So that didn’t work out very well…

It’s been almost five months since my last blog post. So much for getting back into the groove! As you can see, yet another attempt to connect to book blogging turned out to be a failure.

When I started getting Bluehost’s nagging emails about my upcoming renewal date, I realized I needed to make a decision about my blogging future. Did I want to pay for another year of service? Did I want to keep my domain? Did I want to migrate back to a free platform?

Did I even want to blog anymore?

I started by analyzing the pursuits this blog is oriented around – reading and writing. Was I reading less? Definitely not. In fact, quite the opposite is true. I’m on pace to read far more than ever before. I’m devouring books and team challenges over on Goodreads like a maniac. Like a BOSS. I’ve read over 70 books already, and we haven’t even reached the halfway point this year.

Okay, so what about writing? That one is a slightly different challenge in that I already have avenues for that separate from this blog, from my in-person critique group to online communities like The Writing Sidekick. I have no desire to cross post my hand wringing and teeth gnashing here.

Book reviewing started out as a way for me to meet other readers and writers who loved to talk about books, and I’ve discovered some truly incredible bloggers who inspire me with their wit, dedication, and passion. I will be eternally grateful for having been a part of the book blogging community, if only for a few short years. (That may sound like a long time to some, but many of you have been doing this 4EVAAAHHH.)

The real question then became: Do I want to book blog anymore? Based on my lack of consistency and interest, the answer is clear. No, I don’t.

What, then, should I do with this site?

I couldn’t bring myself to cast away my domain and the blog entirely. I would like to hold on to my reviews and recaps and features and leave open the possibility that I may come back to them periodically when the mood strikes me. It’s not that I’m reading and writing less frequently, but that I am writing about reading and writing less frequently.

I put a lot of hard work (and money) into this blog – switching platforms and hosting companies multiple times, getting multiple designers to help me with my themes and headers, and hosting events and giveaways – and I’d hate to see it all disappear. Having made up my mind, I decided to find a cheaper web host (Who also migrated my site for free in under an hour! Thank you, A Small Orange!) to minimize my maintenance costs as I move forward with this blog/site.

I may not have as much interest in reviewing books or discussing my writing process, but I do want to have an online presence outside of social media. Ideally, I’d like a place to talk about my wide range of hobbies and interests, beyond just books.

So what happens now?

Essentially, this will become a personal blog. I’m taking a workshop on HTML/CSS and hopefully will be able to put some of that knowledge into use to revamp this site a little. Things will probably look a little different around here very soon.

I’m sure I will be discussing books from time to time, and most likely sharing occasional race reports, and definitely talking about an exciting career change I am pursuing. For now, I’m comfortable simply leaving the pressure of maintaining a book blog behind me and moving on to more varied topics. If that at all interests you, I hope you’ll stick around.

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…and In With the New!

The year 2013 is done, and so my many challenges have come to an end. I’ve updated my 2013 Challenge Index and overall I did pretty well, though some areas definitely could use some improvement. Here’s a quick recap of how I did on my reading challenges:

2013 Goodreads Challenge: 130/75 books read

My previous high (since I started tracking everything I read on Goodreads) was 120 books in 2011. In 2012 I had a pitiful 50 books read. This year, I was glad to get back on track and I blew my conservative estimate out of the water. I think I reached my initial goal of 75 books by July or August! 

Debut Author Challenge: 4/12 books read

Once again, I didn’t read very many debuts. My self-imposed restriction on advance review copies has limited my access to debut author books, and they are harder to find at the library. I also found that I love reading new authors, just not necessarily debut authors.

Seriously Series Challenge: 12/12 series read

My focus for this challenge was to get up to the last book in a series that I had already purchased. I ended up getting quite a few from the library too. I’m happy I finally caught up on the Black Dagger Brotherhood, and I also finally read the entire trilogies of Across the Universe and the Infernal Devices. 

Get Steampunked Challenge: 5/5 books read

I managed to read more than my goal of five books, actually. I read 9! My favorite was the first in a new series combining steampunk and faeries, A Conspiracy of Alchemists by Liesel Schwarz.

Off the Shelves Challenge: 20/50 books read

I did better than last year, but still not as great as I would have liked. I made copious use of the library this year, and my shelves suffered as a result. I’m doing two challenges on Goodreads this year that focus on whittling down our TBR lists, so hopefully I can exceed this number in 2014.

Graphic Novels Challenge: 6/12 books read

I think I read all 6 of these in January and then promptly ignored my collection after that. I acquired two new graphic novels this year, one of which I’m reading for my YA book club in the spring. It would be nice if I could read another 6 this year.

