2017 Bookish Resolutions – A Mid-Year Check-In

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Can you believe that this year is already half-way over? Time really does fly when you’re having fun, folks! And by having fun, I mean reading books, of course!! Way back in January I outlined for myself five bookish resolutions for 2017. Today we’re going to take a look at each one of those goals and see how much (or how little) I’ve accomplished so far this year.

1. Read a minimum of 175 books in 2017.

In January I joined the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge, setting a goal of reading 175 books by the end of the year. How have I fared so far? Well, folks, as of today I have read 123 books in 2017. I am over two-thirds of the way toward meeting my Challenge goal. I fully believe I will surpass it and am (unofficially) hoping to hit a mark somewhere near or above 200.

2. Read the books I own.

I borrow most of my books from the library, however, I am a sucker for a good Kindle deal. Thus, I have built up somewhat of a library on my Kindle Paperwhite. One of my 2017 reading goals was to whittle away at those virtual shelves. How have I fared, you ask? Out of 123 books read, 26 of those were books I personally own. Additionally, I have actually added to that library this year by 40 books so far, which averages out to about 5-6 books a month. Soooo… maybe I’m not doing quite so well with this one. I just might need to step up my game a bit with this goal – what do you think?

3. Create a private reading log.

I originally made it a goal to create a private reading log in Excel back in 2016, but that never happened. I’m happy to say that in 2017, said reading log now exists and is updated on a daily basis! I’m very proud of myself and pat myself on the back often, thank you very much. I cannot wait until my end-of-year wrap-up, when I can use Excel to create my favorite thing ever – PIE CHARTS – to relay my reading statistics to you all. Yippee!!

4. Read *more* more diverse books.

In 2016, I made it a goal to read more diverse books. And I did, but not enough to satisfy  myself. Thus, in 2017, I made a resolution to read *more* more diverse books. How am I doing? Well, in the last 6 1/2 months, I have read 30 books by or about People of Color; that averages out to approximately 5 books per month. This statistic does not include, obviously, books that involve other diverse populations, the data of which I have not yet recorded/tallied. Needless to say, once again, I feel it is necessary to step up my game in this category as well.

5. Pay more attention to Pathologically Literate

In 2016, I barely spent any time on PathologicallyLiterate.com at all. I made it a goal for 2017 to spend more time writing about books and reading to share with my readers. While I haven’t done the job I had hoped to, I have been at the very least sharing monthly posts (and very occasionally a little something extra). You gotta start somewhere, right, friends? In the mean time, keep an eye out for future posts or giveaways – you never know when something wonderful just might come your way!!

Well, friends, while I’m not hitting all of my goals at the desired levels, I am having a great time trying! I’ve read so many great books so far in 2017, and have had so much fun exploring a genre that is completely new to me: YA Fantasy. I love expanding my reading reach and knowing that I now have *that* many more books to choose from! I will continue to work hard to meet my Bookish Resolutions of 2017, and will check in again at the end of the year to keep you in the loop as to how I’ve fared. Happy Reading, all!!

How has your reading life been going in 2017?

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Bookish Roundup — March, 2017

March 2017 Roundup

Spring is here! And thank the Sweet Baby Jesus it came when it did! February is my least favorite month of the year, and things don’t tend to get much better for me until the end of March. And, folks, here we are at the finish line just movin’ right along into April!! I’m lovin’ it, I will tell you what. After my spectacular month of reading in January (27 books!!), I bottomed by reading only 14 books in February. Abysmal!! But don’t worry, everyone – I more than made up for it in March, reading a total of 23 books. I think we can safely say that I am back in the game again! Let’s take a look at March’s fine, fine literature…

Well, I did it, y’all. I finally did it. Yes, yes, I know I said it would never happen, but all of you fanatics finally just wore me down: in February, I read the entire Harry Potter series – in about a week’s time!! And… I adored it! That got me thinking about other books I’d banned, such as The Hunger Games Trilogy. Guess what – I loved them, too! Next on the list… why not add an entire GENRE to the mix? I dove in head first and read a total of 11 YA novels during the month of March! I believe that’s more than the total number of YA books I had read previously, ever! Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to become a die-hard YA fan or anything like that, but I will say that it’s not all necessarily the worthless twaddle I’d accused it of being in the past. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I’m so excited for April and the rest of Spring to follow – I’ve got soooo many great books waiting to be read, including a bunch of ARCs that are bound to be hits. I have big, big plans for this season – plans that include my front porch, my favorite chair, my Kindle Paperwhite, and a lot of fresh air and sunshine! Plans on the blog for April include the return of Library Love posts – because you can never give the library enough love, amiright? Have a great month, everyone. Go and get your read on, y’all!

What was your fave March read?

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January, 2017 Roundup

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Oh. My. Gawd. Y’all! I have been like a reading machine for the last two weeks. Fifteen books in fifteen days! It wasn’t even a goal I set; it just sort of happened. The best part about it is that most of the books were really great reads! I was thrilled. Thrilled, y’all!

