Tuesday, February 28, 2017

February 2017 Reading Wrap Up!

For how busy I was during the shortest month of the year, I think I had a really great reading month! I read a lot of light, fluffy books and graphic novels which was just what I needed at this time. Highly recommend going in that direction with your reading if you're feeling stressed about the state of the world (and let's be honest - who isn't?). Here are my stats for the month of February

Participated in 1 readathon (#AYearAThon)
Read 2 library books and 7 of my own books
Completed 3 reading challenges
Completed non-fiction, diverse, classic, and TBR jar reads
Read 100 pages of Infinite Jest
Continued 1 series
3,648 pages read
books completed


Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lamire
Physical copy, 5/5
TBR Jar pick for February

Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn by Meredith Gran
Library book, 4/5

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Physical copy, 3.75/5
Continuing a series

Saga, Vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples
Physical copy, 5/5
Reading challenge fulfilled: A graphic novel

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Adieh (Review)
Physical copy, 2/5
Reading challenge fulfilled: A book with a red cover

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
Physical copy, 3.5/5
Reading challenge fulfilled: A used book

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
Physical copy, 4/5
Classic pick for February

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Physical, 4/5
Diverse pick for February

We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang (Review)
Library book, 5/5
Non-fiction pick for February

Monday, February 27, 2017

Book Review: We Gon' Be Alright

This month I chose to read We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang for my non-fiction read and you guys - this book needs to be required reading for Americans in this day and age. This book doesn't have a ton of reviews on GoodReads which is a total shame and because of that I thought I'd do a review here on my blog so you all can get a better sense of what you would be walking into when you pick up with book. As it's non-fiction, there aren't really "spoilers" in this review, so read ahead to find out a bit more.

We Gon' Be Alright was published in September of 2016 so the topics discussed in the essays within this book are extremely relevant. Jeff Chang takes an extremely raw approach to these essays, combining personal accounts of activists, people and communities of color, and personal stories of his own relationship with race with hard data and statistics regarding the oppression of people in the United States. Each essay focuses on race in a different contexts, from student protests on university campuses, to the erasure of black and lantinx culture in society, to an absolutely gripping essay on Ferguson and the killing of Mike Brown.

This book had me gasping, bulging my eyes wide, and holding my stomach from how much it ached while reading this book. I had these reactions because these things are REAL. They happen every day to people in our country and it's be happening for hundred of years. It makes me sick to my stomach to read these stories but they are so necessary to hear and learn from.

In the essay Hands Up, there is a quote that reflects what I often think about as a white woman in our country. Regarding teaching her children about what the definition of justice following the killing of Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, a mother shared the following thought:

"These are not the kinds of things that white people in the country would ever had to talk to their children about."

This is constantly in the back of my mind. As a white woman, I do not have to worry about being discriminated against because of the color of my skin, especially not from government officials or law enforcement. And the woman in the quote above is absolutely right - my parents never had to explain the idea of justice to me as a child. They never had to tell me to act a certain way around law enforcement. They never had to teach me how to not get arrested or even killed by a police officer simply by walking down the street. That in itself is the definition of white privilege.

That is just one of MANY thoughts I had while reading this book. This is an extremely thought provoking and emotional read, made all the more so by the fact that it is a non-fiction piece of literature that is backed up with statistics, data, and research. While I thoroughly enjoyed this book (it had me gripped the entire time), I know a book like this would be much more beneficial to so many other individuals. Folks who do not have the opportunity to hold social justice dialogue in their everyday life like I do. Folks who do not have the opportunity to interact with people different then them on a regular basis than I do. Folks that are altogether less familiar with the subject of race than I am. If I could hand this out to everyone in the United States I would do so without blinking an eye because the concepts and events discussed in this book are such vital knowledge in today's world.

