Weekly Recap (4)

Every Friday I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

Reading

Finished: 

  • Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin #1) by Jennifer Estep
    • I was really enjoying this one until the ending dragged on forever. Plus the writing got irritatingly repetitive. Still a great read, though, and I’ll be continuing with the series. 
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    • I’m working myself into a fever pitch over the upcoming movie, y’all. I forgot how great this book is.

Acquiring

Borrowed:

  • Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy (Gallagher Girls #2) by Ally Carter
    • Fun and fluffy. Can’t wait to start.

Watching

  • 42 (The Jackie Robinson Story)
    • This was an incredible story to see on the big screen. I just wish the screenplay had been better.

Listening

  • The video of the National Anthem sung at the Boston Bruins game on Wednesday night gave me chills.

Exercising

  • Back full-force into the running. After almost 5 months off, this is not pretty. I also had a Groupon expiring at the Bikram studio, so I had to squeeze in a couple of classes.
    • Saturday – 2 miles
    • Sunday – 60 minutes on the helliptical
    • Monday – Bikram yoga
    • Tuesday – 4 miles
    • Wednesday – Bikram yoga
    • Thursday – 3 miles

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

Writing Wednesday – Motivation Check-In

Welcome back to Writing Wednesday! Today I’m following up on my last post about motivation.

In the book Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Fight Writer’s Resistance, Roseanne Bane describes three habits we should be cultivating each week: Process, Self-Care, and Product Time. I gave myself goals for these habits, and promised to check back and post my progress.

I was derailed from the start with another nasty cold (my second of the spring), but this past week has been much more productive. 

I went on a writing date at a pub with one of my friends (See?! Photo evidence!!), and I managed to get my beat sheet/outline done. That’s my handwritten outline and my project open in Scrivener, where I managed to jam out 500+ words even after a Bloody Mary! 

The one part that has been difficult for me is the Process time. I haven’t really devoted any time to this creative energy, so that’s something I need to focus on for next time.

For any of my fellow writers out there, how has your process been going? Are you struggling to make time for your writing or other hobbies?

Process:

  • Check-in
    • My goal: 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
    • Goal met? No. I didn’t do any process work.
  • Commitment (next two weeks)
    • 10 minutes per day, 3 days per week

Self-care:

  • Check-in
    • My goal: 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week
    • Goal met? Not quite. I did get 4 days this week, 3 of which were well over 30 minutes.
  • Commitment (next two weeks)
    • 60 minutes per day, 5 days per week

Product Time:

  • Check-in
    • My goal: 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
    • Target tasks
      • Outline Hannah plot/beat sheet
      • Explore Sexy New Idea
      • Write Hannah catalyst scene
    • Goal met? Almost. 2 out of 3.
  • Commitment (next two weeks)
    • 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
  • Target tasks
    • Set Hannah on quest

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday – REWIND: Books I HAD to Buy

I love lists, so I’m excited to dip my toes in the listy fun that is Top Ten Tuesday. This meme is run by The Broke and the Bookish and each week they post a new list for us to complete and share.

Just post your own list, link back to The Broke and the Bookish, and add your link to the linky tool to participate!

It’s Top Ten Tuesday Rewind week, so I’m going back to one I was bummed I missed.

Top Ten Books I HAD to Buy…But are Still Sitting On My Shelf Unread:

(This list should be waaaay longer than 10, by the way.)

1. Dearly, Departed

 Steampunk AND a beautiful cover…but I still haven’t read it. I think the zombie thing has me worried I won’t like it.

2. Falling for Hamlet

 This Hamlet retelling had me rushing to the bookstore. Someday I’ll get to it.

3. Railsea

 This looked like a dark fantasy I needed in my life. Then it got cast aside for other new things.

4. Wolf Hall

 Honestly, this one will require a certain amount of brain power I haven’t had the energy to devote yet.

5. My Fair Lazy

 Annoyed with dealing with Jen’s copious footnotes in Kindle format, I bought this in paperback. I think if it was on my Kindle I’d have read it by now.

6. Raised by Wolves

 Pretty cover! Hype! And then…nothing.

7. Across the Universe

 I keep telling myself I’m just not in the mood for sci-fi.

8. Eyes Like Stars

 This was bought during my buy-all-the-theater-books phase.