Now, I reviewed my reading from the beginning of January previously this month (you can check that out here). Below I’ve included brief reviews for each of the final fifteen novels I read this month. Enjoy!


exitExit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston

Y’all, I cannot rave about this book enough. Five stars, all the way. When Hermione Winters is at a cheerleading camp party, a boy slips something into her drink, and things progress as you would assume from there. But only that far. Hermione is not your typical victim – in fact, she refuses to be one. She is a survivor, and this novel is about just that. With an amazing best friend and other supporters, Hermione fights her way back to a new normal and wields her emerging power like a boss.


wayward-pinesWayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch

All three books in this trilogy are surprisingly fast and easy reads. Pines, Wayward, and The Last Town tell the tale of Ethan Burke and the town of Wayward Pines, Idaho – an eerie, small town smack in the middle of nowhere (literally). Dystopian fiction is not generally my kind of thing, but the concept of this trilogy was too good to pass up. A post-apocalyptic community, overseen by an egomaniacal Big Brother, that has no idea it exists as one? Yes, please. My only complaint is Crouch’s continued use of violence – sickening at times and particularly overdone in Book #3. Wayward Pines is also currently airing as a television series on FOX; you can view its website and watch full episodes here.


range-of-motionRange of Motion by Elizabeth Berg

Lainey’s husband has been in a coma for months. She is desperate for him to wake as she struggles to raise their two daughters. I first read this 21 years ago. I liked it then; it was the first Elizabeth Berg novel I’d ever read, and it turned me into a lifelong fan. Reading it now, however… it was so much more. I just appreciated it so much more. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older and wiser, or a more discerning reader now, or what the difference is but the entire book was just so much more beautiful and meaningful this time around. If you’ve never read an Elizabeth Berg novel, this is a great one to start with.


open-houseOpen House by Elizabeth Berg

When Samantha’s husband, David, leaves her she is forced to live her life outside of the box she is used to. Sam grows and grieves as she makes new friends and finds new experiences as a newly single mother. One of the most important lessons she learns, however, is that the person she once was is the person she has always been meant to be. This one was a favorite of mine from several years back; I didn’t love it as much this time around, but still enjoyed it immensely, because: Elizabeth Berg. C’mon, did you really have to ask?


brewster-placeThe Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor

The late Gloria Naylor’s debut novel is just So. Damn. Good. Following the lives of seven African-American women living in the same inner-city housing complex, their stories are stark and beautiful and raw and tender. Each woman’s tale reads like its own short story, however, they are all intricately woven throughout the novel. Naylor’s writing evokes vivid images of each woman and their lives, and leads you down a path you can’t come back from. Oprah produced and starred in a mini-series based on this novel back in the day; you can check it out here.


never-changeNever Change by Elizabeth Berg

Oh, yes, more Elizabeth Berg. Had to do it, y’all.  Many, many moons ago I read this novel and absolutely adored it. It is beautiful and charming and life-affirming and heartbreaking. Fifteen years later, I related to it even more than I did the first time around. At fifty-one years old, Myra Lipinski has always lived alone. While she admits that her job as a visiting nurse and caring for her beloved dog, Frank, are fulfilling, she is also quietly unhappy. When a former classmate with terminal cancer becomes her newest patient, Myra’s life changes forever.


good-behaviorGood Behavior by Blake Crouch

Good Behavior is the collected works of three short stories by Crouch, starring the unforgettable Letty Dobesh. Fresh out of prison and struggling to turn her luck around, Letty runs into quite the conundrum: while robbing a hotel room, she unwittingly witnesses two men planning a murder. Try as she may, Letty is unable to just walk away. Unable to go to the police without incriminating herself in the robbery, she takes matters into her own hands and attempts to play the unlikely hero. Good Behavior has recently been developed as a television series on TNT; you can see it here.


ordinary-lifeOrdinary LIfe: Stories by Elizabeth Berg

This collection of stories was published in 2001, but I avoided it at the time because I had a long-standing grudge against short stories. I hated them! They ended way too soon for my taste. As soon as you got settled into a story, started investing yourself in the characters and storyline, BOOM! Story over. It was  my worst nightmare. Thus, I refused to read them for years and years. I’ve gotten over this grudge in years past and have enjoyed some truly excellent writing because of it – these stories are included in that bunch. I previously recommended Range of Motion as an excellent introduction to Elizabeth Berg; Ordinary Life would be another great way to start your relationship off with her as well.


real-thingUntil the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth Berg

I read this one for the first time sixteen years ago, when I was pregnant with The Boy. I adored this story about 36-year-old Patty who wants nothing more than to have a baby. Unfortunately for her, she’s been unlucky in the love department up to this point and happens to be madly in love with her gay best friend, Ethan. Desperate for something – anything – to happen and aware that time is running short, Patty makes a snap decision that is going to change her life forever, as well as give her the baby she’s always dreamed of.