Of course, I rated this book 
5/5 stars

and would 100% recommend you go and pick it up. As it's a newer release it's still a bit pricey, but I think it is totally worth the money. I read a library copy personally, but would love to own this book and will likely add it to my collection with my next haul.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 
Do you have a book that you would consider required reading for folks in your community? 
Let me know in the comments!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

#Project5 Book Buying Plan

You might know that one of my goals for 2017 is to taper my book buying, and you may have been a little thrown off yesterday when I posted my first book haul for the year ALREADY. Well, friends, not long after I stopped recording that haul, I logged onto YouTube and one of my favorite book tubers, Catriona at Little Book Owl, reminded me of the #Project5 book buying plan that helps to slow your book buying. I'm not sure where this project originated, but I did find this video from Ermahgerd Berks that describes a "Project 10" book buying plan which this may have stemmed from and outlines the jist of what I'll be shooting to accomplish with this book buying plan.

As of writing this post, I own a whopping 133 books that I have not read yet. That is a LOT of book, you guys! It's not like I don't want to read the books that I own - I absolutely do! I just get very distracted with new recommendations and buying pretty new books is extremely cathartic, especially with how stressful things have been so far this year! I often log onto Amazon, Book Outlet, or Book Depository ~just to browse~ and then before I know my shopping cart is filled with 15 books and my credit card is out. It's a problem y'all.

Enter: #Project5!

#Project5 tracking sheet in my bullet journal

Basically, the aim of this project is to slow down my book buying a bit, which is what I'm aiming to do this year anyway. The idea is that I MUST read at least 5 books that I own before I'm allowed to buy one. Because I'm only counting the books that I own toward this project, library books or books that I borrow from friends do not count toward this plan. I will be allowing myself to "bank" books, so say I read ten books and hadn't yet bought a book for the first five books I read, I can then buy two books, and so on. I'm assuming that I'll likely go with this "banking" strategy throughout the year because I love buying multiple books at a time!

I will be allowing "exceptions" throughout the year which will include:

-Books that are gifted to me throughout the year won't count as bought books
-I will be allowed to spend any gift cards I receive on books
-I will be allowed to treat myself to max 5 books for my birthday and for Christmas, and these "treat yo'self" books must be purchased within the month of my birthday/Christmas (so May and December)
-If I unhaul 10 books off my shelf (whether that is a read book or an unread book) I will be allowed to purchase 1 book

Post-it to keep track of my unhauls on the same page in my bullet journal

I'm really excited to take on this new project of mine and hopefully this will help to taper my book buying a little bit. I'll still be able to put together fun hauls every once in a while as well because those are some of my favorite videos to film! I will, of course, let you know how this project works for me. If you're planning on doing something similar or already do something similar, please tell me in the comments! I would love to know!

UPDATE AS OF 7/1/2017: A few changes to the rules are being implemented! 

1. I recently joined Book of the Month Club, something that I've been wanting to do for quite a long time now, and because you pay for that membership up front, I decided to cut myself a break and instead of using one of my #Project5 credits, that my BOTM each month won't count toward #Project5. Just a lil' treat for myself each month! :)

There is an option to add up to two extra books to your BOTM box each month, and if I decide to take that option then each extra book I put in the box will count as using a #Project5 credit unless it is a "freebie" (I got a free book for signing up!) or it is a book I've already read. Which leads me to my next rule...

2.  I can purchase books that I've already read without using a #Project5 credit. This was inspired by my parents moving away to Florida and taking some of our family books along with them, including our first edition US hardbacks of the Harry Potter series. I wanted to own the same editions that I grew up with and while they're not the original run editions, I'd still have the same covers. So, I figured that if I've already read the book and I want to add it to my collection, that it shouldn't count toward my #Project5 credit.

3. I do have an Audible account, and each audiobook will not count as using a #Project5 credit, but I also can not count finished audiobooks through Audible as counting toward earning more #Project5 credits.

I think that these two additions to the rules will really help me stay on 
track with not buying too many *new* books throughout the year! :D

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Winter 2017 Book Haul!

