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2017 Reading and Blogging Goals

Happy New Year, everyone! It’s that time of year when most of us are reflecting on our lives and making resolutions for what we hope to do differently in the upcoming year.  In addition to a few personal resolutions I’ve made (working on my organizational skills, eating healthier, and exercising more), I’ve also come up with the following list of reading/blogging goals that I hope to accomplish in 2017.

READ AT LEAST 60 BOOKS IN 2017.  

I’ll be tracking this goal through my Goodreads challenge.  I used to only manage to read about 40 books per year before I started blogging, but starting my blog this past year actually pushed me to read nearly 70 books in 2016. I’m hoping therefore that 60 will be a manageable number as I continue my blogging adventures in 2017.

WRITE AT LEAST 52 BOOK REVIEWS FOR MY BLOG.  

If my first goal goes as planned, this goal should be manageable since I’m basically aiming for an average of one review per week.

PUT A DENT IN MY ENORMOUS TBR PILE.   

In order to facilitate this goal, I’ll be taking part in the Beat The Backlist challenge, which is hosted by NovelKnight.  Here’s the list of books I hope to knock off my TBR by participating in this challenge.

  1.  A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
  2. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
  3. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  5. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  6. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  9. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  11. A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
  12. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  13. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  14. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  15. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
  16. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  17. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  18. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
  19. When We Collided by Emery Lord
  20. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
  21. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  22. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  23. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  24. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
  25. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

WRITE MORE DISCUSSION POSTS AND ORIGINAL CONTENT.  

This is something I haven’t been very successful at thus far in my blogging journey.  I post regularly and participate in a few weekly features hosted by fellow bloggers, but I fall into these ruts where it feels like everything I want to talk about in discussion posts has already been discussed by dozens of other bloggers and so I talk myself out of posting anything.  So yeah, I need to get better about just going for it and putting my thoughts out there.

KEEP MY BLOGGING EXPERIENCE FUN.  

In this goal, what I’m seeking is to maintain a balance between reading what I want to read when the mood hits me versus the ARCs I need to read for review purposes.  Why this goal? Well, late last fall, I requested quite a few books from Netgalley assuming that I’d probably only get approved for a couple of them.  Needless to say I was rather shocked when I got approved for almost all of them and then realized that at least three of them had a publication date of January 10th.  With the holidays upon me, I got pretty stressed out about the prospect of having to quickly read that many books and put together that many reviews in such a short time.  It felt like I was back in college again, cramming for finals.  (I’m actually still trying to finish the last book right now since the book is due out on Tuesday.) Plus, in addition to the pressure of the deadline, I also didn’t have time to read anything that I wanted to read so December wasn’t that fun of a blogging month for me.

That stress is most definitely not something that I care to repeat so my goal for 2017 is to pay more attention to publication dates and choose my ARC requests more wisely so that I don’t unnecessarily stress myself out and, most importantly, so that I leave myself time for pleasure/mood reading.

INTERACT MORE WITH THE BOOKISH COMMUNITY.  

The past few months I’ve tried to make it a goal to visit other book blogs and comment whenever I have time.  I know how happy it makes me when I log into my own blog and see I have comments to respond to, so I just really want to continue to do my part to be supportive of the community and make other bloggers feel that same sense of joy.

I also want to improve my twitter presence.  I follow a number of bloggers but because I can be such an awkward potato at times, I rarely ever talk to them.  I did participate in a few twitter chats in 2016, which were a lot of fun, so I hope to do a few more in 2017 and to just be better about interacting overall.  Even being an awkward potato, I still managed to cross over the 500 follower mark on twitter, so for 2017, I’m hoping to make it to 1,000 followers.

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Well, that’s what I have so far anyway.  I think (hope!) they’re challenging yet reasonable goals.  Do we share any of the same reading or blogging goals for 2017?  If not, what are your goals for this year?

Beat the Backlist 2017 Reading Challenge: My TBR

 

The Beat the Backlist Challenge is hosted by Austine at NovelKnight.com and its focus is to encourage readers to finally get through some titles that have been on your TBR for a while, or even those that have gotten pushed aside for new releases.  The primary guideline for the challenge is that the books you choose must have been published prior to 2017.  Also, this challenge  runs from January 1st to December 31st, 2017 so you have a whole year to work on that TBR.  Post updates throughout the year with #beatthebacklist.