corona-del-marThe Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe 

This powerful novel follows the lives of Mia and Lorrie Ann, lifelong friends who seem destined to follow diverging paths: Mia living a troubled life and Lorrie Ann sheltered in the cocoon of her loving family. Soon, however, life throws a series of curve balls and each of their paths changes – Mia finding success and love she never expected or believes she deserves, and Lorrie Ann finding herself the hapless victim of tragedy after tragedy. This is a brutal and honest novel of love, friendship,  motherhood, and loyalty beyond normal measure.


sugarSugar by Bernice L. McFadden

Bernice L. McFadden’s debut novel, originally published in 2000, is amazing. A young prostitute, Sugar, moves to small-town Bigelow, Arkansas to get away from a past she is trying to forget. She is befriended by Pearl, who is still wracked with grief over the death of her daughter fifteen years ago. Despite the rejection of Sugar by the townsfolk, she and Pearl form a close bond and the two find healing within their friendship that neither had expected. Unfortunately, dark secrets and true dispositions never stay hidden forever and it won’t be long before Sugar’s sweet new life begins to go sour.


what-we-keepWhat We Keep by Elizabeth Berg

January is officially the Month of Elizabeth Berg, y’all. Whew! Six books by the same author in a ten-day period is unusual for me, but when it comes to Berg, I will make an exception any time. What We Keep chronicles a summer in the 1950’s during which a family fell apart – and the reunion of the mother and daughters in the present day. This is not my favorite Berg novel by a long shot. Now, we could contribute this to the fact that I have my own #mommyissues. But we could also say that Berg’s trademark attention to the beauty of every detail and to the atmosphere itself is simply not as present as it is in other novels. It’s OK, though, Elizabeth – I still love you!!


Plans for February? Nothing specific; I’m just going to take it as it comes. But I know what y’all are really wondering – will there be more Elizabeth Berg on my plate? Why yes, yes there will be. I’ve got a few more of her novels that I’d like to re-read and one or two that I somehow missed over the years that I will be reading for the first time. Yippee for me! But we’ll chat more about that later this month. Until next time, y’all – Happy Reading!!

What was your favorite book in January?

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Winter Reads, 2017 {QuickLit with MMD}

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Linking up to Modern Mrs. Darcy for her monthly QuickLit post, where we share “short and sweet reviews of what we’ve been reading lately” – in this case, what I’ve read so far this month.

We were supposed to be hit by a catastrophic Midwestern ice storm over the past three days. Catastrophic, y’all. I was so prepared. I stocked up on food, water, candles, etc. But most importantly, I charged my reading devices: My Paperwhite, my Fire, my iPhone, and even my ancient android tablet for backup. I was not going to run out of reading juice on this watch, no-sirree-Bob. And then – and then – nothing. Well, we got a little bit of ice, I suppose. But it barely dipped below freezing for most of the time. Mostly, it was just enough ice to make the trees and surrounding structures look stunningly beautiful in the morning sunlight and to keep the sidewalks and porches slippery for part of the day. But you know what, y’all? I still read like there was a raging blizzard out there. I holed up in my house with my blankets and my Ruby and I read and read and read. It was great!! Can’t wait for the next storm…

I’ve read twelve books so far in January, 2017 and have many more waiting in my haul. I’ve been on a winning streak, as well – haven’t hit a dud yet! I told y’all 2017 was going to be a charmed year! Let’s take a look at what I’ve been reading:


born-a-crimeBorn a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Trevor Noah’s intense and unforgettable memoir of growing up in post-Apartheid South Africa is beautifully written. Full of tales both hilarious and heartbreaking, Noah takes readers from his birth to his early adulthood with grace and humor far beyond his age. In addition to learning about his own experiences and life, I also learned much more about Apartheid than I previously knew – I clearly need to do some more reading on this – while I knew it was awful, I had no idea of the magnitude of its systemic evils.


endless-numbered-daysOur Endless Numbered Days by Claire Fuller

When a prepper Dad abducts his eight-year-old daughter, they abscond to a derelict cabin deep in the woods. Daddy Dearest tells his daughter that there has been a cataclysmic event and that they are the only two surviving humans on the planet Earth. Peggy offers a unique narrative in this compelling coming-of-age novel that will hit you in the gut when you least expect it. The shocking ending is something you will never see coming – I wanted to go back and re-read several chapters of the book so I could relish the brilliance of this twist.


