Tuesday, February 21, 2017

WEEKLY WANDERINGS: Random Thoughts & Links to Love

What a year 2017 has been!  I feel like it started out on a poor foot when my favorite comb of more than a decade broke in half.  And, things have only seemed to multiply from there.  Thankfully, little things have popped up here and there that help brighten the mood, put a smile on my face, and lighten that load that seems to be bearing down on my shoulders.  Today alone I received two pieces of good news, and I'm almost feeling a bit giddy.  Hooray!

I thought I would share just a few bookish links and thoughts that I have enjoyed over the last week.  I hope that they will bring a little laugh or light into your day!

ICYMI:  I will be hosting a readalong of The Underground Railroad by Colton Whitehead over at Book Bloggers International during the month of March.  Today, I noticed over at Book Riot that you can get a free streaming audiobook of our selection, but it is only for a limited time!  Check it out, and join us!

A fellow book friend posted in one of my online book clubs this crazy picture that is blowing my mind.  It's not a public group, so I can't link to it, and I'm not sure who to give credit to on this picture.  (If you do, let me know and I will update with credit information.)  On the left is Emma Watson (Hermoine) and on the right, Helena Bonham Carter (Bellatrix).  Crazy, right?!

I always enjoy reading little facts behind a good book, especially children's books.  I already knew a couple of these (i.e., Curious George), but that doesn't stop me from reading them every time I see them.

I have always loved to read, but seeing more and more studies released that indicate the benefits of reading makes my little bookish heart happy, especially when they point to creating more empathy and simply being human.

I will leave you with these quick little links for now.

Which did you enjoy the most?  Any links that you want to share with me that I may have missed lately?

Friday, February 17, 2017

BOOK REVIEW: Introvert Doodles by Maureen "Marzi" Wilson

"Whoever said there's strength in numbers lied."
Maureen "Marzi" Wilson is an introvert who found herself on a mission to better understand herself.  She turned to her own talents of writing and drawing to set out on this journey and discovered along the way that there was a world of introverts quietly living among her.  When she began to share her art, this quiet audience began to shout understanding and her little book Introvert Doodles hit the shelves.

I have sometimes seen some of Wilson's comics floating around the internet, and found myself silently chuckling in agreement.  I had no idea that there was a whole book of doodles.  That is, until Stacy from Stacy's Books sent me a copy in my little Secret Santa gift this last December, and now I cannot thank her enough.

Introvert Doodles is a book I will set on my coffee table or end table to visit whenever I need a little laugh, or when I need a little reassurance that I am not alone in this very extroverted world.  Because sometimes being an introvert can feel lonely and overwhelming, especially for one who works with people all day every day.  And, because sitting with a book at the end of the day, a book that you can relate to and makes you laugh, is just the right medicine for an introvert's soul.  Introvert Doodles is like comfort food.

I want to share a quick nibble of this comfort food with you.

There is more where that comes from; a feast really.  You can find this one and many more at the devoted Introvert Doodles website.

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  Have you been exposed to Wilson's doodles?  Can you relate?

Thursday, February 16, 2017

BOOK CHAT: So, This Exciting Thing Happened!

So, I recently had something very exciting happen, and it has been in the works for quite a while.  Why have I waited so long to share the news?  Because I simply had a hard time believing that this was happening to me!  However, the final result is here and I am so excited to share it with you!

In the little city that I live in, we have a free magazine that our local newspaper releases about every other month.  It's called What Women Want.  I had not previously heard of this magazine until recently, but I am so excited about it!  And, I am even more excited because I was recently featured in it!

Here I am featured so nicely on the index page!  I was so surprised to see such a large picture!

Back in the fall, I was approached by a local author that I met through a writing group at the library.  She wanted to chat more about this little blog that I mentioned in passing, and that little chat turned into a little interview to be featured at a future date for this little magazine.  At first, I was a bit hesitant, but then I thought . . . "Why not?"  This could be a fun opportunity!