9. If I Stay

 I’ve only resisted this one because I know it’s emotional.

10. Ruby Red

Time travel and a pretty cover! But some not so great reviews made me put it down the list.

What books are still unread on your shelves?

Book Blogger Confessions: Blog Evolution

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme run by Midnyte Reader and For What It’s Worth. Every first and third Monday participants post and discuss common frustrations to book bloggers. Link up your post on either blog and hop around to listen to and learn from your fellow bloggers!

This week’s question is:

How long do you see yourself blogging? Do you think it’s okay for a blog to evolve over time? For example: You may have started out as a book review blog but now your interest is in cooking as well. Do you incorporate that or start over?

 I have had an online blog or journal in some format for 12 years. I’m not sure that this blog, in this format, will exist in decades to come, but I’d like to think that I’ll always have an online presence. 

I think a blog can evolve as long as the author is okay with a changing audience. This blog was created for readers, and mostly YA readers at that, so if I decide to start focusing more on running, say, or even on my writing, I have no doubt that my audience would change and likely grow smaller. And that doesn’t bother me. I want readers who connect with my content, pure and simple.

Where I get a little confused is whether a blog can have more than one focus. For now, I’m keeping my other interests confined to my weekly recaps. I’m afraid if I do book reviews, and a weekly post on writing, and a weekly post on running/training, and so on, that I’ll end up attracting no audience at all because there is no common theme. At that point it starts to feel like a journal/diary, and there are better (and more private) venues for that on the interwebs.

At the very least, I see this blog continuing on for a few more years. Let’s hope! 🙂

 

 

Weekly Recap (3)

 
Every Friday I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

  • FAIL. No posts this week. Feel free to shame me in the comments, but my excuse was another bout of illness. This spring is kicking my ass!

Reading

Finished: 

  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
    • Loved it. I learned a lot about the rise of Hitler that I hadn’t known, and the Dodd family was a fascinating bunch of characters.
  • Clockwork Angel (Clockwork Angel #1) by Cassandra Clare
    • I got so thoroughly sucked into this series. I had to start book 2 immediately.

Started: 

  • Clockwork Prince (Clockwork Angel #2) by Cassandra Clare
    • See above.
  • Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller
    • I flew through the early years, but now that I’ve hit the mediocre ’80s I’m getting bored. This may be a DNF.
  • Spider’s Bite (Elemental Assassin #1) by Jennifer Estep
    • I have a weakness for assassin tales, and after 40 pages I’m already in love with this one.

Acquiring

Borrowed:

  • Live From New York: An Uncensored History of Saturday Night Live by Tom Shales and James Andrew Miller

Watching

  • The Following
    • We’re playing catch up on DVR’ed episodes. This show is so creepy and tense and scary in all the best ways. If you’re not watching it, you really should be.
  • Jurassic Park 3D IMAX
    • We paid the ridiculous $25 parking fee at Navy Pier to see this beloved favorite on the best IMAX screen in town. It’s astounding how well those dinosaurs stand the test of time, and I am so very glad I got to see it in the theater again!

Listening

  • Olly Murs, “Troublemaker”
    • My friend and I heard this on the radio and couldn’t decide whether it was Maroon 5 or not. Luckily it popped up again in the car and thanks to Sirius XM displays, we found out the real artist!

Exercising

  • I got in one measly run this week thanks to being sick again. I used the time off to plan out my racing season, though. Here are the races I’m aiming for this year:
    • 05/25/13 – Soldier Field 10 Mile (registered)
    • 06/23/13 – Bigfoot Triathlon, Olympic distance
    • 06/30/13 – Twin Lakes Triathlon, Sprint distance (registered)
    • 08/10/13 – Zooma Half Marathon
    • 08/25/13 – Chicago Triathlon, Sprint distance (registered)
    • 09/15/13 – TriRock Lake Geneva Triathlon, Olympic distance
    • 10/12/13 – Prairie State Half Marathon
    • 11/03/13 – Hot Chocolate 15K

What have you been up to this week?

 

 

 

Weekly Recap (2)

 
Every Friday I post a recap of books I’ve read, am reading, and plan to read, as well as any other tidbits I feel like sharing. The format was inspired by Small Review’s Recap posts and On a Book Bender and 25 Hour Books’ Clock Rewinders on a Book Binge posts.