the-underground-railroadThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Colson Whitehead’s interpretation of the Underground Railroad as an actual, brick-and-mortar railroad, is nothing short of brilliant. As Cora flees the Randall plantation in Georgia, she travels the rails to South Carolina, North Carolina, Indiana, and further yet.  At each stop, Cora experiences a different aspect of the times, each of which magnificently mirrors racial issues/attitudes in America to come as history moves forward as well as those present today. Whitehead’s portrayal of slavery and the cultural exploration visited upon in this novel are its greatest strengths, creating an atmosphere of grief, hope, and longing. While the stark and difficult subject matter precludes me from saying this book was a pleasure to read, I will say that I am glad that I did. {Thanks to Doubleday Books & NetGalley}


i-am-the-messengerI Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak

I Am the Messenger is a beautiful tale from beginning to end. Following Ed on his journey from going-nowhere, underage cab driver to quiet champion of the people is an honor. As he moves from mission to mission to save the underdog of the day, Ed grows in leaps and bounds. Zusak’s writing is hypnotic; the sharp, emotional impact of the way he breaks his sentences is poetic. His humor is on point throughout the novel. This story is truly a lesson that anyone, no matter how ordinary, can be strong, be courageous, be mighty. This one has all the feels, y’all.


how-it-always-isThis Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel

This emotional and compelling novel takes on subject matter that is both timely and so, so important for us to read about. Frankel’s sharp and witty dialogue perfectly complements her deep exploration of tough personal, family, and societal issues. Powerful and captivating, Poppy’s story – and that of her family’s – will leave you doing some serious soul-searching, while giving you insight on the multitudes of ways children’s minds are at work. Each character is exquisitely drawn and woven into this tale, bringing them to life such a way that you cannot help but see yourself and those you love within them. Everyone, especially parents, should read this book. {Thanks to Flatiron Books & NetGalley}


the-wolf-roadThe Wolf Road by Beth Lewis

In this postapocalyptic  psychological thriller, a young girl is lost in the wilderness and is taken under the wing of a woodsman she calls “Trapper.” Now a young adult, having learned a terrible secret about her adopted “father,” Elka strikes out on her own in search of her birth parents. Lewis has created a strong – no, a badass – female lead here, who narrates in a stark and frank manner. Her journey across a dystopian wasteland brings her across more discoveries, experiences, and interactions than she had ever imagined existed. It took me a bit to devote myself to this one but once I did, I was hooked.


unfuck-your-habitatUnf*ck Your Habitat by Rachel Hoffman

As a huge fan of the Tumblr site Unfuck Your Habitat, I was thrilled when I learned Rachel Hoffman had secured a book deal. This how-to manual on developing a housekeeping and organizational system for those of us who have been past failures in these areas is perfect, both helpful and hilarious. Hoffman takes a realistic approach to these tasks, addressing living situations other than that of the everyday homemaker usually depicted in most books of this genre. Her engaging manner keeps readers’ attention and breaks tasks down into their simplest forms so that even the most domestically challenged person can find success. {Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & NetGalley}


lucky-boyLucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran

Lucky Boy is the devastating and haunting family saga of two women – Solimar and Kavya – both mothers, both to the same little boy. Exploring such timely issues as immigration, undocumented workers, infertility, motherhood and more, readers will be captivated by the stories of the women who give their hearts to a small boy named Ignacio.  The alternating tales of Soli and Kavya will capture you and hold you until the very end. This is an absolutely important book that adds much to the global conversation regarding immigration in today’s world. {Thanks to Penguin Group/Putnam & NetGalley}


a-perilous-undertakingA Perilous Undertaking by Deanna Raybourn

After waiting impatiently for the last year, Book #2 of Raybourn’s new Veronica Speedwell series was released this January. Book #1 was a tough act to follow, but Raybourn did it with aplomb. Veronica and Stoker return only to be roped into a murder investigation with the intent of proving the innocence of the accused murderer. Their sharp and witty banter flows as they romp through each escapade, making it through by the skin of their teeth. This one wasn’t as fabulous as Book #1, but it did come close – can’t wait for its follow-up next year!!


i-liked-my-lifeI Liked My Life by Abby Fabiaschi

I Liked My Life is the heartwarming and clever tale of a father and daughter struggling to connect as they grieve the death of the woman they both loved. I adored this novel, narrated by Madeline, Brady, and Eve – Madeline being the late mother and wife to Eve and Brady, of course, back from the grave and working behind the scenes to help her family move on without her. Fabiaschi is a master of real, true-to-life internal dialogue. This book about survival, moving on, personal growth, and finding your family again will warm your heart – and tingle your spine with an unexpected twist at the end. {Thanks to St. Martin’s Press & NetGalley}


charlie-freemanWe Love You, Charlie Freeman by Kaitlyn Greenidge

This debut family saga tells the tale of the Freeman family, who have moved from Boston to live in the countryside at the Tonybee Institute while assimilating a chimpanzee into their family and teaching him sign language in an experiment that is just waiting to go awry. While sweetly titled, do not be fooled – this is not a heartwarming novel. The Freemans’ story and that of the Tonybee Institute is messy and sorrowful and wrong, and there is an underlying tension throughout the novel that eats away at your nerves. There’s no holding back in this one; Greenidge goes for broke and takes you along for the ride.


always-sarah-jioAlways by Sarah Jio

Sarah Jio is at it again in this poignant and gripping novel about love lost and love found as the past and the present collide in the most tragic of ways. Ten years after losing the love of her life, Kailey has moved on, never knowing that the past is about to catch up with her and tear her newly built world apart. As she tries to piece together the shards of what could have been, Kailey is faced with a decision – one that only the heart can make. Jio’s newest novel, while slightly predictable, is full of tragedy, love, and intrigue – a definite must-read for her fans and more!