We spoke over the phone for the interview, and it was so fun to share about this project of mine that I have had going for almost ten years.  I loved chatting about the side projects that blogging has created for me, and as usual, I loved chatting about my love of all things books.

At the end of the interview, this writer mentioned that I would be contacted for a picture to be included with the piece.  I had no idea what this would entail!  A local photographer arranged to stop by my home to take pictures of me in my natural blogging setting.  Before he arrived, I was so nervous!  I prefer to be on the other side of the camera and not the one having pictures taken of me.  I had had a long day at work, and was rushing to get home in time.  I was running around at the last minute picking up items, and trying to ensure all would be ready for this little shoot.  The photographer was here for an hour, taking pictures in different places and poses.  I was sure that he was going to walk away disappointed in his subject, and unable to make the shots work.  I was wrong!  I ended up very pleased with the photos, and I hope to get some copies of them to officially use here on the blog as well as to support a local literacy program.

In the end, I was so pleased with the piece and the pictures, and the local response has been fun.  I received texts on the morning the magazine was released, and I was pleasantly surprised to receive such kind words.  I have had so many others approach me, expressing excitement to find a fellow book lover and to compliment me on the piece.  I feel so grateful that I was provided this opportunity, and that my community has responded so positively to my little dual life that I lead.  All of these little steps turned into a big beauty in my eyes!

Huge thanks to Jenny Kunka for the interview of a lifetime and to Rion Sanders for creating such great photos from this crazy small-time blogger!  I cannot tell them enough how much I appreciate their talents and hard work!

For those interested, you can view the full article on the Great Falls Tribune website.

Have you ever been featured for your blog?  Or, have you recently discovered my little corner of the blogging world because of this piece?

Monday, February 13, 2017

WEEKLY WANDERINGS: Currently Reading . . .

The last week has been crazy, and I have not been able to read as much as I would like because of nightly activities, traveling for meetings, and just trying to get caught up on things around the house.  However, that has not seemed to stop me from picking up more and more books.  My stack of books that I am currently reading has gotten a little out of hand . . . once again!  Let's take a look at this ridiculous list.
  1. As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #7):  I'm listening to this one on audio, and sadly it expires tomorrow and I'm only halfway through it.  I'm hoping I can just get it back immediately, but just in case, I've got another book as a backup.  Audio is my one thing I can get to every day because I listen to it while driving to and from work, cleaning the house, and running errands.
  2. Born a Crime by Trevor Noah:  I'm reading this one with Book Bloggers International this month.  I'm supposed to be through all of Part I by now, but I'm a bit behind.  It will be this book that I will be taking to bed with me tonight.
  3. Jacky Ha-Ha by James Patterson:  I am reading this book as part of a book group with some of my students at school.  It's an easy read, and I'm all caught up on my reading for this one.  It will likely be an easy book to read ahead in, so I'm trying really hard to just stick with our reading assignments and be a good role model!
  4. Fostering Resilient Learners by Kristen Souers:  I'm reading this book for a book study for work with my staff.  I'm actually ahead of the reading schedule for this one, but I really just want to finish the book.  It's an easy read, and one that I am enjoying very much.
  5. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood:  I originally listened to this book a few years ago on audiobook, and it left me with a rock in the pit of my stomach.  I enjoyed it, but it really made me think, and I felt that the dramatic version that I chose to listen to affected my opinion of the book.  This time I am reading it for the #resistance readalong with Michelle of Gather Together and Read.  I am only just starting it, so am already behind in the discussion that starts tomorrow!  Yikes!
  6. 1984 by George Orwell:  For some reason, I did not feel that I had enough books on my stack for the month.  So, I picked up a copy of this one at the library last week and ended up joining a readalong for this one with some Instagram friends.  I am not far into it, but I feel like it will be a quick read once I have a few moments to sit down and read.
  7. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling:  I am reading this book with my children and we are slowing approaching the halfway mark.  My kids are really digging this book, and are hoping to convince me to watch the movie (up to the point we have read, of course!) this weekend.  They will likely get their way!
  8. The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog by Bruce D. Perry:  I am reading this one for another book study for work, but this time with the counselors in the district.  It is not an easy read, and I am taking it pretty slow simply because of the content.  Honestly, I'm a bit behind in the reading, but I hope to get caught up before our next monthly meeting.
  9. The Complete Sherlock Holmes, Volume I by Arthur Conan Doyle:  I picked this one up last October for Operation #ReadSherlock (which will be returning in 2017!!), and continue to work on the stories that I didn't get to read.  It's a great book, so I tend to savor the stories when I have more time.
  10. The Brothers Grimm:  101 Fairy Tales by The Brothers Grimm:  I love fairy tales, and I love to revisit them.  I have this book sitting on the nightstand for those nights where I don't have much attention for more than 2-5 pages at a time.  I'm probably about halfway through it.