Today I'm hauling all the books I bought or received this winter! This will actually be my last haul for a little while as I am tapering my book buying this year, and I will be sharing my strategy for how I am planning to taper tomorrow right here on the blog, so stay tuned for that. This haul is a combination of late Christmas gifts, books bought with gift cards, giveaways, and books I bought as comfort buys towards the end of January (#pleasehelpAmerica D:). Click play to hear more about each book I bought, or click the GoodReads links for each below!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling and Illustrated by Jim Kay
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride by Lucy Knisley
Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
The Book Theif by Markus Zusak
Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Swing Time by Zadie Smith*
His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
Winter by Marissa Meyer
The Walled City by Ryan Graudin
The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

*I mentioned that this book is set in segregation era United States and I was wrong! It is set in London & West Africa. Sorry about that!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

I Messed Up Book Tag

I was tagged by Jessica & Christina over at Game of Tomes to complete the I Messed Book Tag! This was a challenging tag - I really had to rack my brain to come up with the answers to each question! I had so much fun coming up with each answer, though, and making this video! Click play to hear my answers to this tag. The questions are below and I hope to see this on your blog or YouTube channel if you're interested in completing this tag!

1. A character appearance that you misread or imagined differently?
2. A character name that you’ve been pronouncing wrong?
3. An overused trope that is your guilty pleasure
4. A cliche character type that you like seeing on screen than reading about
5. A word/phrase that you learned because of its use in a book
6. Have you ever not read/not completed a reading requirement for school
7. Have you ever (or have wanted to) skipped a chapter from the point of view you weren’t interested in?
8. Have you ever cancelled social plans to read a book?

Monday, February 20, 2017

#BorrowAThon Returns! Round 2 Announcement & Challenges

I am THRILLED that #BorrowAThon is returning! I hope you are as well. Round 2 will be running from Sunday, March 19th at 12AM in your time zone to Sunday, March 26th at 11:59PM in your time zone, making it an 8 day readathon again! I really love when readathons are 8 days long so you get a bonus day to read. I'm also co-hosting with two wonderful booktubers, Michael and Lala, and it is going to be so much fun having them on board with me! This round we will have 6 optional reading challenges which are:

1. Try before you buy
2. A graphic novel
3. Try a new-to-you author
4. A recommendation
5. A book with your favorite color on the cover
6. A book that involves a library in some way

I hope you all are able to join us in March for another round of #BorrowAThon! Make sure to follow us on Twitter at @BorrowAThon for the most up-to-date announcements as there will be much more to come, and if you're posting about the readathon make sure you use the hashtag #BorrowAThon so we can see your posts!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Book Review: The Wrath & the Dawn

Over the course of #AYearAThon I read The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Adieh. I had such high hopes for this book when I bought it and with the literally THOUSANDS of 5-star ratings on GoodReads I thought I was going to be in for a wonderful reading experience. I. Was. Wrong. So, of course, I needed to do a full-fledged review of this book. This review WILL contain spoilers, so read ahead at your own risk.

The Wrath & the Dawn is a retelling of Tales from 1,001 Nights by Anonymous. Our main character, Shahrzad, elects to marry the boy-king Khalid after he takes the lives of dozens of his brides that dawn following their wedding, including her best friend Shiva. Her motivation? To avenge her best friend and murder the king. The trick is to survive long enough to figure out how to pull off this murder. Seems like an interesting enough premise, right? I thought so, too.

The only thing I enjoyed about this story is the romance between Shahrzad and Khalid. The way Adieh wrote their relationship was very sweet to me, and they seemed like two individuals who could realistically fall for one another. Shahrzad is a fiery and outspoken woman while Khalid is more subdued and closed off. Khalid falling for Shahrzad, someone who speaks the truth no matter how dangerous it might be, made sense to me after the string of brides who would do anything, whether it is in their character or not, to stay alive. Khalid saw Shahrzad as a breath of fresh air in this way, which is extremely believable to me. I did not, however, understand why Shahrzad, who supposedly wanted to seek revenge for her best friend, so easily fell for Khalid (literally days after they married), the man who MURDERED the person she describes as her "light". If someone murdered my best friend I don't think I'd be falling in love with them.... that's just me though.

