Posts Tagged ‘Goodreads’

For the past three years, I’ve participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. The idea is that you set a goal for yourself to read a certain number of books in a calendar year; you get credit by completing (or finishing) a book that you’ve logged into the online site or phone app.

Participating in the yearly challenge keeps a book in my hand and encourages me to read every day — even if it’s only a chapter. I like the satisfaction of completing the challenges, and being awarded the badges of completion:


Personally, I like Goodreads because it allows me to keep track of the books I’ve read by year (custom “shelves”) as well as keep a thorough “to read” list that I can access whenever I’m online, in a library, in a bookstore, or at a friends’ house. I also like being able to capture my thoughts about each book in a written review… I can always go back and remind myself what I thought about a book before I recommend it to someone with a vague, “I think I liked this one!”

I also like the social aspect of Goodreads (it basically being Facebook for avid readers), although I don’t think I use it to its full capabilities. What about you? Do you like to read, and if so, are you on Goodreads? How do you use the site? Any book recommendations?


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The reader in me

Solitude-SLawIn April 2011, I was browsing through a few favorite shops on Etsy and I stumbled across an ACEO (which stands for “Art Cards Editions and Originals”) by one of my favorite artists, Stephanie Phi-Mun Law. It was entitled simply, Solitude, and featured a woman reclining against a tree on a grassy hillock, reading a book.

This image resonated with me intellectually and emotionally, and I immediately added it to my cart and purchased it before it could be sold to someone else. Framed, it now resides on a small side table in my living room, next to a comfortable reading chair.

Whenever I glance at this tiny piece of art, I’m reminded of how peaceful, exciting and fulfilling it is to sit down with a good book and let its language drown out everything else. There is nothing I love better than to be immersed in a well-told story, whether it be written on a page or brought to me in two-dimensional color on a screen. I am forever in search of the next tale that will transport me to another world, a different place, a time apart from now.

Not only do I keep track of my Paper Vacations here at OneWandering, but I can also be found over at Goodreads, which is where I archive all of my book reviews. Each year, Goodreads holds a Reading Challenge where you set a goal to read a certain number of books within the calendar year.

In 2011, I set a goal for 80 books and completed it! However, somewhere between the web application and the iPhone app, lost in the dregs of the interwebs, one of the entries for a book read in 2011 got amended right before December 31  — it no longer showed that I had completed reading it. I managed to find the errant entry and fix it, but I never received my Reading Challenge badge. (Boo!)

Finishing 80 books definitely stretched me last year… towards the end I was purposefully choosing books that were less than 400 pages and I was reading at work during my lunch breaks. I knew that in 2012 I wanted to tackle the Game of Thrones series, which would entail subjecting myself to five volumes (each with a significant number of pages), so I set my goal a bit lower: 50 books. Like the reclining woman in Solitude, I wanted to give myself enough time to enjoy every page, rather than to race the calendar with a frantic shuffle of real and electronic pages.

This morning over breakfast I read the first few chapters of book number 61: Swan Song by Robert R. McCammon. It’s another “big” book, weighing in at well over 850 pages both in print and on the Kindle. Will I finish it in the next six days so it counts toward my 2012 challenge? I probably won’t even attempt it. 60 is a perfectly respectable number, and I’ve managed to beat my goal by 10 books as well as earn my 2012 Reading Challenge badge.

Now, what goal to set for 2013?!

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Hello SEPTEMBER. Where the eff did you come from?

Are you on Goodreads? If you like love to read, consider signing up for a free account. We can be friends (here I am!), and that’s where I’m posting all of my book reviews and ratings.

Recently I read What Alice Forgot, a book where one of the characters falls off of her spin bike, gets a nasty bump on the head, and when she wakes up everyone realizes that she can’t remember the past 10 years of her life. One of Alice’s observations is that everyone wants to know how you’re doing when you’re “not well,” but no one really wants to hear the long, drawn out saga of how you’re really feeling. They simply want to know that you’re doing better. But to the person who is unwell, that state of not feeling good (or memory loss, or failed IVF) sort of eclipses everything else.

I came up with a lot of snarky examples of my inner-thought responses to things that people have been excited about over the past two months, but decided not to go there. Basically, if you’re a chipper person I’ve sort-of dreaded observing the juxtaposition of your personality against mine these past 60 days. I’m annoyed with my body for reacting in a such a way as to derail my plans, knock my ability to enjoy off the edge of a steep cliff, leave me dizzy yet not breathless, and basically drive me bat-shit crazy with boredom and some steroid-driven anxiety.

On one hand, I know that people are curious as to what the hell is going on with me. On the other hand, what people really want to hear is that I’m doing better. Well, I am doing better. I think. Can I get back to you on that one?

In an attempt to be more succinct, I’m going to rock a list. Here goes:

