot will depend on my work schedule, as it will be my busy season then). And if I can participate, I’ll be sure to come back and read this post!

The unexpected benefits of a reading goal

Readinggoal.jpg

It appears there are unexpected benefits to having a reading goal. This is the first year I’ve actually set a “books read” goal (mine is 96 books) and while having the goal alone is quite motivating, there’ve been some interesting side effects.

I’m slower to DNF. Yes, it’s true. I used to be one of those “I’ll give you ten, okay, maybe 15 pages but that’s about it” readers. Now, though, if I’ve invested the half an hour or whatever it took for me to get through those first fifteen pages, I find I’m reluctant to put down a book unless I’m absolutely sure I’m holding a real stinker. Which doesn’t actually happen very often at all.

I’m still a moody reader, but now my moods are “stickier”. So yes, I still have to be in a a certain type of mood to read a certain type of book. Which means I still get into a mood for mystery, or fantasy, or science fiction or non-fiction or memoir or whatever—but I find myself staying in that mood for longer. Often for long enough to finish whatever book I happen to be reading. And if not (I like to have three or four books on the go at any given time) then it seems like I switch to a mood that’s right for another one of the books I have on the go. Quite handy.

As for that “not in the mood for reading” mood. And so far this year (knock wood) I haven’t encountered the “not in the mood for reading” mood. Which has been very nice indeed (although I’m not so sure I can credit this to my having a reading goal this year. But maybe I can.)

I have a lot more “Incoming!” books. Once upon a time I would semi-regularly post an “Incoming!” post, where I’d list the latest books that crossed the MsBookish threshold. It’s hard to write those posts, though, when you’re only seeing a trickle of new titles every now and then. But now that I’m reading regularly and consistently, I find I’m constantly on the lookout for more books. And when that happens, more books arrive. (Perhaps this is the Avalanche Theory of Reading More?)

I have a lot more to blog about. Reading more books means I have a lot of bookish stuff on my mind, which means I have a lot more bookish ideas for posts. Which is a good thing, since I’m also committing this year to 365 days of blogging.

Have you encountered any of these benefits of having a reading goal?

[TSS] Bookish Bliss: Readalongs

I’m SO glad I’ve discovered how much fun it is to read a book in the company of others. Fun because reading is still a very solitary thing (which I also love) but when you’re doing a readalong, it’s like being able to take a trip down the hall to the office water cooler (aka Twitter, Facebook and blog posts) for a quick chat, but with an added bonus: you certainly won’t be discussing the weather!

I’m joining in on three readalongs this month and next, with a fourth one coming in June. (One of the readalongs, alas, I’m already behind on (as in, just got the book haven’t read a thing yet, and it’s been a go for twelve days already now), so maybe I shouldn’t actually say I’m joining in on that one …)

So, first up:

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle Readalong

windmeup

I’m really really excited about this one—you can read all about it on Jill’s blog. Murakami is top on my list of “authors I want to read but oh my God they’re a bit on the intimidating side aren’t they?” and I’m going to need all the hand-holding I can get. (Strange Library doesn’t really count, because it’s more of a novella, plus it has lots of illustrations so it felt a little like reading a graphic novel or maybe a picture book for grown-ups. Although length probably doesn’t mean anything when it comes to Murakami, now that I think about it, because I’ve also read two Murakami short stories and let me just say, one of them flew right over my head. As in whoosh. I fared a little bit better with the other one.)

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle also made it to the Guardian’s list of “most disturbing novels” and after reading why it made it to the list I know there will definitely be some scenes I’ll be reading with eyes half-closed while quickly turning the pages. Because I’m squirmish like that. (My spell check is telling me that’s not a word and I should be using squeamish but squirmish feels right to me.) I have a feeling Jill is the perfect person to be reading a squirmish novel with …

So do come join us if you’re in the mood for tackling Murakami! It’s an informal readalong that runs from April 15 to May 31, so there’s lots and lots of time to read the book. The hashtag for this one is #windmeup.

And then some science fiction:

The Dune Readalong

Starting April 19, Suey, Jenni and Kami are holding a Dune readalong. I have had Dune, by Frank Herbert, on my to-read list for a very long time now. I can remember when I was a kid seeing my mom read it.

We used to have these weekly reading sessions where my sisters and I would all pile onto her bed with her, each of us with our own book, happily reading together. My mom doesn’t read fiction any more now, but when I was growing up she was a huge mystery, thrillers and SF reader. I grew up with Agatha Christie, John Le Carré, Robert Heinlein and Isaac Asimov scattered all over the house. So I do come by my genre leanings honestly (maybe it’s even hereditary!).

And I had to smile because this cover that Suey posted with the sign-up post:

Dune_Herbert

is the very same cover of the copy of Dune that I remember my mom reading! I love that she picked this cover instead of the one that graces the more modern edition.

There will also be three Twitter chats, which sound like they’ll be fun. The Twitter hashtag for this one is #DuneRAL. If Dune‘s been on your to-read list, too, I hope you’ll join in!

The one I missed (but maybe not):

Cloud Atlas Readalong

This is the one I’ve kind of dropped the ball on—it started back on April 1—but I’m still hoping to start Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell this month, and maybe even join in some of the discussion posts. Cloud Atlas is another one of those “I’m kind of intimated by this” books, although unlike Haruki Murakami, it’s not the author himself I find intimidating, just the book. I know this because I also want to read The Bone Clocks and I’m not intimidated by the idea of reading that one at all.

(Can you all tell, by the way, this is my year for reading outside my comfort zone?)

Hosted by Katie and April, the sign-up post is here, and the Twitter hashtag is #CloudAtlasAlong.

And coming in June …

The Misery readalong, hosted by Care! This is definitely going to be my year for reading Stephen King. I love the guy but I’ve really only read his earlier novels, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

I haven’t read Misery yet so this will be a first-time read for me. Haven’t seen the movie, either, although I always picture Kathy Bates when I think of the movie. It promises to be a fun, informal readalong. The hashtag for this one is #MiseryRAL. And you really need to pop over to Care’s post to see the really scary looking Stephen King picture she’s posted.

Wanting to read more middle grade novels … and A Game of Thrones

I know, I know, two totally different things. But for some reason, they’ve become interconnected in my mind. When I start thinking about what I’d like to start reading more of, I think, middle grade novels! And then for some funny reason, I head straight from there to A Game of Thrones. And then back to middle grade novels again. A very strange but now comfortable cycle.

A few years ago, I bought this from Costco:

Game of Thrones boxed set (Actually, it was the boxed set without A Dance with Dragons …) I was listening to A Game of Thrones in audio at the time, and realized it was going to be too gory for me to continue it in audio (because it’s impossible to listen with your ears half-closed, the way you can skim through the brutal bits with your eyes half-opened). But for some reason I’ve just never gotten back to the series, even though I had been so enthralled by what I’d heard so far in the audiobook. (I’d gotten as far as Bran’s fall.) I say “for some reason” but it’s mostly because I suspect the books are a lot like potato chips—you can’t consume just one or two.

So these books stare at me every day from their place on my TBR shelves. I need to just bite the bullet and start reading them. Amazon tells me, though, that all five books combined total 5,216 pages. That’s a lot of pages. A lot of reading time.

Anyway, swinging back to the whole middle grade novel thing, I really need to start reading more middle grade novels. I used to read them all the time, but in the past few years I haven’t added very many new titles to my TBR.

So to honour this yearning of mine, I recently made a list of middle grade reads to add to my TBR (I know. As if I needed to add more, right?). Here they are, in no particular order:

So that’s my list so far. Do you have any suggestions for good middle grade fantasies or mysteries?