One of the main things that really bothered me while reading this book was all of the side-characters and their stories. Side-characters usually enhance a story and creates a more dynamic background for the main story line. That was not the case at all for me with this book. While it made a lot of sense for Shahrzad's family to be involved in the story and be concerned for her, their integration into the plot was done so poorly. Their involvement in the story was so infrequent and scattered, there was virtually no relationship building between Shahrzad and her family members (such as giving us background of Shahrzad growing up with her family, stories from the past, etc.), and the author just ultimately did a really poor job of making me care for these family members and their relationship to Shahrzad. If you are going to give a main character a family, you really need to spend more time an enriching their relationship in some way so the reader cares about those characters almost as much as the main character. Honestly, the story could have been much better without them.

Shahrzad's relationship with her handmaiden, Despina, was very strange to me. I really liked what Adieh was trying to do with their relationship (making them more friends and confidants more than a servant/Queen relationship), but their relationship just didn't read the way a friendship should read. Despina and Shahrzad were rude to each other but still told each other secrets, would call each other names but still confide in one another.... it just didn't make sense to me. There's also a Despina story arc where she's sleeping with the head of the guard and she's now pregnant.... really didn't need that aspect of the story. There was zero reason to care about her pregnancy or her side relationship with the guard and reading it was a big waste of time.

There was also a magical realism aspect of this book that really went nowhere. Apparently there is some magic in Shahrzad's blood that turns a carpet this random vagrant gives to her as a gift into a magic carpet and it was literally only talked about in one scene. Like... what the hell? Wouldn't you want to know more about that if you were Shahrzad? It just seems like she wrote it off way too easily. I have no idea if it's explored further in the sequel (and I really don't care) but it really just seemed like "What the carpet can move when I step on it? Lol oh well ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ ". I think the story could have taken a really interesting turn if it focused more on the magic in this world, but it really just got tossed to the side which made it seem pointless.

Ultimately, this book was all over the place. It seemed like Adieh wanted to do 400 different things with the story and couldn't commit to any of those things, was adding in stories that were really unnecessary, and just ultimately made me lose interest. I really had to push myself to continue to read this book and I think if I wasn't participating in a readathon it would have taken me weeks to get this book read. I wouldn't recommend this book personally, but it seems like a lot of people really enjoyed it (which I don't think I'll ever understand) so maybe give it a try if anything I said sounded interesting to you.

Overall I gave this book...
2/5 Stars!

Have you read The Wrath & the Dawn? If so, what did you think?
Let me know in the comments!

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Vlog: #AYearAThon February 2017

Last week I participated in my first round of #AYearAThon! Despite getting sick half way through, I really enjoyed my week and managed to finish my entire TBR pile. I enjoyed the majority of my reads as well which is awesome! #AYearAThon is a lot of fun and I would definitely recommend checking it out if you're interested in participating in a readathon. Shout out to all of the hosts for making this an extremely enjoyable week and experience!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Mindful Bullet Journal Activities

I mentioned in my Developing a Routine blog post a few weeks ago that I would share some of the mindful activities I do in my bullet journal each morning to get my mind in a good position for the rest of the day. It's been a really refreshing change of pace for me to take the 5-10 minutes right at the start of my day to do some reflection and focus on the positive. (Lord knows we need some positivity in our world at the moment. -_-)

I'll usually do these things as one of the first things I do in the morning in the office, but sometimes mornings are hectic and I can't get to these activities. Sometimes I'll do them if I have a free minute in the afternoon which also gives me an extra boost to get through the rest of the day. Sometimes I have to skip a day or two when things get really busy. But I always try to make the effort to do these activities as often as possible and they have really helped to clear my mind from negativity, even if it is only for a few moments. I hope you can use one of these activities in your planner, notebook, or bullet journal to help you gain of glimmer of positivity during the day!

