Category Archives: Books and Reading

Getting Reacquainted With My TBR

One thing about moving – it’s given me the chance to get reacquainted with my TBR stacks.

While I was unpacking my books, I found myself creating three piles from my rather massive TBR stash. The first pile contained the books I really really really wanted to read. I decided to dedicate two book shelves to these books.

The second pile was made up of the books I wanted to read, but didn’t feel like they belonged on the “really really really” bookshelf. These books I stacked in the “someday” pile on the walk-in closet shelf (which is really now just a shelf, as it’s no longer a walk-in closet but my “bedroom”, although I’m still sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor, as I’m waiting until I get all unpacked before I buy my new bed).

The third pile? My reluctant giveaways. These were all ones it would be nice to get around to, but I didn’t have enough commitment to put on my “someday” shelf AND my library has them available in ebook format. So they got put on the ebook wishlist there. Here’s what this pile looks like:


It’s hiding out under my desk at the moment. To the far right, where you can’t see them in the picture, are two stacks of art technique books which I’m hoping to resell at one of the bookstores in the city that buys used books that are in good condition. I also belong to a local Facebook books buy/sell group, so I will post my old TBRs on there first. Whatever doesn’t sell, I’ll donate to the library.

So, having now gone through my TBR with much thought, I’ve been finding myself getting reacquainted with my TBR. There are lots of books on my “really really really” shelf that look like fun:

I’ve even grabbed a book from my “really really really” shelf and started reading it—The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. It’s good, but I had to put it down because the latest Gamache book, The Nature of the Beast, came in from the library so of course I have to get that read before it has to go back.

But it’s been fun getting to know all my TBR books again—there are some treasures in there I had long forgotten!

My RIP X Reading List


Better late than never! So this weekend I decided to sign up for RIP X after quite a few years of thinking, “oh, that sounds like such fun.”  Yes, even though in the past I’ve always sucked at reading challenges – in fact, signing up for a reading challenge pretty much guaranteed I wouldn’t touch a single book that met that particular challenge criteria.

But I’m in the midst of embarking on a new life right now, and I’m determined to stop doing what I’ve always done in order to effect some hopefully awesome changes. Who says enjoying a reading challenge or two can’t be part of my new future, right?

And to make it pretty easy on myself, I’m signing up for the following levels:


Peril the Second: reading two books of any length which fit within the RIP categories (mystery, suspense, thriller, dark fantasy, gothic, horror and supernatural).


Peril of the Short Story: I’ll be (hopefully) reading RIP-related short stories during the challenge period as well.

And now the real fun begins:


Even though I’m only aiming for Peril the Second, I am such a moody reader I always work better if I’m working off a long list of potential reads than otherwise. And then it occurred to me I should also try to use this opportunity to get through some of the books in my TBR, instead of new and exciting titles yet to come my way. So here are the books I might be reading for RIP X, all of which come from my TBR piles:

Pieces and Players by Blue Balliett (middle grade mystery)

Deceptions by Kelley Armstrong (dark fantasy)

The Hanged Man by P.N. Elrod (mystery, dark fantasy)

The Sound of Broken Glass by Deborah Crombie (mystery)

The Shadow Cabinet by Maureen Johnson (supernatural, dark fantasy)

Bag of Bones by Stephen King (horror)

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor (dark fantasy)

Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub (horror)

Anna Dressed In Blood by Kendare Blake (horror)

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson (horror)

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (horror)

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes (mystery, horror)

Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons (horror)

Short story collections:

Dark Screams, volume 1, edited by Brian James Freeman and Richard Chizmar

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror (I have several of these volumes)

The Best Horror of the Year (I have several of these volumes as well)

Year’s Best Weird Fiction, edited by Laird Barron

The Black Lizard Big Book of Locked-Room Mysteries edited by Otto Penzler

The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer

Actually, I have a lot more horror short story collections scattered around the place. Once I start packing my books, I’m sure more of them will surface …

So this is my RIP X reading list! Surely with such a large selection of books, I’ll be able to finish two between now and the end of October, right?