Ten books!!  I think this is the most books that I have had going at one time, and now that I look at this long list, I realize just how horrible my problem has become!  With this realization, I'm going offline as soon as I publish this and going to bed with a book . . . or two.  Maybe I can make a dent in a couple of these books this week!

What are you currently reading?  Do you tend to be between the pages of more than one book at a time?  Or, do you tend to be more of a monogamous reader?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

FLASHBACK REVIEW: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The perks of renovating my home is that I have had things packed away, and when a room is done, I get to unpack and discover all sorts of items that I have forgotten that I have.  One of these things is a pile of my notebooks that I frequently write book reviews in once I have finished the story.  This is one of those reviews, written approximately May 2015.  I found it particularly interesting considering our modern current events almost two years later.


Way back in high school, I was required to read Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird.  Most kids were probably required to in the United States because it captured a piece of our history that defines our present day.  With the announcement of its sequel, Go Set a Watchman, combined with numerous current events, I thought it was time to revisit this classic.

For those of you who may be living an isolated life and are not familiar with the story, To Kill a Mockingbird captures an unforgettable trial of a white lawyer defending an African-American man charged with the rape of a white girl.  The lawyer is none other than Atticus Finch and we (the reader) learn of his story through the innocent eyes of his young daughter, Scout.

I remember this book being one of my favorite required reads in high school, but those were honestly few and far between.  This time around, I found myself not only enjoying the story, but appreciating its poignancy.  The importance of this story, the relations among races, was crucial at the time of its release.  Its message is just as significant today.

This re-read has made me very excited to revisit some of the much beloved characters in Lee's sequel.  More importantly, it has reminded me to not only tolerate differences, but to appreciate them.  Afterall, "Atticus was right.  One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them."  (p. 321)  Atticus cannot be more right, and I look forward to walking around in other's shoes.

I will leave you with one of my all-time favorite quotes, courtesy of Scout . . . 
"Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read.  One does not love breathing." (p, 20)

Scout appears to be following in Atticus's shoes, and I look forward to seeing what I will discover about her in Go Set a Watchman.  (UPDATE:  I still have not read this book, but am determined to make 2017 the year to.  Please do not share any spoilers!)

What are your thoughts on Lee's classic?  Have you found yourself appreciating it more on a re-read?  Do you intend to read, or have you read the sequel?

Monday, February 6, 2017

BOOK CHAT: January 2017 in Review

The first month of 2017 has come to a close, and it is time to reflect on how it went.  Let's start with the book details . . .

The TOP POSTS for the month were twofold, as is usually the case.  The post with the largest number of hits was GIVEAWAY ALERT:  Hinges of Broams Eld by Jennifer Cano.  That giveaway has officially closed and the books are on their way!  The top post with the largest number of comments was #ONEWORD 2017:  Going Practical.  This made me a bit excited because I am really pumped for my one word goal for the year.  I will get more into that shortly.

The TOP PIC for the month was this beauty.  It was my stack of books that I had planned to read in January.  I did not get to all of them, but I did read a good chunk of them.