Reasons to Smile

A lot of people use "gratitude logs" in their planners or bullet journals and have always talked about how much they enjoyed using them. I was always a little nervous to take this plunge and commit to writing something each day, but it's honestly such a joy to look back and find something positive in each day. Somedays I have a lot of positive things to write about that are really amazing and other days I find positivity in something as small as my morning coffee, but there's always something to write about.

I give myself a small space to write so I don't have a ton of pressure to write big, long paragraphs about why my day was great (because let's be real, sometimes days aren't so great), so the smaller spaces are much more manageable whether or not I had a really wonderful day. I've been loving this space in my bullet journal every month and have been doing it since September when I first started this journal!

Mental Health Tracker

This is something I recently started doing after finding it in a really wonderful BuzzFeed post about using your bullet journal to help your mental health. Instead of a "habit tracker", which I often found became more of a chore than a helpful resource in my bujo, this tracks how you're feeling and the activities that might contribute to the status of your mental and physical health. For those of you who might not know, I deal with migraines and anxiety fairly regularly, so I have found it is really helpful to know what might be contributing to those aspects of my life.

I have a "physical" section, which lets me know how I'm physically feeling and what might be contributing to that, such as my diet, m the amount of sleep I'm getting, and the last time I got a good sweat in.

A "self care" section which includes daily tasks like showering and brushing my teeth, things that I need to push myself to do like socializing outside of work on a regular basis, and things I enjoy doing like journaling or writing for my blog.

And a "mood" section which lets me know what my overall mood is for the day.

I also found that if I need more space to provide more information on a certain aspect of this tracker, I can simply put a triangle on that space and explain on the weekly spread of the day I felt that way or did a certain activity. It's nice to have the option to write a bit more if I feel like I need to!

This tracker has been very helpful for me to reflect on how the previous day went and why it might have gone the way that it did, as well as help me to prioritize my mental health in different ways. I would definitely recommend this daily activity!

Seasonal Favorites

I do "favorites" videos each season, and so I like to set aside a page in my bullet journal to track my favorite things throughout the season! Not all of the items I write down in this section make the cut into my final video, but it is nice to note down things that I really like each season. It's like a little collection of things that make you happy!

Quotes & Notes

The best part of a bullet journal is that there are no rules. You can customize it and set it up any way you would like, and you can write in whatever feels right. I've been finding lately that allowing myself to write down quotes that make me feel motivated and inspired, and giving myself space to take notes on the random things I'm listening to or watching online makes me feel really productive and fulfilled. Here's some of the things I've been jotting down lately:

Notes and doodles while watching a recent Frannerd video

A quote I doodled on a sticky note and stuck into my bujo to stay motivated.

Notes from a recent episode of the "Dear Hank & John" podcast.

How do you utilize your bullet journal or planner for self care? I would love to know! I hope you were able to take some of these ideas and incorporate them into your bullet journal as well. Mindfulness and self care is so important and utilizing your bullet journal is a great venue for practice!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Plan with Me! Weekly Bullet Journal Planning Routine

Today I thought I would so something a little different and give you an in-depth look on how I plan out my week in my bullet journal! This is the typical way I approach my weekly planning. The only thing you do not see in this video is mapping out my daily to-dos which usually happens the morning of each day. I would love to do a video on that as well if that is something you would be interested in. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this video and let me know if you have any questions on my planning method!

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Pittsburgh Marathon Training Update: January 2017

I am thrilled to say that marathon training is going very well so far! I am using a different training program than I have used for my past four marathons and I am really enjoying it thus far. I am currently using the Garmin Level 1 marathon training program which you can find here (click Find a Training Plan and scroll down). You can pick either heart-rate based or non-heart-rate based. For now I'm doing the heart-rate based program and while I don't stick right to the heart-rate target (I'm usually a bit above) it helps to know how the speed of my run should feel.