Review: Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman


I haven’t had much of an appetite for reading lately—I’ve got such big changes going on in my life and while decisions have been made, things are still in a transition phase (I’ll write more about that in a later post, once things have settled down) and some days it feels a little like limbo. And when that happens, I feel restless, and when I’m restless I can’t focus. Which means reading hasn’t been tempting me.

But then one day I was pacing aimlessly around the place, and my eyes lit on Book Scavenger, which I had out from the library.

I’d seen it earlier this year on NetGalley, but it was only available for UK reviewers. I’d liked the book’s description so much, I checked my library, found they had it on pre-order and put a hold on it. Then I forgot about it until it came in for me a few weeks ago.

I picked it up and reread the blurb. The plot, which is a mystery, centres around a book-hiding game called Book Scavenger. And it sounds like a really awesome game: you hide books and find others’ hidden books using codes and ciphers—kind of like Book Crossing taken to a whole new—gaming—level.

Reading the blurb, I remembered why I’d put a hold on Book Scavenger in the first place.

A mystery about books. And puzzles. Who can resist this?

I certainly couldn’t. Even in my restless state, I sat down and began reading. And I was hooked right from the start, which begins with the rules of the Book Scavenger game.

Oh, how I wish such a game really did exist! It would be so much fun!

I also loved Emily, who’s so unused to having friends because her parents are on a quest to have 50 homes in 50 states (a theme which they’ve turned into a successful blog of the same name). And James, the puzzle whiz who has affectionately named his cowlick Steve. The mystery is intriguing, the way the two kids are involved is very credible, the stakes are high and the puzzles are sheer fun.

Book Scavenger is like a delightful combination of Ellen Raskin’s The Westing Game, a book I absolutely adore, and Blue Balliett’s wonderful, intelligent arts-related middle grade mysteries (The Wright 3, The Calder Game and Chasing Vermeer)—but with a personality all its own.

I enjoyed Book Scavenger so much, I’m now reading it again with my son.

Meg Cabot’s Royal Wedding


For Princess Mia, the past five years since college graduation have been a whirlwind of activity, what with living in New York City, running her new teen community center, being madly in love, and attending royal engagements. And speaking of engagements. Mia’s gorgeous longtime boyfriend Michael managed to clear both their schedules just long enough for an exotic (and very private) Caribbean island interlude where he popped the question! Of course Mia didn’t need to consult her diary to know that her answer was a royal oui.

But now Mia has a scandal of majestic proportions to contend with: Her grandmother’s leaked “fake” wedding plans to the press that could cause even normally calm Michael to become a runaway groom. Worse, a scheming politico is trying to force Mia’s father from the throne, all because of a royal secret that could leave Genovia without a monarch.  Can Mia prove to everyone—especially herself—that she’s not only ready to wed, but ready to rule as well?

Writing this post feels a little like writing about “some funny things happened on my way to the (book)store”. I’ve always enjoyed Meg Cabot’s books, so when TLC Book Tours asked if I’d like to be a part of the Royal Wedding blog tour, I jumped at the chance. I mean we’re talking Meg Cabot, we’re talking Mia all grown up, we’re talking about the transition of a much-loved YA character into the bright shining world of the New Adult.

How could I  say no?

You know how sometimes you’ve decided to do something, but challenges keep popping up, obstacles that turn what is normally an easy, well-known road—get a book, read it, write about it—into a path fraught with obstacles? That about covers my book encounter with Royal Wedding.

First, I had problems with the courier company getting the book to me. I swear, I think Trish from TLC Book Tours sent Royal Wedding to me at least three, maybe four times. In the end she bought me a copy of the ebook—and then, the next day, the last book she sent actually arrived.

July’s been a busy month for me, but I really wanted to do this blog tour, so when she said she still had some dates available (since my original date had long slipped past), I picked the very last date she had, figuring that would give me time to read the book.

Which, unfortunately, I failed to do. Things just got too busy, with my writing course with Kelley Armstrong, and then with the aftermath, which has added a chunk of fiction writing time to my daily routine. So yes, I am writing this blog post having read only the first few chapters of Royal Wedding.