Speaking of BOOKS READ for the month, here's the full list of books that I completed this month:
  1. Zen in the Art of Writing by Ray Bradbury
  2. Introvert Doodles by Maureen "Marzi" Wilson
  3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  4. Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley (audiobook)
  5. Lumberjanes #1:  Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
  6. Lumberjanes #2:  Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson
  7. Lumberjanes #3:  A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson
  8. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (audiobook)
  9. The Curious Case of the Copper Corpse by Alan Bradley
I count this first month of reading a success!  I can't remember the last time that I read this much in January, and I am so excited to see all those titles read.  Keeping my fingers crossed that I have another great month of reading in February!

As for the month of January, I found it to be quite a stressful one.  I was frequently not feeling well.  I was stressed about what was going on at home, in my community, and around our country.  However, I also found a lot of hope going into FEBRUARY.  I have had frequent conversations with friends in the last couple of weeks, and I'm so thankful to see many with similar feelings, and passion to keep on keeping on.  With that said, I'm feeling better as I write this, both physically and mentally.  I'm ready to dive back into some more good books for the month and continue to carry on great conversations.  In fact, I will be participating in two different readalongs this month:  Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I will also be enhancing my role in bringing awareness to suicide awareness and prevention, and I'm really looking forward to spending some good time with my family.  Let's do this February!

Last, but not least, I am adding one last piece to my monthly wrap-ups ... my #ONEWORD!  Each month, I want to revisit my one word goal for the year.  I want the opportunity to check in, stay accountable, and share how I am doing each month in working towards my ultimate goal.  My first month into the goal, I am feeling really good.  I have returned to daily journaling.  Most days it is just a few sentences about my thoughts, feelings, or events for the day, but I find that I really look forward to this little reminder about the day.  I have also found that my format is really contributing to my organization.  I have previously kept my writing goals separate from my daily things to do.  By combining the lists, I find that I make my writing more of a priority.  I have also begun writing more for the blog.  Though you have not yet seen it live here on the site, you will soon.  And, I'm hoping that I can cement these habits even more firmly this month, and then begin the fun tasks of all the extra writing that I love to do .... my stories and maybe a freelance piece here and there!

I think that is enough for this month!  I wish you all the best in reading and life in February!  

How was your January?  Did you have a good reading month?  How did you feel the first month of the year set the stage for you in 2017?

Monday, January 30, 2017

WEEKLY WANDERINGS: Giveaway Winners & Readathon Wrap-up

Another week has gone by and it's time to wrap up another readathon.  Thanks to all these great readathons this month, I have started out the year on a great reading foot.  I might even be able to finish one more before the month comes to a close.   However, before I get into the final details of the readathon, I must first give a shout-out to my latest giveaway winners!

Congratulations goes out to the following people for winning a copy of Hinges of Broams Eld by Jennifer Cano!






I hope you all enjoy the book as much as I did!  For those who missed it, you can view my thoughts on the book here.  I must say that I am looking more and more to the sequel coming out, the more I think of this book!

And now, time to chat about that readathon that just wrapped up.  Over the last two weeks, I participated in the Winter's Respite Readathon hosted by Michelle of Seasons of Reading.  It was very much a low key event that I frequently found myself forgetting that I was even participating in it.  But then I would remember so that I could help keep track of my stats, so that I can share them with all of you.

Total Minutes Listened:  10 hours, 6 minutes
Total Pages Read:  573
Total Books Completed:  5

Books Completed
  1. Speaking From Among the Bones by Alan Bradley
  2. Lumberjanes #1:  Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
  3. Lumberjanes #2:  Friendship to the Max by Noelle Stevenson
  4. Lumberjanes #3:  A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson
  5. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley
I also worked on a couple of other books along the way, and I guess we will see if I can get them finished in the next couple of days.  Overall, I count this readathon quite a success.