  1. In August, my ENT determined that I needed to be on prednisone. A second 12-day regimen was supposed to get me to/from Portland, Oregon (a trip already planned with friends before the crazy mold incident). Let’s just say it got me through. But the two flights to get there caused my Eustachian tubes to swell, my ears weren’t back to normal before we flew home, and I didn’t have enough steriods left after we got back to fix what was going on.
  2. Another trip to the ENT revealed that the pressure inside my inner ear was better, but still not normal. I was told it could take 6-8 more weeks for my ear pressure to stabilize. GAH!
  3. Meanwhile, I’m hyper-sensitive to all of my allergies and for the first time I am noting additional physical reactions to match exposure to allergens (itchy arms, irritated eyes, sneezing). Things I will not do ever again include composting and walking through antique stores.
  4. I met with a local allergist, who tested me for everything I wasn’t allergic to in 2010 and discovered that I’m allergic to it all now, with the exception of dogs. Since I refuse to trade in Miss Kitty for a hypoallergenic something-poo/-oodle, I start allergy shots tomorrow.
  5. Dust mites are one of my environmental allergies, so I went out and bought a dust mite cover for my mattress and pillows. It’s basically a giant zippered bag that keeps the mites that are already inside your mattress and pillows IN, and once a week I’ll have to wash all of my bedding in hot water and vacuum off the dust mite cover to remove any new critters. Charming.
  6. I bought an air purifier for my bedroom, and two new HEPA filters for my vacuum cleaner. Boy does it sure suck now! (har har)
  7. Finally, I took advantage of a Labor Day 20% off sale and bought enough laminate flooring (314 sq. ft.) to cover the floor in the master bedroom and the office. I only did this after meeting with my financial planner and making sure that my Dad was on board with installation help and/or oversight. For just under $600 in material costs, this will hopefully be a smart, permanent upgrade to my townhouse that should have immediate health benefits.

All of these things, plus cutting my hair and pledging to get back into shape, are part of what I have coined Operation New Leaf!

Did I not mention? Oh yes, well, yesterday I asked a hairstylist to cut off over six inches of my hair. Whoop! There it went! I have to make light of this event, because it secretly kills me that I didn’t hold up to my end of a bargain with myself. Last year sometime, when I wasn’t sure if I wanted to cut my hair or grow it out, my rational self made a deal with my indecisive self: lose 10 lbs., and then you can lose the hair. I got *thisclose* right before our Bermuda cruise in April, but they serve dessert with lunch. And with dinner. And apparently I did not walk enough staircases or survive enough at-sea spin classes to combat those extra calories, glasses of wine, and general yumminess.

I got back on track when we got home, only to be derailed by something (which I now can’t recall). Then I decided to jump back on the horse only to promptly sneeze myself right off of it with this latest allergy saga. *le sigh* I’m fairly certain that all of the steps I’ve taken to control my allergies (see list, and add a daily Zyrtec) have finally put me in a position where I can survive getting back into a workout regimen. Basically, as long as I can keep my Eustachian tubes open I can avoid the dizzy spells and the worry that I might fall off of the treadmill or spin bike, bump my head and lose the last 10 years of my life. Because there’s no way in hell I’d let a 23-year-old Jen attempt to run my 33-year-old life!

(Hmmm, or would I?!)

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Well, I’ve done it! I’ve successfully managed to complete one thing this year that I set out to do almost from the get-go: I read 80 books in 2011!

Whoo hoo! I’m so glad I was able to complete this challenge — it has been a goal for me all year, one that I managed to stay ahead of until about August, when I picked up a giant, boring book and fell behind pace. I’ve branched out and read some really interesting stories, and some not-so-great ones. Most of my books were from the library or borrowed (I only buckled and bought a few). I’ve discovered a few authors I’d like to keep tabs on, and even enjoyed a classic or two that I’d never read before.

All resolutions to lose weight, save money and move to Colorado aside, I’m quite pleased that I managed to both make progress and complete this one, and will probably sign up for the 2012 Reading Challenge (although I’ll set a smaller goal — I need to share next year with some other activities other than reading books)!

Not a member of Goodreads? (Too bad! Seriously, reconsider! It’s like Facebook for readers.) For a full list of the titles I’ve read in 2010 and 2011 (along with my recommendations), check out my Paper Vacations page!

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It hardly seems fair to call Deathless a “book.” That single word doesn’t seem to form the right impression of what is contained on the pages and between the covers of this work. And it certainly is not as simple as a “fairytale” (nor is it anything like the classic European fairy tales that we have all heard and regurgitated into pretty, sparkly, Disney-esque things).

[Fantasy Book Critic review]

Deathless is wonderful. It’s a magical combination of the grotesque and beautiful, a woven word tapestry of blood red tears and golden, glittering eyes. I was immediately drawn into her storytelling, which is evocative of folktales with its repetition and lyricism. Valente is a knight whose words are her sword, an albatross whose imagination is not limited by air or water. Her voice is so new, so distinctive that when you read this book, you don’t dare try to compare it to anything else you’ve read. Instead, I found myself thinking about the visual storytelling present in Guillermo del Toro’s film, “Pan’s Labyrinth” — a stunningly fantastical film that grasped the braids of beauty and horror firmly in its hand and gave them both a forceful tug, snapping you to complete attention and making you feel something in the very marrow of your bones during each and every frame.

Similarly, Deathless holds onto its reader. I found myself so captivated by Valente’s language that I kept trying to read passages out loud to my co-worker. The words she chooses and the way she pairs them together, her descriptions and the dialogue between characters! If Deathless were to ever be optioned as a film, it would take someone like del Toro to do it justice… Rooted in Russian folklore and twined together with Russian history, Deathless feels modern and ancient, simple and twisted, magical and yet… possible (even if you don’t quite understand it).

As with many of the great examples of high fantasy and myth, Deathless makes you wish that one day you might be looking outside your window and happen to catch sight of a bird falling hard — thump, bash! — onto the streetside, bouncing up and becoming a handsome husband. It makes you stop for a moment and imagine the horror of starving to death, of yearning for sawdust biscuits and the warmth from burning a single sheet of paper. It makes your thighs tremble at the prospect of riding a mortar and pestle over the countryside, your naïveté quiver at the prospect of learning the answer to the question, “Who is to rule?”

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