And last of all (because, of course, these things generally come in threes): My blog tour date was yesterday. I had added the date to Google Calendar—but for some reason, I didn’t get any reminders, which probably means I forgot to set the reminders. But still, at the beginning of this past week, I knew I would be writing this blog post. For Friday, July 31.

Then Thursday (and then Friday) rolled around and I forgot. So yes, I am a day late with this post.

See what I mean?

But I am here now, and ready to tell you more about Royal Wedding. And yes, I’ve only read a few chapters, so you’re probably wondering, what on earth can Belle tell us when she’s only read the first couple of chapters? But if you’re a Princess Diaries fan, I can tell you this: it’s Mia! She’s back! She’s grown up, but at her core, she’s still the same Mia we know and love. Just a little older, with more adult things on her mind.

It’s something each of us can relate to, I think.

I can already see the conflicts that are building up for her, and I’m eager to head deeper into her story—just need to find some time to grab so I can plunge in.

So, obviously this isn’t a review, since one can hardly review a book on the strength of a few chapters read. But if you’ve read and loved the Princess Diaries series, what I can say is this: Royal Wedding gives you the chance to enter Mia’s world again, and while she’s not a young adult anymore, her voice is just as endearing and engaging as always.

[TSS] The #Bookmail Post


It’s #bookmail time! I don’t often get book mail, but I recently won a couple of giveaways, I’m participating in a book tour at the end of the month and a publisher offered me a book I couldn’t resist. So here they are, in no particular order (or rather, in the order I stacked them in, I guess):

royal weddingMeg Cabot is one of my favourite authors, although I haven’t read anything new by her for a long while—years, actually. I’m not sure why. So when Trish from TLC Book Tours asked me if I wanted to participate in the book tour for Royal Wedding I said, “Yes!!” Trish had some shipping issues on her end—I think she tried to send me the book four times. I’m not sure what happened, but fourth time lucky (and I guess there’s a chance I’ll eventually end up with three more copies as they wander my way from wherever they ended up …).

hungry ghosts

The nice folks over at Simon & Schuster Canada emailed me to see if I’d like a copy of Hungry Ghosts, the third book in Peggy Blair’s Inspector Ramirez series. Know what I love about the publicists over at Simon & Schuster Canada? They seem to have a real feel for my reading tastes; they almost always send books my way that I’m really interested in reading.

Inspector Ramirez is a Cuban police inspector, and the stories in each of the books in the series takes place in both Cuba and Canada. I’ve enjoyed the first two books in the series, and I’m really looking forward to reading this third book.

jonathan strange

I won the book of my choice from Book Depository from Andi earlier this year during Dewey’s Readathon. I had SUCH a hard time choosing, which is why I didn’t receive my prize until just recently. I finally opted for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell; it’s been in my to-read stacks for ages. I have it in audio, too, so I’m thinking I might try both reading and listening to this one at the same time.

mapmakers children I was SO excited when Kathy (BermudaOnion) told me I’d won the giveaway on her blog for Sarah McCoy’s The Mapmaker’s Children. I’m friends with Sarah on Facebook and we’ve had some delightful chats on Twitter, but I’ve never actually read one of her books. This one sounds like a lovely read—I’ve been on hold at the library for it for quite a while now, and it will be nice to be able to cancel that hold!

So that’s it for my #bookmail. What books have come into your place recently?

[TSS] Breaking Out of My Reading Slump

I’m so happy to report I’ve broken out of my reading slump!

I tried a variety of things suggested in the comments to my Reading Slump post, including reading short stories and graphic novels. And no, not even Nimona, which I both loved but still haven’t finished, helped.

So I kind of let it go. Stopped fretting about the fact that I couldn’t find any book that could engage me for longer than half an hour.

And then? Book club!

I’m a newbie member of a sci-fi and fantasy book club, the result of me making a bookish friend IRL. The first meeting I’ll be attending is this coming Wednesday. And the book we’ll be discussing?

Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris.