Back to the Classics Challenge: 2/6 books read

I had so hoped to devote some time to the classics this year, but this was a pretty spectacular fail. I only read one of the required six, and read one alternate. I think in 2014 I’ll consider it a win if I read just one!

TBR Pile Challenge: 6/12 books read

There’s no cheating in this challenge run by Roof Beam Reader. The lists were set even before 2013 began, and I did pretty well. Ultimately, the rest of the list just didn’t appeal to me over the newer, shinier choices as the year progressed. 

Authors After Dark Challenge: 2/8 books read

I thought I would do better in this one this year, given the amount of PNR/UF I read. Turns out I just read a bunch of authors who happened not to be going to AAD. After two years of limping to the finish, I think it’s time to give this challenge a rest.

Literary Exploration Challenge: 33/36 books read

I came so very close to finishing this one, but just ran out of time. The five books I had left included a play and some sonnets – easy and quick reads. But the others I couldn’t quite sneak in. I had a lot of fun challenging myself to read such varied genres, and I struggled with the ones I expected to find more difficult. In many ways, however, it was easier than I expected. I learned that I tend to read in a lot more genres than I thought. This challenge has its own widget and group on Goodreads for easy tracking, and they’re offering it again in 2014 if any of you are interested in giving it a try.

Book to Movie Challenge: 6/6 books read and movies watched

This was the most fun to complete, I think. It helped that there were so many new movies this year based on great books. I saw Beautiful Creatures, The Great Gatsby, Ender’s Game, and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and snuck in two oldies: The Princess Bride and One Day. I managed to read Austenland, The Book Thief, and Carrie, but didn’t get a chance to see the movie adaptations. I also haven’t seen City of Bones yet.

Did I miss any biggies? What book to movie adaptations did you see this year?

That’s it for my challenge round-up. Are you doing any challenges this year?

 

 

 

Out With the Old…

It’s the last day of 2013, and I have never been more ready for a new year. 2013 had a lot of ups and downs for me, in so many ways. I am so happy to be perched on the edge of a new beginning.

Ruby over at Ruby’s Reads wrote a post yesterday about her long hiatus from blogging, and it really hit home for me. Life got hectic, I lost interest in a lot of things (including blogging), and when the time between posts kept stretching and stretching, I started to think maybe it was time to let it go.

Last year I started to feel the weight of keeping up with post after post after post, and this year, it was the tech side that got to me. I moved to a new hosting service, and it created a lot of weird characters through almost all of my blog entries. I couldn’t find a solution, and it quickly brought down the high I’d had from moving my entire site over to Bluehost all by myself. My fist pump of victory turned into a sad half-hearted junior high slow dance.

I am determined to move on, however. I’m fixing the problem as I go back to old entries, but I’m not going out of my way to search through hundreds of old posts just to delete out some oddities. It’s almost 2014! Time for a clean slate!

So where have I been? Goodreads, mostly. I’ve become crazy active on that site – joining groups and actively participating in them, doing buddy reads, and entering challenges and competitions that have pushed me to read more than any other year. In fact, I’m trying to wrap this up so I can go back to reading and hopefully knock a few more books off my list.

In 2014, I’ve decided to track all of my book challenges on Goodreads. I set up my own page (group, really) there to keep my lists organized, and I’ve found it much easier to check off my lists there instead of on the blog. I may do a post in the future on the different groups I’ve joined, but in the meantime, if you’re curious, here’s a list of where I’m a member. The Goodreads crowd is a lot of fun, and they are so creative with ways to keep reading fun.

Tomorrow I’ll have a post up summarizing my challenges in 2013, and I’ve updated my widgets and challenge page on the blog. Here’s hoping I can squeeze another one or two in before midnight!

Happy New Year to you all!

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Moving to Bloglovin’

With the news that Google Reader is on the outs, I (along with everyone else in the blogosphere) began looking into alternatives. I’m going to give Bloglovin’ a try, especially after I learned that you can comment directly from the interface, AND they grant pageview stats to my fellow bloggers when I read their posts. Score!

I created an account today and imported my Google Reader list in under a minute. Easy peasy. And now, I’m going to make this blog available through there as well.

UPDATE:

It was my good luck that during Bloggiesta this weekend, The Picky Girl ran a mini-challenge around picking a new feed reader. Since originally posting this announcement, I have had the pleasure of using both Feedly and Bloglovin’ and so far I think Bloglovin’ is winning.