This will be the first challenge I’ve participated in since I joined the blogging community so I’m pretty excited about it.  My TBR is also out of control so I think this challenge is perfect for me.  I’m forever shoving aside books I still really want to read in favor of newer releases.  It’s time to take control of my TBR!

Below is my tentative (and possibly overly ambitious) list of books that I want to get off my backlist this year. May the force be with me!

  1.  A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
  2. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab
  3. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  4. Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman
  5. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  6. An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
  7. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  8. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  9. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
  10. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
  11. A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
  12. Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven
  13. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  14. My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  15. Lily and the Octopus by Steven Rowley
  16. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
  17. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple
  18. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova
  19. When We Collided by Emery Lord
  20. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman
  21. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng 
  22. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
  23. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed
  24. In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware
  25. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

 

 

I also signed up for the optional Hogwarts House mini challenge because it sounded like fun.  The house I chose to represent is Gryffindor.  Thanks so much to Austine for hosting such a great challenge and good luck to everyone who is participating!

ARC Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

ARC Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine ArdenThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden
four-half-stars
Published by Del Rey on January 10th 2017
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Source: Netgalley
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Goodreads Synopsis:  A magical debut novel for readers of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Neil Gaiman’s myth-rich fantasies, The Bear and the Nightingale spins an irresistible spell as it announces the arrival of a singular talent with a gorgeous voice.

At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.

After Vasilisa’s mother dies, her father goes to Moscow and brings home a new wife. Fiercely devout, city-bred, Vasilisa’s new stepmother forbids her family from honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa is frightened, sensing that more hinges upon their rituals than anyone knows.

And indeed, crops begin to fail, evil creatures of the forest creep nearer, and misfortune stalks the village. All the while, Vasilisa’s stepmother grows ever harsher in her determination to groom her rebellious stepdaughter for either marriage or confinement in a convent.

As danger circles, Vasilisa must defy even the people she loves and call on dangerous gifts she has long concealed—this, in order to protect her family from a threat that seems to have stepped from her nurse’s most frightening tales.

My Review:

The Bear and the Nightingale is, by far, one of my favorite reads of 2016.  I had high expectations for as soon as I read the synopsis comparing it to Erin Morganstern’s The Night Circus, which is one of my all-time favorite reads, and I’m thrilled to say that The Bear and the Nightingale far exceeded my expectations.  A tale steeped in Russian folklore, mythology, and fairy tales, it’s pure magic in every sense of the word!

I personally think the story is best appreciated going in with as few spoilers as possibly so I’m not going to expand too much beyond what is already in the synopsis, but I do want to hit some high points of what made the book so special for me.

What I Loved:

The Setting and Atmosphere:  Not since visiting Narnia when I read C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe have I felt so immersed in another place and time as when I began reading The Bear and the Nightingale.  With her rich and vivid descriptions, Arden transports her readers to Medieval Russia. The atmosphere feels so authentic that the snow, the bitter cold, the wilderness, and the dangerous mountainous terrain are almost palpable as we follow Vasilisa and her family through the story.

I also loved that the whole story had this oddly cozy yet often creepy vibe to it – I felt like I was actually taking shelter from the cold in front of the fire with Vasilisa and her siblings and listening to nurse Dunya tell the old Russian fairytales of Frost the blue eyed demon.  It made it especially creepy when the story takes a very Game of Thrones “Winter is Coming!” turn that makes it feel like Dunya’s chilling tales are coming to life right before the characters’ (and our) eyes.

Vasilisa (or Vasya as she is more affectionately known):  I fell in love with Vasya right away. Vasya is an utterly charming free spirit.  She has no interest whatsoever in conforming to anyone else’s preconceived notions of how women should behave. Vasya much prefers to spend her days frolicking outside in the woods and, much to the dismay of her parents, often disappears for hours at a time to go off adventuring.  Vasya is obviously headstrong and a bit defiant, but she’s also smart, brave, and when it comes down to it, would sacrifice anything to protect her family.  Everyone around her has suspected since she was a small child that there was something different about her, and it soon becomes clear that she has a gift and a connection to the spirit world that few others do. In harnessing that gift, she clearly demonstrates later in the novel that she is a force to be reckoned with.  When it becomes clear that extreme danger is closing in on her village and that she is the only one who can stop it, Vasya displays incredible inner strength that men twice her age and size probably couldn’t muster in her situation.