This is one of those whopping big fantasy books, a good 600 plus pages. And on Friday I realized my husband, the former book-reading demon, had already started the book (he’s coming to book club with me) and if I didn’t start reading I might be the only one to show up with the book unread.

So I put aside my upcoming work deadlines yesterday, and plunged in.

I keep forgetting how the best fantasy novels are always page turners, even though they’re often large chunky books with tons of world-building thrown in. Brandon Sanderson’s Elantris is good. I mean, really, really good. I knew this by the end of the second chapter.

I devoured the novel. Last night, at 2:30 a.m. I reluctantly put it down—I’ve been waking up earlier and 2:30 a.m. is now rather late for me. But first thing in the morning? Forget e-mail. Forget all the links and news I like to read on my phone. Forget meditation. I reached for my e-reader and picked up where I’d left off the night before.

I finished the book this afternoon with a deep, satisfied sigh. I’ve heard about Sanderson’s fans asking when he’ll be writing the sequel, and now I know why. I’d LOVE another Elantris novel!

And I’ve now officially busted out of my reading slump. It happened in an unexpected way—I honestly thought I’d be dragging myself through Elantris, trying to get through it before Wednesday night rolled around. Hah! Little did I know.

I’m now on a quest to read more of Brandon Sanderson’s work. And more fantasy, too. The past two years, I’ve mostly been reading mysteries, thrillers and urban fantasies, with the bigger, chunkier fantasies languishing in my TBR, even though I love fantasy novels.

It definitely feels good to be out of that reading slump. And I’ll probably finish Nimona soon, too.

And there’s also the #AtlasRAL over at Book Chatter. I’ve been doing terribly with readalongs the past couple of months, but now that my reading slump is over, I have very high hopes when it comes to my reading!

[TSS] Still in a Reading Slump

Well, I’m still in a reading slump. I’ve been dipping in and out of various books, but nothing’s “clicked” so far. And it’s really frustrating, because I’ve got some pretty interesting books around that I KNOW I’ll want to read once I get out of my slump.

I’ve had some great books come in this past week from both the library and also from a mini online book-buying spree I indulged in earlier in the week, in the hopes of getting the reading mojo flowing.

Here are some of the books I have out from the library right now:


The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison. I read Bernadette’s review and knew I wanted to check this one out.

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill. I read Athira’s review of this one and found myself really intrigued by the unusual format the author uses.

I, Ripper by Stephen Hunter. I didn’t track where I first heard of this book, but it’s a Jack the Ripper novel. Enough said.

The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. I obviously have not perfected my “tracking where I heard about this book” skills, as I don’t have this on my Trello books board either. But it’s about a library that holds the secrets to the universe. Who can resist that? (Well, it appears I can, when I’m in the middle of a reading slump.)

Mislaid by Nell Zink. I do remember why I put this one on hold. I had read an interview with the author somewhere—I thought it was the New York Times but it appears my memory isn’t serving me right. This one’s not my typical read but something about it appealed to me in the moment of reading that interview.

The Year of the Storm by John Mantooth. No idea why I put a hold on this one. But now that I have it, it does look interesting. Just not enough to get me out of my slump.

And here are the books I recently bought:


A Woman of Independent Means by Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey. Because it’s been on my want-to-read list for years. Years.

The Talented Mr. Ripley Omnibus Edition from Everyman’s Library by Patricia Highsmith. Because I’ve been reading Patricia Highsmith’s Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction which is more like a memoir of her writing process. And then I read Care’s post where she mentions how creepy The Talented Mr. Ripley is. I knew I wanted to read it. And I’m a sucker for omnibus editions.

To Sir With Love by E.R. Braithwaite. It wasn’t until I read the review of the book at Olduvai Reads that I even knew there was a book called To Sir with Love. I’ve seen the movie a few times, and I just knew I’d want to have my own copy of the book.

You’d think with this wealth of reading material surrounding me, I’d be out of this reading slump in no time flat, right? But that doesn’t seem to be happening. I WANT to read all of these books, i really do—but not right now.

Do you have any tips for coming out of a reading slump?

Tracking My Monthly Reads with 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?