What's next on the agenda?  No more readathons for a little while at least, but I am participating in some readalongs.  Book Bloggers International will be reading Born a Crime by Trevor Noah, and hosted by my blog partner, Tasha.  Michelle of Gather Together and Read is hosting a readathon of The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood as well in February that I am hoping to jump in on.  I've been wanting to re-read this one for a while, and there is no better time than the present!

Did you participate in the readathon?  Want to participate in either of the readalongs with me in February?

Monday, January 23, 2017

WEEKLY WANDERINGS: #24in48 Readathon Wrap-up

It's time for the start of another week!  Mondays always prove to be hard for me, but I made it through a long day and am about ready to fall into a bath and bed with a good book.  But first, I wanted to take a few minutes to share the results of my #24in48 Readathon results from this past weekend.

I did not go into the weekend with huge goals.  I just wanted to read as much as I could.  In the end, I ended up with a number not even close to 24 hours, but I did get in some good audio time while I did some major cleaning around my house.  I think next time around, I will be tackling this one in a much different way.  Here are the official numbers . . .

Total Hours Read:  480 minutes = 8 hours

Total Audio Hours Listened:  306 minutes = 5 hours, 6 minutes

Total Pages Read:  118 pages

Obviously, I had better time with the audiobooks than the physical ones over the weekend.  Though, some of this time involved reading newspapers and magazines to my Grandmother, and I did not include those pages in my total number.  I did not finish any books, but I am very close on all the books that I dabbled in over the weekend.  For those interested, here's the list . . .
  1. The Dead in Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley (Flavia de Luce #6) -- audiobook
  2. The Brothers Grimm:  101 Fairy Tales 
  3. Lumberjanes #1:  Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson
  4. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling (with the kids)

What's next?  I'm going to keep on reading because I'm still in the middle of the Winter's Respite Readathon hosted by Michelle of Seasons of Reading.  So, I'm off to do just that!  

Did you participate in the #24in48 Readathon?  Are you currently participating in the Winter's Respite Readathon?  How did you do, or how are you doing?

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

#ONEWORD 2017: Going Practical!

Every new year, I like to set goals for myself, something for myself to work on throughout the year.  The last four years, I have gone big with one little word:  Reflect (2016), Persevere (2015), Resolution (2014), and Discover (2013).  Each of those one little words packed a real punch, and I had large goals that were associated with each one of them.  A couple of those years, I felt that I was successful.  In others, not so much.  As for the most recent one, reflection, I honestly could not even tell you what the goal was.  I forgot about it with all that occurred this last year, and I really lost sight of the big picture.  And, that is why I am changing things up this year.

In 2017, I have decided to go big with a smaller, more practical word:  WRITE!  I know that this sounds a bit crazy to just have the goal of writing for the year, but I believe this could really branch out and effect so many other aspects of my life.  Because . . .

When I write ... it's cathartic.  I am better able to process everything around me.  I am able to vent and heal.  It's a release for me in so many different ways, which in turn puts me in a better mental state for my family and my work.

When I write ... it's developing.  The more I write, the better writer I become. I have been writing in one form or another most of my life.  It started out as a hobby offline and turned into a hobby online where I met a ton of great like-minded friends.  From there, it even took me into the realm of freelance writing, and I now find myself attempting to write a novel.  I love growing in my writing, and because of it, growing as an individual.

When I write ... it's reflective.  Journaling has proven to set down memories in stone, sometimes memories that I thought were lost, or the past that would have been lost if not recorded.  I love those stories, the real stories of real people, whether it is my own or someone close to me.  I like to look back on those memories and feelings of the past, and I want to continue to do so in a more thorough way.

When I write ... it's fun.  I find that I have so many thoughts and images and what if's running through my head, and it allows me time to explore both realistic and fictional worlds.

For all of those reasons above, my goal for the year is to write as much as I can.  This may be every day during some weeks or 3-4 times in other weeks, but the point is to get back in the habit of writing on a regular basis.  The writing may consist of journaling, blogging, or any other form of writing, from getting back into the freelance world to writing a short story or two or working on my novel.  In addition, I hope to share that progress right here on the blog to check in on my progress because this year I need to hold myself more accountable.