Blogging

This week on the blog:

Reading

Finished: 

  • Darkfever (Darkfever #1) by Karen Marie Moning
    • This was an interesting world and I’m looking forward to the rest of the series, but I need to read something else first.
  • Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
    • My pick for book club this month. I can’t wait to discuss!

Started: 

  • In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin by Erik Larson
    • I love the way Larson writes non-fiction. His use of foreshadowing may not be for everyone, but I like knowing where the story is headed.
  • Clockwork Angel (Clockwork Angel #1) by Cassandra Clare
    • This is much darker than I thought it would be, and I really like it so far. Why did I wait so long to read these?

Acquiring

Bought:

  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald 
    • I can’t even explain how excited I am for the Baz Luhrmann movie next month. 

Watching

  • Downton Abbey, Seasons 2 and 3
    • It’s official. We’re addicted. We blasted through season 2 in two sessions, and are working our way through season 3 this week.
  • Game of Thrones, Season 3
    • Still the best show on television.

Listening

  • Bad Religion at Congress Theater
    • As advance repayment for making him go with me to the Justin Timberlake/Jay-Z concert this summer, my husband is taking me to a Bad Religion concert tonight.

Exercising

  • Registered for 2nd quarter of Masters Swim Team at my gym, and am trying out a new Pilates-inspired class called BOSU-Core Synergy.
  • Running is on hold since I got a nasty chest cold this week. Blerg.

 

 

 

Review: Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Book: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Publisher: Harcourt Books
Release date: October 1, 2008
Source: Bought
Series: Graceling Realm #1
  
Summary from Goodreads: In a world where people born with an extreme skill called a Grace are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him.

When she first meets Prince Po, who is Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away…a secret that could destroy all seven kingdoms with words alone.

Lady killers!

I have this thing with assassin stories. I love them. One of the things that drew me to this book was the promise of a girl with a special power to kill. Sign me up any day for a female main character who can kick some major ass.

The opening scene pulled me in immediately. Katsa is sneaking around in the dark, roundhouse-kicking guards to the ground, and rescuing a prisoner. Soon after, we meet Po, a mysterious boy with a fighting Grace who lets Katsa beat up on him for fun. I instantly loved both of these characters and the world they inhabited.

In Katsa’s country, her Grace is looked down upon. She is frequently shunned or feared, and her uncle, the king, manipulates and uses her to his advantage by sending her off to settle his quarrels. She’s his muscle – a thug he dispatches to get his way.

Po is a Lienid prince from across the sea, whose country doesn’t see Graces as bad things. He challenges and encourages Katsa to get over her shame and embrace her Grace. As they grow closer, Katsa learns the truth about Po’s Grace, and they both have to learn to trust each other in order to successfully reach their goals. I loved the growth of their relationship over the course of the book.

Mawwiage.

I know there have been complaints about Katsa as uber-feminist. I didn’t mind her commitment to stay unmarried, because it felt truthful to her character and experiences. I did feel that this point was beaten over our heads a few too many times, however. I also felt sorry for Katsa, because she had this concept of marriage as a loss of identity that was never reinforced by the world. I wasn’t sure if this was Katsa’s perspective that evolved from her own fears, or whether it was truly the way marriage worked in her society. Did child-free couples exist? Were there women who still had freedom and independence within their marriages, if not in Middlun then in Lienid? It was hard to know whether to root for Katsa and Po to end up together.

Questing!

The plot of the book revolves around the prisoner Katsa rescues in the opening scene – he is Po’s grandfather, and they are trying to figure out why he has been kidnapped. Katsa and Po set off to travel through the country and glean what information they can, and eventually they turn to the southeastern country of Monsea and the strange behavior happening there.

Oh. Questing.

Unfortunately, it was at this point the book lost some of its luster for me. Questing is usually one of my favorite story elements, but here it turned more Harry Potter than Lord of the Rings. First, Katsa and Po tromp through the woods finding information. Then they tromp through woods and mountains getting to Monsea. Then they tromp through more mountains trying to get out of Monsea. Then Katsa crosses the mountains, and a sea, trying to escape and plan her next move. But she doesn’t get to plan her next move, because the plot just comes to her. It felt like a lot of unnecessary walking/riding/sailing that didn’t accomplish much.