My first three weeks I've hit all but one run and it feels really great. The program asks you to run 3 times a week which is perfect for my schedule, and instead of giving you a certain distance to run, it's spent the first few weeks telling me to run for an allotted time which I prefer MUCH MORE because I know exactly how much time I need to carve out in my day for the run. I'm also loving that this program incorporates a variety of workouts like threshold runs, fartlek runs, and speed workouts. It makes each week of training much more interesting!

Overall, things are going very well so far which I am very happy about. I'm hoping to stay right on top of my training this spring and hopefully have one of my most successful marathons to date. I'm really happy I'm enjoying my training thus far instead of seeing it as a chore which I had started to do in the past. Hopefully I will continue on this roll in my training! I will be updating you each month on how things are going in my training to keep myself accountable. :)

Also, can we talk about how amazing my new watch face is for my Garmin? 
I'm definitely channeling my inner Mario with this training cycle! #LetsAGo!

Friday, February 3, 2017

#AYearAThon February 2017 TBR!

For my next readathon I will be participating in the February round of #AYearAThon! I've never participated in #AYearAThon before but this is a very interesting, fun, and laid back readathon that I've always wanted to be a part of. #AYearAThon happens during the first full week of every month and always has a different theme and challenge for each month. 

For February the theme is Retellings and the challenge is to read books that have been recommended to you. Luckily, being part of the online book community, almost every book I own has been recommended to me in some sort of capacity and a lot of those books just happen to be retellings, as that's something people LOVE to talk about! I'm very excited for my TBR and so, without further adieu, here are my picks for this round of #AYearAThon!

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer (Lunar Chronicles #2): This was an easy pick for me. I haven't picked up the Lunar Chronicles since I read Cinder back in August and have been itching to get back into the series. This is a Little Red Riding Hood retelling and I'm fairly certain it also incorporates other fairy tales that have been mentioned so far in the series. Looking forward to continuing on with this series!

Saga, vol. 2 by Brian K. Vaughn & Fiona Staples: While this isn't explicitly a retelling, I'm counting this one as it has some really heavy Romeo & Juliet, star-crossed-lovers vibes to it. I'm also excited to continue on with this series as I read the first volume in October and have not had the chance to pick it back up yet!

The Wrath & the Dawn by Renee Adieh: This is the first book in The Wrath & the Dawn duology and it is a retelling of 1,001 Nights. I've heard the entire internet sing the praises of this duology but I've also heard some criticisms of this book that make me a bit hesitant to pick this up. I'm going into this with an open mind, though, and I look forward to finding out if I enjoy it!

If you're joining in on #AYearAThon, let me know in the comments! 
I would love to interact with you throughout the readathon! 
Also, make sure to click play on my TBR video below to get more of my thoughts on each of the books!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

February 2017 TBR!

Hooray for a new reading month! I love picking out monthly TBRs and I am particularly excited for all of my picks for the month of February. Click play on the video if you'd like to hear more about the books that I've picked out PLUS a fun little project I'm going to tackle in the month of February for my Infinite Jest reading project! I hope everyone has a wonderful month and happy reading!
2017 Goal Picks

Infinite Jest goal: Reach page 200
Non-fiction: We Gon' Be Alright: Notes on Race and Resegregation by Jeff Chang
Diverse: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Classic: The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
TBR Jar: Sweet Tooth: Out of the Deep Woods by Jeff Lamire

(I just realized that nearly all of my monthly goal picks are written by a dude name Jeff.... whut.)

Reading Challenge Picks

A book with an orange cover: The Martian by Andy Weir
A used book: Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding
A book with an animal on the cover: A Dog's Journey by W. Bruce Cameron

Other Picks

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers
Octopus Pie: There Are No Stars in Brooklyn by Meredith Gran