Christianity vs. Tradition/Ritual:  While this story is perfectly entertaining as a magical fairytale retelling, I loved the extra layer of depth that was provided by this religious conflict.  For generations Vasya and her fellow villagers have relied on their traditions of honoring the spirits of house, yard, and forest to keep them from harm.  They consider it to be a symbiotic relationship where they take care of the spirits with offerings of food to keep up their strength and the spirits reciprocate by protecting the villagers from harm.  Then suddenly Vasya’s new stepmother, who may or may not be mentally unstable, comes into the picture, bringing with her Christianity and a priest, suddenly the villagers’ old ways come under attack. The offerings to the spirits are deemed foolish and the priest tells the villagers they must abandon their old ways and turn to God for protection instead.  I found it especially interesting that the least likable characters in the novel are those who profess to be the most Christian.  The priest, in particular, is portrayed as quite arrogant and as having questionable, even egotistical motives, for trying to “enlighten” these villagers.  He doesn’t consider for a moment the possibility that there might really be protective spirits out there or that the danger closing in on the community could be beyond the realm of his wildest imagination.  When he convinces the villagers to abandon the spirits and the spirits abandon them in turn, it becomes clear that perhaps he and Christianity are not the answer.

Any Complaints?

About the only complaint I had was early on I thought the pacing was a little slow at times, mainly the part where Vasya’s father travels to Moscow in search of a new wife.  Once he brings his new wife home, however, the action picks up immediately as the wife is the catalyst for much of the rest of the story’s dramatic events.  If you find it a little slow like I did, stick with it. I promise you won’t regret it!

Who Would I Recommend The Bear and the Nightingale to? 

I’d definitely highly recommend The Bear and the Nightingale to anyone who loves fantasy, historical fiction, and folklore, but honestly, because the story is so wonderful, I’d recommend it to pretty much anyone.  In fact, I wish this book was already out because I can think of at least half a dozen people who I’ve love to give it to for Christmas. Put The Bear and the Nightingale on your must-read list for 2017. It’s truly a magical read!

Thanks so much to Netgalley, Katherine Arden, and Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine/Del Rey for the opportunity to preview this beautiful book!

Rating:  4.5 stars!

four-half-stars

About Katherine Arden

Born in Austin, Texas, Katherine Arden spent a year of high school in Rennes, France. Following her acceptance to Middlebury College in Vermont, she deferred enrollment for a year in order to live and study in Moscow. At Middlebury, she specialized in French and Russian literature. After receiving her BA, she moved to Maui, Hawaii, working every kind of odd job imaginable, from grant writing and making crêpes to guiding horse trips. Currently she lives in Vermont, but really, you never know.

Waiting on Wednesday: Spotlight on The Upside of Unrequited

New WoW“Waiting On” Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, which encourages fellow bloggers to spotlight upcoming releases that we’re excited about.

My “Waiting On” Wednesday selection for this week is The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli.  I think everyone who read and fell in love with Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is chomping at the bit to get their hands on Albertalli’s next book and from the blurb, it sounds like it’s going to be an equally charming, relatable, and entertaining read.  Wish I didn’t have to wait six months though!

The Upside of Unrequited

by Becky Albertalli

upside-of-unrequited-th

Publication Date: April 17, 2017

From Goodreads:

From the award-winning author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda comes a funny, authentic novel about sisterhood, love, and identity.

Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love. No matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. If Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.  There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker, Reid. He’s a chubby Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him.  Right?

Check out this Advance Praise for The Upside of Unrequited!

“Heart-fluttering, honest, and hilarious. I can’t stop hugging this book.” —Stephanie Perkins, New York Times bestselling author of Anna and the French Kiss

“I have such a crush on this book! Not only is this one a must read, but it’s a must re-read.” —Julie Murphy, New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’

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I’d love to hear what upcoming book releases you’re waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me your link in the comments below and I’ll stop by and check out your WoW selection for this week. 🙂