As I mentioned above, twelve hits so far this month! Not too stinking bad, if I do say so myself. Hopefully you’ll find something on this list to add to your TBR, because really – can you ever afford to run out of good book ideas? Not on my side of the woods, you can’t. Thanks for joining me for a look at my Winter Reads so far; I’ll catch you up with my next round-up near the end of January. Happy Reading, y’all!!

What have you been reading so far this month?

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My Bookish Resolutions for 2017

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It’s a new year, y’all, and time for a fresh start. Last year I set a precedent for myself when I shared My Bookish Resolutions for 2016 in the hope that it would make them more real to me, and thus more attainable – also, to create a little accountability for myself, thereby creating some motivation to actually reach those goals I was setting. How did that work out for me? Well, I wrote all about that last week in Reflections on My 2016 Bookish Resolutions – feel free to check out the post to see how things went.

In 2017 I plan to revisit some of last year’s goals as well as set some new ones for myself. I’ve chosen five main areas I want to work on. Let’s take a look at where I’m headed with this:

1.  Read a minimum of 175 books in 2017

2017-Goodreads-Challenge

I originally set a goal of reading 150 books in 2016. Surprising myself, I far surpassed that goal, reading a total of 192 books! I’m upping the ante a bit this year and going for 175 books in the 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge. We are homeschooling high school this year so I didn’t want to aim much higher than that as I know we’re going to be busier than ever before. That said, I do plan to re-evaluate things in October to see where I am at with my reading totals and perhaps adjust my challenge goal at that time.

2. Read the Books I Own

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Based on the large number of books I’ve amassed on my Kindle Paperwhite (my preferred reading medium), one would imagine I would have no need to purchase any new books nor have any use for the public library. Not so, y’all. Not so at all. Despite my plans to the contrary, out of the 192 books I read in 2016, only a measly 29 of them were books that I personally owned. Pathetic, right? With renewed vigor, I am pledging to #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks in 2017!! Now, this is more of a “you do you” reading “effort” versus a reading challenge hosted over at Estella’s Revenge. Once again, I’m not yet sure exactly how I’m going to approach this goal, but I am going to tackle and at the least significantly reduce this collection of books on my Kindle. I’m off to a decent start already, too – we’re only 1 1/2 weeks into January and out of the six books I’ve read so far, two of them have been books that belong to me. I’ll be totally pleased if that ratio were to continue throughout the year. Yay, me!

3. Create a Private Reading Log

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Now, as we all know, I track my reading on Goodreads; I also keep track of the books I read each year on Pinterest. What my bookish little heart really desires, however, is cold, hard data. The kind, my friend, that you can track and collect and evaluate and transform into… yes… that’s right… PIE CHARTS!! I found an excellent template for a private reading log right here that I’m going to be using. I did find another great one here, but decided the original template I’d found fit my uses better. Each template is editable once downloaded, of course, so should you, too, choose to do so there’s nothing stopping your data collecting little souls from customizing it to your heart’s content. This was a goal of mine for 2016 as well, which bombed spectacularly. It bombed so spectacularly, in fact, that I never even downloaded the template. OMG. So sad, amiright? 2017 is a different story, my friends. Not only did I download the template already, but I have customized it to my needs and have been keeping it updated with the books I have read so far (granted, that is only six books, but still…). I would say we are off to a great start, wouldn’t you? It’s only onward and upward from here, people. All I have to say is be prepared for some major pie chartage in January, 2018.

 

4. Read *More* More Diverse Books

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I’ve made it a goal of mine since the beginning of 2015 to read more books written by or about people of all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. The problem I came across in the previous two years is that I was simply not mindful enough about this. I thought about it, yes. I added plenty of books to my TBR list, yes. But when choosing the books I actually read, I just picked up whatever sounded good at the moment or whatever was available, and didn’t pay that much attention at the time as to whether or not the book I had just chosen was meeting the standards I had set for myself. I want the books I read to reflect the person I am and the values and beliefs I hold, and if that is the case then I must be more mindful when I’m in the moment of actually picking up my next book. In 2016, I read 37 books that fell under the category of diverse literature as defined above. In 2017, I would like to at least double that amount.