The first big drawback to Feedly is that I have to install it on each computer I use, which annoys me. Right now, for instance, I’m housesitting and don’t want to clutter my friend’s computer with my junk. The second drawback is the interface it uses. No matter how I play with the settings, I can’t get Feedly to display in a way that I find aesthetically pleasing or useful. 

Bloglovin’s layout is much more similar to Google Reader’s, and that makes it more intuitive for me to use. Yes, it’s slightly annoying that you can only see a sentence or two of the previews, but once you click to read a post, the navigation bar that stays up top makes it simple to browse through the rest of my subscriptions, with the added benefit of seeing the posts on their actual sites. It not only grants a pageview, but it lets me see the post the way it was meant to be seen. We don’t spend all of that time formatting our posts for nothing, amirite? 

Both sites have iPhone apps, and I have downloaded both. They work much the same, but I find Bloglovin’s app to have a smoother feel. The Feedly app doesn’t scroll so much as it jumps around and it is taking me some time to get used to it. 

I haven’t totally given up on Feedly, and I’ll still play around with both for at least a few more weeks. I have a feeling this dilemma will sort itself out in time and I’ll find myself gravitating to one over the other, at which point I’ll delete the other app and go on about my business.  

For those of you who do use Bloglovin’ please click below (or in my sidebar) to follow me!

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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Happy New Year!

I hope everyone had incredibly happy holidays and had a great New Year’s Day. I spent the majority of my holidays traveling, so I’m looking forward to some time at home the next few months!

In reflecting over the past blogging year, I took some time today to update my 2012 Challenge Index. Here’s a quick recap of how I did on my reading challenges:

2012 Goodreads Challenge: 50/100 books read

Compared to the 120 books I read in 2011, this is a pitiful number. I’m not sure why I read so many fewer books this year, but I think I simply wasn’t as motivated to power through so many review copies. I focused much more on library books and didn’t pressure myself to read quickly. I’ve adjusted my 2013 challenge to 75 as a “split the difference” strategy between my 2011 and 2012 reading goals.

Debut Author Challenge: 6/12 books read

I read far fewer review books this year. I even had my NetGalley account deactivated and changed my review policy so that I no longer accept advance copies at all. As a result, I read fewer debuts as their availability at the library is more limited than older titles, and I only purchased a couple of them. I probably won’t participate in this challenge anymore.

YA Historical Fiction Challenge: 6/10 books read

This is a favorite genre, so I’m not surprised I got closer to completing this one. I was derailed by finding lots more adult historical fiction this year, which doesn’t count for this particular challenge. I think I’ll try a less narrow genre challenge this year.

Get Steampunked Challenge: 3/15 books read

Yikes! I’m surprised I didn’t get through more of these. I have amassed a large selection of steampunk books this year, so now I need to get to actually reading them. I’ll be signing up for this one again.

Off the Shelves Challenge: 1/30 books read

At least it’s not zero! This was a challenge to read books sitting on my shelves, which did not happen (obviously). Because my book horde is approaching unmanageable proportions, this is a MAJOR goal of mine in 2013 – read the books I already own before I buy (or borrow) old ones. The library is proving to be the toughest competition, because I justify borrowing books because they are free, but doing so does nothing to increase the books read on my shelves. I am definitely doing at least a couple of TBR-oriented challenges this year to get my butt in gear!

Books Started But Not Finished Challenge: 2/6 books read

The idea here was to finish books from my short list of abandoned titles. It did not go well. There’s usually a reason I didn’t finish them, so most of these titles just didn’t appeal to me over shiny new books that might be the best book ever. I’ll give this challenge a miss in the future.

Graphic Novels Challenge: 0/12 books read

Another embarrassing failure. Because my graphic novel collection is precious to me, I don’t really want to take them out of my house. This means I don’t take them on the train, which is where I do most of my reading. Still, I plan to keep the same list and try again with this challenge. I can usually finish a graphic novel in a relatively short amount of time, so I need to pick a gloomy weekend this winter and get through a few at a time. Maybe that should be the primary focus of a read-a-thon?

Why Buy the Cow? Challenge: 0/12 books read

No freebies read this year. I also think I acquired very few (if any) of them. I have plenty of paid-for books to read, and I’m not really interested in glutting my Kindle with more freebies. Unless it’s a title I’ve been itching to read anyway, no thanks. After two years in a row of failing, I won’t be doing this challenge again.

Speculative Romance Challenge: 3/12 books read

This was another one that surprised me. I really thought I would read more than that in this genre. Instead of doing a strict romance genre challenge, I’ll be substituting the Seriously Series challenge, since I have so many UF/PNR series books in my TBR pile.