This was an enjoyable read, and I definitely recommend it to fantasy readers. I’m anxious to spend more time in the Seven Realms and explore other characters and Graces, so I’ll continue with the trilogy. 

Rating: 3/5 stars

Click the stars for a description of my rating system

Writing Wednesday – Gold Star Motivation

Welcome back to Writing Wednesday! Today I’m talking about motivation.

I recently read a terrific book on this very subject, called Around the Writer’s Block: Using Brain Science to Fight Writer’s Resistance by Roseanne Bane. In it, she explains why our brains get in our own way, how we can recognize our individual forms of resistance, and offers three simple habits to allow us to push through our blocks and get creative. The book was incredibly fascinating and I highly recommend it.

One of the strategies she mentions in the book is developing a reward system, and she describes how a client of hers used dollar store gold star stickers to give herself an immediate visual reward when she crossed off a bit of writing from her to-do list. Brilliant! As someone who benefits from accountability, but struggles to find ways to actually implement it, I really took to this idea. I picked up a few packs of sparkly stickers and drew a chart in my paper calendar where I could stick them.

But as Ruby recently pointed out, our best laid plans when it comes to organization don’t always come with the requisite follow through. Originally, I wanted to get a piece of poster board where I could hang this chart in my hallway and publicly shame myself into putting up the stickers (or not). I couldn’t find what I wanted at Office Depot, and settled for the calendar/planner method.

Which I used exactly once.

I’m not giving up on the gold star method of motivation. I just need a better way to showcase it so that I actually use it. And then it dawned on me – what better place than a public blog?

In the book, Roseanne Bane describes three habits we should be cultivating each week: Process, Self-Care, and Product Time. For each of these items, every week, we need to set aside and commit to time spent on each activity, and then track our results. She provides a number of handy charts to use, and encourages writers to check in with each other, either through existing critique groups or forming groups with others who use her method. 

When I put together my new weekly recap post, I considered adding these elements to it for my weekly check-in. Then I thought maybe I should use Writing Wednesday for those check-ins, but I had envisioned this feature being every other week. I’d like to start tracking the number of words I’m writing, as well as the time I’m spending on my writing, in order to better gauge my progress over time and to help me figure out the amount of time each week that I need in order to move my project(s) forward. Whether this needs to happen weekly or biweekly on the blog is up in the air.

For now, I’ll start conservatively, and leave my check-ins on Writing Wednesday every two weeks. I’ll discuss my progress, map out what I’d like to accomplish in the next two weeks, and record my numbers. If any other writers want to join me, feel free to post your own progress/numbers in the comments or on your own blogs.

Here’s my plan for the next two weeks. I’ll be back on the 17th to let you know how I did!

Process:

  • Commitment
    • 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
  • Choices
    • Morning pages/journaling
    • Coloring books
    • Sketching/drawing

Self-care:

  • Commitment
    • 30 minutes per day, 5 days per week
  • Choices
    • Masters swim
    • Running
    • Bikram yoga

Product Time:

  • Commitment
    • 15 minutes per day, 3 days per week
  • Target tasks
    • Outline Hannah plot/beat sheet
    • Explore Sexy New Idea
    • Write Hannah catalyst scene

 

 

 

Book Blogger Confessions: Blog/Life Balance

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme run by Midnyte Reader and For What It’s Worth. Every first and third Monday participants post and discuss common frustrations to book bloggers. Link up your post on either blog and hop around to listen to and learn from your fellow bloggers!

This week’s question is:

How does blogging affect your *real* life? Are friends and family supportive? Do you find that blogging cuts into family time? How do you strike a balance between the two?

I generally don’t talk about my blog with people in my life. My family and husband and a few friends know it exists, and some of them follow my posts and even comment from time to time (mostly my fellow voracious readers: Mom and my sister). But generally, its content doesn’t apply to or interest most of my regular peeps.

That said, they’re very supportive, and my husband usually just lets me go about my business. He did object to the alarming increase of books that started to pile up, but I’m doing better about that these days. And while in the beginning (and during design changes) I was devoting hours every day to blog setup and upkeep, I’ve gotten better at managing my time and not doing blog stuff when we’re supposed to be doing things together.