5. Pay More Attention to Pathologically Literate

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Once upon a time, I posted daily on this blog. Then, it was three times a week. Then, a few times a month. In 2016, it was more like a few times that year. That is not the vision I had for Pathologically Literate when I created it. I wanted a forum where I could gloat and enthuse about my love and passion for all things books and reading, where others could read and relate to those words and perhaps share some of their own thoughts on those subjects. I would like to get back to that. Now that we’re homeschooling high school, there is no way I have time to review every book I read the way I did once upon a time, but I do intend to do so more often. I also plan to write more about other bookish delights, as well homeschool life and other events in the Pathologically Literate household. Saddle up, y’all. Momma’s comin’ home!

2017 is going to be a year full of good reads, good writing, and good times. I can’t wait to get started, and I hope you will be here with me for the journey. Happy Reading in 2017, y’all!!

What are your reading goals for 2017?

Reflections on my 2016 Bookish Resolutions

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In early January of 2016, I did something I don’t usually do. I spoke up. I went out on a limb here and shared with you my Bookish Resolutions for 2016 in the hope that seeing those words in black and white would make them more real to me, and thus more attainable – as well as to put the fear of God into myself to meet said goals so I didn’t look like a loser in front of my millions of followers and fans.

Um. Yeah. So… that didn’t necessarily work out the way I had hoped. As you’ll clearly see below.

I originally set five main bookish goals for the year of 2016. I was ready. I was motivated. I was not going to fail. Hmmmm… Let’s take a look at how things ended up, shall we?

1.  Read a minimum of 150 books in 2016:

Now, this particular goal was a not a problem for me. In fact, I surpassed my original goal by a long shot. Instead of the proposed 150 books, I finished the year off by reading a whopping 192 books! Not quite as many books as I finished in 2013 and 2014, but I beat my numbers from 2015 by 21 books!

2.  Keep a private reading log (separate from Goodreads and Pinterest):

Nope. Nothing. Nada. Did not happen. Maybe next time, folks. This was a disappointment for me, as I had been hoping to be able to keep track of certain statistics regarding my reading habits via this visionary reading log I was going to keep in Microsoft Excel, allowing me to create an end-of-year post with one of my favorite things ever, pie charts. Well, so much for that one.

3.  Read the books I own:

I have amassed a huge collection of novels on my Kindle Paperwhite (my preferred reading medium), and some in print as well. In January of last year, I pledged to #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks instead of completely ignoring them while continuing to purchase new ones and checking out new releases from my libraries. Well. First of all, while the acquisition of new books did not stop, it did at least slow down a bit – so I suppose there was a small amount of success there. As far as reading my own damn books, however… Out of the 192 books I read in 2016, only a measly 29 of them were books that I personally owned. An equal number of books (again, 29) were galleys/ARCs gifted to me from publishers for review. That means that the remaining 154 books were acquired from my beloved libraries – NOT quite what I’d originally had planned.

4.  Continue to read more diverse books:

I am a big-time supporter of We Need Diverse Books (a grassroots organization created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature). Reading about and supporting its activities really shed a light on the lack of diversity in my own reading habits. Thus, I pledged to read a minimum of fifty diverse books in 2016 (although ideally I would have liked to have read even more than that) – that would mean, if I were to have reached my original goal of 150, that 1/3 of those books would be written by or about people of all diverse experiences, including (but not limited to) LGBTQIA, people of color, people with disabilities, and ethnic, cultural, and religious minorities. As we know, I exceeded my goal of 150 books in total. But how did I do with my 50 books from diverse origins? Well. Out of a total of 192 books, only 37 of them fell under the definition of “diverse” that I mentioned above. That is so not OK with me. I expected better from myself. I was simply not nearly as mindful about it as I planned to be – as I needed to be – and I’m disappointed in myself. But we’ll address this more in my resolutions for 2017…

5.  Join a book club:

For years and years, I wanted to be a part of an honest-to-goodness, real-life book club. Well, in 2016 that wish finally came true! I joined the online MomAdvice Book Club, created by the fabulous Amy Allen Clark, in January of last year and it was so fulfilling and so, so much fun. I even hosted our October discussion about Lily and the Octopus by Stephen Rowley. Me! Can you imagine? I promise you that those who know me well, can NOT imagine. In addition to the awesomeness of the MomAdvice Book Club, I also joined an IRL book club here in good ol’ Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s The Best Ever Book Club! Seriously. That’s the name of the book club. Fun, right? So, I joined it – kind of. Theoretically, anyway. I belong to the Facebook page, at least, and am friends with one of the members. I truly do intend to attend a meeting… at some point. I won’t go into the myriad reasons why it’s difficult for me to go out in public with groups of people, whether it be for small gatherings or large events – it’s a long story and it would bore you beyond belief. However, up to this point I have been unable to actually attend a meeting. I have, however, read most of the assigned books – and that counts for something, right?

All right, y’all. That there was my year in books. While I did meet (and in one case surpass) some of my goals, and while I am pleased about that, I didn’t meet enough of them to my satisfaction. Will I do better in 2017? Time will only tell. Keep your eyes peeled for My Bookish Resolutions for 2017, coming up next week.

