Last week I wrote about my 2022 reading challenge. I admitted that I have 112 unread books sitting right here on my bookcase that I have not read. And that I self-imposed a book buying ban until I get to under 20 TBRs.
Well, I might have maybe, just slightly underestimated how many TBRs I really have. My underestimation maybe, might have been just a wee bit off by nearly 50%.
A few days ago I posted me opening the Inaugural Men Read Romance Subscription Box. The box, with the theme Celebrate Romance, included 4 books. I just finished the fourth book tonight, and thought I’d celebrate romance with quick reviews of the 4 books.
It’s double post day! After too many months without posting, I’m going all out today.
As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been on a romance reading kick this year. Because who hasn’t needed some happily ever after in the past year and a half? And when I found Lyssa Kay Adams’s website and her Men Read Romance subscription box, well, I had to sign up.
And being relatively new to the romance genre, I also ordered her Men Read Romance Starter Kit.
Well, the starter kit arrived TODAY! And I did a video unboxing.
Overall, I’m super happy with this Men Read Romance Starter Kit. First, it came with 5 books, 4 of which I have not read yet. So I know what I’ll be doing this weekend!
Do you read romance? Why or why not? If you do, who are your favorite romance authors? Share in the comments below!
On New Year’s weekend, I binged a little show called The Bridgertons on Netflix. (Thank you Shondaland!) When I realized the show was based on a book series by Julia Quinn, I immediately opened my Libby app and checked out the first of the (audio)books, The Duke and I. (This is the book the first season of The Bridgertons is based on.)
I became immediately hooked obessed with reading regency romances.
But like any good obsession, it spiraled and soon I was reading all sorts of romance—Scottish highlands, western, contemporary, sports, comedy.
Out of the 93 books I’ve read so far this year, 65 fall in the romance genre.
I’m sitting here on the cusp of the New Year, looking back over the last 12 months. And what a year was 2020.
And in looking back, I decided to list my Top 20 of 2020 broken down into Top 5s in 4 categories.
1-5 — Top 5 Books I Read in 2020
I had a stellar reading year. I read 235 books. Yes, some of these were rereads, but I always have some rereads. I always have a hard time choosing any fave, but I highly recommend these 5 (in no particular order).
The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune – a young adult urban fantasy about a group of orphaned magical youth and their case worker. I found this story so enchanting and whimsical with beautiful prose. The book has great character development, wonderful world-building, and imaginative characters. I fell in love with each and every one of the orphans. And as lovely and wonderful as the story is, this story is also a timely read. Because this is a story about being different, about living authentically, about fighting prejudices and stereotypes, and about changing the system by changing the minds of one person at a time. This is a story that asks tough questions. That demands us to question our preconceived notions. That examines what it means to be a family, to be our authentic self, to be alive instead of just living. This is a story to be read and reread. To be cherished. And to be shared.
Becoming by Michelle Obama – I always liked Michelle Obama. Now I even respect her even more. What an amazing and inspiring story. I listened to the audiobook while following along with the physical book. I loved hearing Michelle read her own story. I particularly enjoyed hearing about her early life growing up on the South Side of Chicago. I understand her desire to not be in politics, but I think she would make a great political leader. And then I recommend following up with the Netflix documentary about her book tour.
Claire lived by the firm moral philosophy that one could never have too many pockets, too many books, or too much tea.
The idea that unwritten stories exist in their own library that’s in hell, but not completely a part of hell. And that librarians are normally deceased mortals who once were these unwritten stories authors. So imaginative with fantastic world-building and character building. I loved it so much I read it in one day. This is truly a book dedicated to stories.
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge – this book provides an eloquent discussion on race and institutional racism in the UK. While it is UK-specific, the broad discussions about racism, structural racism, feminism, and class are applicable anywhere. Ms. Eddo-Lodge clearly did an immense amount of research and is a testament to the book’s truth. This book is an important read and a great resource to start the hard discussions. Racism is a real and persistent problem. And it’s going to take voices like Ms. Eddo-Lodge to help facilitate the tough dialogue to find solutions
The Wolves at the Door by Judith L. Pearson – a nonfiction book that reads like a fiction spy thriller about America’s greatest female spy. She did so much important work during WWII that THREE governments honored her with their highest civilian honors. This was such an incredible read. Not only did she have to overcome the challenges of gender (which funnily enough she faced more after the war), but also disability. Her story is one that should be a must-read.
5-10 — Top 5 Puzzles I Completed in 2020
As an avid jigsaw puzzler, I completed a lot of puzzles this year. I don’t keep track of numbers (haven’t found a puzzle tracking app yet).
The Season Tree by Schmidt Puzzle Rebel Girls by Gibsons Puzzles Waiting for Our Humans by Better Co. Garden Peacock by SunsOut Sleepy Time by Vermont Christmas Co.
October whizzed by and now it’s nearly mid-November. And I haven’t written a blog post in nearly a month.