Dusty Volumes Challenge: 3/6 books read

Finishing half of my list is a definite step up from 2011, so I’m happy with that number. It’s entirely thanks to the Austen in August event hosted by Roof Beam Reader that I even got this far! I don’t think Midnyte Reader is hosting this again (so I’ll probably do her Authors After Dark challenge instead), but I’ll attempt a different classics challenge, since I have a good list in mind that I want to finish this year. 

Outlander Reading Challenge: 1/6 books read

This didn’t turn out to be a big priority for me, so it fell to the back of the pack. I know I’ll get to the rest of these eventually, but I don’t need a challenge to do so.

1st in a Series Challenge: 9/12 books read

I did the best in this challenge, partly because I like starting series, and partly because it’s hard to find books these days that aren’t part of a series.

Finishing the Series Challenge: 1/3 series finished

I guess I got too distracted by new series to finish the ones I’ve already started!


Now, on to 2013!

In the coming weeks I’ll be posting challenge sign-ups and getting my 2013 index ready. It felt really good to update links and do, well, anything, blog-related. Maybe this year I can get around to posting my challenge progress bar widgets to help keep me on track. 🙂

 

 

 

Back!

You know that thing where you keep meaning to call/email someone, and then you forget, and then so much time passes that you know it’s going to take more than just a quick call/email to catch up, so you put off that phone call/email? And then more time passes and the next thing you know a month or two have gone by and now you’re embarrassed and wonder if it’s weird to call/email now? And then after a few more months you start to think that maybe you should just never contact them again because it’s going to be super awkward to pop back up into their lives?

This = that.

So much has been going on that I don’t even know where to start.

  • I’ve been reading, but mostly adult and non-fiction books. A friend of mine just started a new YA book club, though, and the break from YA fiction has me energized to get back into it.
  • I’ve been writing, but the process is slow. I just finished up an online course on Scrivener and another on YA Steampunk, and I started a 4 week workshop on Writing Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I re-enrolled in the monthly Advanced YA Fiction Workshop that I had to miss during the summer session. I’m still hedging on whether to try NaNoWriMo again this year. 
  • I’ve been running my fool head off, and completed not just the planned one (Chicago) but TWO triathlons and two 5K races in the span of a month. I’m still training for the 15K in November, registered for a 10-mile race in May, and plan to run at least two half marathons in the spring.
  • I joined the Masters swim team and a team fitness challenge at my gym. I am officially a workout junkie, and can happily report that I’ve lost 23 pounds since Memorial Day.
  • I’m working on five different computer science/programming courses simultaneously on Coursera.org and edX.org. I plan to roll my sleeves up and dig into HTML5 and CSS3 when these are done.

In light of all the crazy listed above, the format of this blog is going to change a little. I love books, but they are only one small section of my life. I’d like to share more than just my reviews with you. If that’s all I have to offer, then I might as well close up shop and move to Goodreads, amirite? I realize some of you may not care about the cool bit of computer nerdery I cooked up, or whether I PR’ed in my last road race. But I’m a sharer. It’s what I do.

I hope to work out some semblance of a schedule in the coming weeks so you know when to expect what randomness will come out of this blog. There will still be reviews, probably of both YA and adult books, as well as the return of Writing Wednesdays. The other stuff will fill in the blank spaces. 

It’s good to be back.

 

 

The State of Things

This post should really be titled “The State of Things, in which I try to explain the level of crazy that has become my life.” In an effort to balance the many demands on my time these last few months, blogging has fallen to the wayside. Today, I’ll tell you why.

First and foremost in my priorities, but probably highest on the list of Nobody Else Cares, is that since the end of May I have been completing a group weight loss program at my gym with Dear Old Husband. For two hours on both Tuesday and Thursday nights, we (along with 4 others) have been working out, setting goals, and learning nutrition with a team of personal trainers, a wellcoach, and a registered dietitian. It’s a 12 week program, and it ends next week. This is simultaneously relieving and terrifying.

Because this was a pricey program (as all things that are good for you tend to be, amirite?), it has taken a lot of my focus. When I’m not “in class” on those Tuesdays and Thursdays, I’m typically at the gym anyway. I’m trying to figure out the best way to balance the need to work out with needing to, you know, have a life, but as a person who tends to get a wee bit obsessed with whatever is my current focus du jour, it’s difficult.

The second time drain, which is probably off the Nobody Else Cares list, but climbing the Oh That’s Nice But We Still Don’t Care That Much list is the fact that I’m also training for the Chicago Triathlon at the end of the month. This will be my second time doing Chicago, but my sixth(!!) triathlon total. So I’m spending even more hours in the gym and at the beach working on my swimming, biking, and running.