As of today, I can tell you that I have been making writing a priority in this new year, and I have already been developing that habit.  Sometimes, my writing consists of 15 minutes here and there.  Other times, I get to sit down and write for longer.  I am starting small, and hope to build on my writing time every day until the end of the year.

WRITE.  It's seems simple and practical enough, but as I wrap up my thoughts on my one word goal for the year, I feel that it packs a punch just like all of my past year's words.  However, it also feels like something that I can more efficiently measure, and I hope is much more tangible by the end of the year.  And, I can't wait to see what that year will look like!

What are your goals for the year?  Do you choose one word to live by or do you do something different? 

Friday, January 13, 2017

BOOK CHAT: The Best of 2016

We are almost half-way through January, so it is time to get the rest of these annual year-end posts shared with all of you.  I still have one more that I want to get posted, so that will likely come early next week.  This is one of my favorites to share every year, but it is also one that takes some time to prepare because I have to go back and look at all the details of the books and the blog.  In the end, it is completely worth the fun to see the end result.  It's a little reminiscing about the best of the year, and it's a help to me in planning for the new year. With that, let's take a look, starting with the favorite blog posts from the year.


There are two different categories for the favorite blog posts:  the number of comments and the number of hits.  I decided not to break it down evenly this year, but in the end it still adds up to ten.  That's all that matters.  Each of these lists are ranked, starting with the highest comments/hits.

  1. #BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week):  Books = Me
  2. #BBAW (Book Blogger Appreciation Week):  A Conversation Between Two Bloggers
  3. Spring 2016 Bloggiesta
  4. Announcing the #SchoolsOutRAT (School's Out Readathon)

  1. Hinges of Broams Eld by Jennifer Cano
  2. Interview With Sara Dobie Bauer, Author of BITE SOMEBODY
  3. #30Authors Presents Sara Dobie Bauer on The Book Thief
  4. Announcing the #SchoolsOutRAT (School's Out Readathon)
  5. Author Jamie Ford Shares His Favorites
  6. Operation #ReadSherlock Guest:  The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes

I was so excited to see many of these posts on the top list, especially a book review that I feel needs a bit more love.  I also hope to be participating in all those events highlighted, especially the two that I hosted myself:  #SchoolsOutRAT and Operation #ReadSherlock!


I'm sticking with the easy route on the pics for the year, just like I did last year, and am using #2016bestnine.  This is an app that pulls your most liked pictures from Instagram for the year, and creates a nice little collage.  I've included the stats with the picture for some additional fun information.


I have saved the best for last:  my favorite reads of the year!  Before I dive into the list of books, let's look at the stats.  I read a total of 59 books, a significant decrease from previous years.  The total number of pages read was approximately 18,500.  Now, for the favorites of those numbers . . . 

This first collage features my reads that I ranked the highest on Goodreads after reading each one.  At the end of the year as I reviewed those ratings, I definitely agree that each of these books were standouts for the year.

Listed in no particular order:
  1. The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
  2. The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
  3. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by John Tiffany, Jack Thorne, and J.K. Rowling
  4. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian
  5. The Girls With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
  6. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
However, I still believe that there are a number of books that did not make the list that should have, so that's where these last four books come into play.  Because they stand as my favorites at the end of the year because I'm still thinking about them.

Again, listed in no particular order:
  1. The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
  2. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  3. Bite Somebody by Sara Dobie Bauer
  4. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
If I had to absolutely narrow down my favorite read of the year to just one, I honestly could not do it.  But, I could narrow it down to two, and both of them are new (or at least new-to-me) authors. I can't wait to read more!!

Even if I didn't get to read as much as I would have liked during 2016, I did read a lot of good books throughout the year.  Here's to another great year in reading and blogging, preferably even better, in 2017!

What are some of your favorites from 2016?