Did you have any bookish goals for 2016? How did that work out for you?

A Slanting of the Sun: Stories by Donal Ryan

a-slanting-of-the-sun“Donal Ryan’s short stories pick up where his acclaimed novels The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December left off, dealing with dramas set in motion by loneliness and displacement and revealing stories of passion and desire where less astute observers might fail to detect the humanity that roils beneath the surface. Sometimes these dramas are found in ordinary, mundane situations; sometimes they are triggered by a fateful encounter or a tragic decision. At the heart of these stories, crucially, is how people are drawn to each other and cling to love when and where it can be found.

In a number of the these stories, emotional bonds are forged by traumatic events caused by one of the characters – between an old man and the frightened young burglar left to guard him while his brother is beaten; between another young man and the mother of a girl whose death he caused when he crashed his car; between a lonely middle-aged shopkeeper and her assistant. Disconnection and new discoveries pervade stories involving emigration (an Irish priest in war-torn Syria) or immigration (an African refugee in Ireland). Some of the stories are set in the same small town in rural Ireland as the novels, with names that will be familiar to Ryan’s readers.

In haunting prose, Donal Ryan has captured the brutal beauty of the human heart in all its failings, hopes and quiet triumphs.” – Publisher Summary

Having read, in the past, author Donal Ryan’s previous two published works of fiction (The Spinning Heart and The Thing About December), I already held a high regard for his talent as a writer. I was not prepared, however, for the impact his newest collection of short stories would have on me. After reading A Slanting of the Sun: Stories, I am quite convinced that Ryan is somewhat of a literary genius. Each story in this collection held that punch to the gut all true readers long for – that glorious rush of all the feels slipping through our veins as our bodies tingle in anticipation for the next page, and the next, and the next.

“An old man looks into the fearful eyes of a burglar left to guard him while his brother is beaten; an Irish priest in a war-torn Syrian town teaches its young men the art of hurling; the driver of a car which crashed, killing a teenage girl, forges a connection with the girl’s mother; a squad of broken friends assemble to take revenge on a rapist; a young man sets off on his morning run, reflecting on the ruins of his relationship, but all is not as it seems…” – Publicity Blurb

Some of the stories take place in or around the same familiar territory of Ryan’s previous novels; others visit faraway lands such as Syria. It was a treat to recognize names that appeared in his previous novels, as well. While the subject matter of each story varied wildly, one thing remained the same: each and every one of the pieces ripped my heart from my chest and returned it to me in a dripping, shredded mess. Each tragic story wielded power in it’s own unique way, leaving me breathless and anxious, as each one ended, to move on to the next. This, friends, is the kind of reading that I love – when it’s real and gritty and doesn’t pull any punches. And this, too, is why you do not want to miss out on reading this amazing collection of stories.

A Slanting of the Sun: Stories by Donal Ryan: Read it Today!

5 stars

Source: Steerforth Press {via NetGalley}

The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane

the-thunder-of-giants“Mixing the eccentricity of the circus world and the heart of a love story, The Thunder of Giants is a warm and engaging debut about two exceptional women — both almost 8-feet tall

The year is 1937 and Andorra Kelsey – 7’11 and just under 320 pounds – is on her way to Hollywood to become a star. Hoping to escape both poverty and the ghost of her dead husband, she accepts an offer from the wily Rutherford Simone to star in a movie about the life of Anna Swan, the Nova Scotia giantess who toured the world in the 19th century.

Thus, Anna Swan’s story unfurls. Where Andorra is seen as a disgrace by an embarrassed family, Anna Swan is quickly celebrated for her unique size. Drawn to New York, Anna becomes a famed attraction at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum even as she falls in love with Gavin Clarke, a veteran of the Civil War. Quickly disenchanted with a life of fame, Anna struggles to prove to Gavin – and the world – that she is more than the sum of her measurements.

The Thunder of Giants blends fact and fiction in a sweeping narrative that spans nearly a hundred years. Against the backdrop of epic events, two extraordinary women become reluctant celebrities in the hopes of surviving a world too small to contain them.” – Publisher’s Summary

Born in Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia in 1846, Anna Swan was a real-life “giantess” who eventually reached a height of nearly 8 feet tall. At the age of seventeen she travelled to New York where she lived and performed in P.T. Barnum’s famous museum; during this time she was reacquainted with childhood friend Gavin Clarke who had been injured while fighting in the Civil War. Anna made a great deal of money during her time with P.T. Barnum, however, after two separate fires destroyed the museum, she embarked on tours of Europe and the United States. While touring, she married a former Confederate Captain (from the Civil War) who was also a “giant.” After retiring from show business, the two attempted to have children, but both were so large that they died within hours or days of their births. Sadly, Anna died of Tuberculosis one day before her 42nd birthday.