Where has the fall gone?
I spent October tied up in reading challenges. I participated in a record number of reading challenges and readathons across three platforms—Litsy, Instagram, and Facebook (although I post the majority of my bookish stuff on Litsy).
In October, I finished 45 books! And I blew past my Goodreads annual goal of 182 books. Here’s the breakdown of the 45:
1 one-star that was also a DNF
Yes, 80% of the 45 were audiobooks. Basically, I listened to audiobooks at all times except for when I was at work. I’ve found audiobooks are great because I can do other things, like crafts or puzzles while listening to an audiobook.
The two 5-star reads were The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury, a fun romp through time and space to discover the origins of Halloween, and The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, a middle grade novel about a boy raised in a graveyard. And my favorite thing about Neil Gaiman audiobooks is that Neil himself narrates them. So even though I have physical copies of most of his books, I still love the audiobooks.
In October, I was also organizing and managing a Halloween-themed book swap as well as participating in two other Halloween-themed book swaps. For one of my swaps, I completed this awesome witch-themed cross-stitch and I also made a sign that says “Own your magic,” but of course I forgot to take a photo of it before I mailed it.
I also spent October finally organizing some. I got a new bookcase, which I desperately needed. With the addition of my new bookcase, I finally organized my books and bookish knick-knacks.
The coolest thing about this book case is that the smaller front row of shelves slides. And those small shelves are perfect for knick-knacks.
I love it so much I *might* just have to get another one so I have a matching pair.
So reading, crafting, and organizing took up all of October. And now it’s November. Nearly mid-November. And I haven’t written a blog post in nearly a month. October blew by and now November is whizzing by. Why? Because I’m in the middle of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).
As I mentioned a few posts ago, I have participated in NaNoWriMo every year since 2008. This is my 12th year. And once again, I have fallen firmly in the pantser category despite my good intentions to do some planning. (Pantser, for those not familiar with NaNoWriMo terms, is someone who just starts writing on November 1 with maybe only the vaguest idea. In other words, pantsers write by the seat of their pants.)
I did have good intentions to do some planning in October. I thought I would not only jot some ideas down, but maybe do a tentative outline. But I admit that I did not spend October planning for NaNoWriMo in any way. Seriously, with upteen reading challenges, when would I have had the time anyway?
I did have a sort of story idea back in September. But I went with the new story idea that started nagging me for about a week in mid-October and I’m so glad I did. Of course, I didn’t write the original idea down and now that idea is gone. I hope whomever catches that idea does better with it than I did.
Despite my lack of planning, I did block out 7 pm to 9 pm Monday though Friday and 8 am to 10 am on the weekends to write. By scheduling writing time, I’ve not only made writing a priority, I’ve made it a routine. And my 2020 story, which is tentatively called Ghost Dog, has been flowing out of me as fast as I can write it.
After day 1 went so well, I decided to set a daily word count goal of 2,000 words, which is above the NaNoWriMo daily goal of 1,667 words. So far, I have hit my target 2,000 word count goal within 90 minutes or less. That has averaged out to about 2 chapters a night. Once I hit my target goal and reach a good stopping point (which has been more than 2,000 words), I allow myself to stop early. Like a reward system.
To further motivate me, I keep track of my daily word count. And this year, I have set some personal bests.
In 2017, it took me until November 15 to hit 25,000 words and until November 28 to reach 50,000 words. (See my posted 2017 daily word count here). Although I can’t find my word count by day for 2013 (the other year I “won” NaNoWriMo), I know it took me until the end of the month to hit 50,000 words.
This year, I hit 25,000 words yesterday, November 10. FIVE days before my 2017 record and five days before NaNoWriMo progress chart. (If I was writing 1,667 words per day, I’d be at 18,337 on November 10).
I contribute my success so far to primarily being in a good mental place—I live on a sub-tropical island, which I love; I watch the ocean daily, which is relaxing; I love my job and have a fantastic boss, which is all-around good—and so, despite the challenges of this year, I have relatively low stress levels right now.
And so I’m on track to hit 50,000 words on November 19. I may or may not make that goal, but I will write 50,000 words by the end of the month. And having such a nice word count cushion further eases the stress of writing.
I’m having a great NaNoWriMo season so far.
So make sure to check back at the end of the month for my NaNoWriMo 2020 wrap-up post. I may even share a bit of my rough draft. In the meantime, I’ll update my daily word count on my new NaNoWriMo 2020 word count page.
OMG. Today is October 15. The Ides of October. I just got over that it was October 1 and now here it is mid-month already.
Seriously, I’m about 7 weeks behind. I couldn’t believe when the calendar flipped over to October. At the beginning of the month, I started writing a completely different post. I set that post aside for, I swear, a day or two. Now here it is mid-month and that post is out of date.
So here I am writing a it’s-mid-month-where-has-this-month-gone post instead of the previously started it’s-October-and-I-have-so-many-things-to-get-done.