In Joel Fishbane’s debut novel, The Thunder of Giants, he weaves together Anna Swan’s real-life story with a fictional account of Andorra Kelsey’s life – Andorra Kelsey being another “giantess” living in 1937 Detroit and weighing in at 7’11” and 320 pounds. Andorra, her three children, and her aging father are living in near-poverty while grieving the recent death of husband, father, and son-in-law Nicholas Kelsey. Discovered walking down the street by down-and-out talent scout Rutherford Simone, Andorra is convinced to travel to Hollywood – to star in a movie about the life of legendary giantess Anna Swan.

anna-swanIn this way the two women’s lives are brought together. Each chapter alternates between Anna’s life, Andorra’s past, and Andorra’s present experiences in Hollywood. As the history – and present – of each woman unfurls, their lives hurtle closer and closer together until they meet in a way most unexpected. Fishbane collects a delightful cast of characters to surround Andorra and while her life is difficult and she experiences tragedy, he also brings to her love, laughter, and hope. Fishbane also does a wonderful job of respectfully bringing Anna Swan’s story (Anna Swan is pictured on your left) to life in these pages, avoiding the type of sensationalism that often accompanies those who are quite so “different.”

I found The Thunder of Giants to be an enjoyable read. It didn’t keep me sitting on the edge of my seat or rushing through dinner to get back to reading, however, it did sufficiently interest me. There is a bit of a mystery surrounding the death of Andorra’s husband – in the beginning of her story, she claims to have killed him but doesn’t explain how – that unfolds near the very end. I was mostly intrigued, however,  by Anna and was even encouraged to do a bit more research on her life and experiences .

The Thunder of Giants is a charming and engaging tale of two women – one real and one fictional – that will tug on your heartstrings, bring a chuckle to your lips, and perhaps even a tear to your eye a time or two. If you’re up for that, then go and get you some, y’all.

At the end of this post is a video about Anna Swan and The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane.

The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane: On sale now!

3 stars

Source: St. Martin’s Press {via NetGalley}

 

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

kindred“Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.” – Goodreads

After I finished reading Kindred by the late Octavia E. Butler, I was surprised to learn that not only was it not a recent release, but that it was actually published in 1979. Furthermore, I learned that its author classified its genre as Science Fiction. Feel free to call me biased; I would never have expected to connect with this book the way I did had I known it’s genre and publishing date. But connect I did, and in a profound way.

I don’t want to go into the content of the tale too much beyond the book summary posted above this review, in fear of including spoilers. I’ll admit that it was a bit of a stretch for me to crack open a “historical fiction” novel that included time travel – definitely not my usual sort of thing. Yet Butler does not attempt to explain the details or mechanics of the time travel in Kindred, in fact it is but a small detail of the larger story she is trying to tell; the time travel simply playing the role of allowing the tale to unfold. Instead,  Butler seems to be approaching a different question: How would a modern day person – Black or White – react if they were thrown back into the darkest days of slavery? How would he/she survive? What could they learn? And most importantly, how would their perception of these times change after personally living there?

A rich tale of love, gender, race, and responsibility, this harrowing and emotional read is also a fast-moving and action-packed novel that will keep you on the edge of your seat. When I wasn’t reading Kindred, I was thinking about it; counting the minutes until I could get back to it and read it until the very end. This was difficult to read at times because of the blatant look at the violence and tragedy of slavery, but I do believe that opening readers’ eyes to these things is a part of what Butler had intended. She is an expert at communicating knowledge through story, and I know that am better for what I read and learned in this novel. Highly recommended.

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler: Read it today!

4.5 stars

Source: Lincoln City Libraries

Library Love: March 17, 2015

library-love-green

Library Love is a recurring post in which I share the weekly bounty from my public libraries.

 

 

 

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day, y’all! As you can see, we’ve got our green goin’ on today – how about you? I had to run out last night to buy The Boy & I Shamrock shirts for today so we would be pinch-proof. Other than that we don’t actually do much around here to celebrate the holiday (although you should check out my Pinterest Board for some fun ideas) but it’s always nice to at least dress the part. Not that anyone actually sees us since we homeschool, but at least we know we’re complying with the Irish Holiday bylaws! I found some awesome reads last week at the libraries, y’all – I’ve already cracked open a couple of them and cannot wait to get to the rest. Let’s take a look:

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I will say that I’ve already read Kindred and Speak, and they were both great novels, particularly Speak. Very powerful stuff, y’all. God Don’t Like Ugly is a novel I tried to read about ten years ago but never finished (for some unknown reason) so now it’s time for Round #2! I’ve had The Paying Guests on hold for a long, long time and it’s finally my turn – woo-hoo! A Goodreads friend rated Finding Jake very highly, so I have high hopes for it. I’ve also heard great things about T. Geronimo Johnson, so Hold It ‘Til It Hurts will hopefully be a winner, as well. It looks like I’m up to my eyeballs with books this week so I’d better get crackin’. Happy Reading, y’all!

Do you do anything to celebrate good ‘ol Saint Patrick’s Day? Share below!