Combine these things with the fact that I’d rather spend my time writing my novel and not necessarily reviews, and it all adds up to one seriously neglected blog. I’ve become dissatisfied with my reviews and the rigid format I’ve set up for myself with their structure. I haven’t been reading much this year, and some of the books I do read are not ones the readers of this blog would be most interested in. 

I’ve played with the idea of turning this into more of a writing blog, but I don’t have a whole lot to say as it gets completed other than, “I’m working on it.” Heh. And I do love to talk about books, so maybe I just shouldn’t review them, in the typical sense. During the Outlander read-along, Laura and Carrie and I had a conversation about how we like discussing books more than reviewing them. That’s something I’m going to try, starting this week. Look for a more discussion-oriented post on The Selection  by Kiera Cass. We’ll see how it goes.

And now on to FUN things. Last Thursday was my birthday, and I bought lots of good presents for myself with gift cards:

I have wanted to read Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel for a really long time, and I’ve been curious about Deborah Harkness’ A Discovery of Witches, especially since the sequel came out and everyone’s again talking about how amazing it is. Railsea by China Miéville caught my eye right away, but after I learned it had illustrations, that spurred me to buy the hardcover.

Surprise, surprise – a fitness book! I bought Run Faster to help with my running, as I move from focusing on the triathlon to the two 5K races I signed up for in September, followed by a 15K in November, with the big goal of finishing the Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in Orlando next February. I also bought a copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way to help with my creativity and writing, but it was on my nightstand and husband was still sleeping while I took these pictures, thus the lack of photo.

And because buying books usually leads to wanting to read more books, I also picked up some library books:

I grabbed all of the Austen I could find on my branch’s shelves for Roof Beam Reader’s Austen in August event: Northanger Abbey, Pride & Prejudice, and Emma.

I LOVE the hilarious and multi-talented Mindy Kaling. If you don’t know her (writer and actress for The Office, small movie roles), you soon will, as she’s getting her own show this fall (The Mindy Project). This has been on my to-read list for far too long. I also picked up Jonah Lehrer’s How We Decide, because I love nonfiction, particularly if it has a psychology focus.

Finally, I picked up two books on hold I’ve been dying to read: Agent 6, the third in a BRILLIANT spy thriller/murder mystery series set in Cold War Soviet Russia by Tom Rob Smith, and The Yard by Alex Grecian, a Victorian detective novel. 

Oh, and for a bit of levity, I leave you with this awesome pack of bookmarks I picked up from the sale bin at Blick Art Supply over the weekend:

These should help me think up bookish points to discuss, no?

 

 

 

 

Construction in progress!

I am in the process of migrating my blog to WordPress, so there will be some downtime and changes to the layout over the next week or so. Please bear with me!

For the next few days, my domain (www.loganeturner.com) will not be working. This blog will be accessible via the Blogger domain, at loganeturner.blogspot.com.

Vacation Recap – French Edition

My vacation is officially over. Today marks my first day back in the office in over two weeks. Though I’m sad to no longer be in my beloved France, it does feel good to be getting back to normal. There’s only so much laissez-faire one can take, after all.

We took over 5,000 pictures during our 12 day trip. I promise to never share all of them – that would be cruel and unusual. Instead, I picked a few gems from among our many stops to share with you all. Click on the pictures to view larger versions.

Our first stop was Nice, one of many cities littering the French Riviera along the Mediterranean. We lunched on the beach, ate fresh pasta and gelato, and watched the end of the Paris-Nice cycling race.

View from the Nice boardwalk:

Though my favorite cyclist, Andy Schleck, had to bow out of the race early due to illness (yes, I watch enough cycling to have a favorite – we’re huge fans), I happily cheered on his equally awesome brother and teammate, Frank Schleck. Check out the steepness of this hill, which they flew up with ease:

We also took a day trip to neighboring Monaco, and stopped in the famous Monte Carlo Casino (we even won 4 Euros on the slot machines):

After Nice, we picked up a rental car and spent the next few days driving through the French Alps. We visited the Grand canyon du Verdon, the largest canyon in Europe, as well as Mont Ventoux. It was a harrowing drive with many twists and turns looking out over sheer drops. Needless to say, it was breathtakingly gorgeous. This is a pic from lunch at the top of the famous cycling mountain, Alpe d’Huez:

We made a pit stop in Grenoble to ride the cable cars up to La Bastille, which gave a gorgeous panoramic view of the Alps:

Then it was on to Lyon, where we splurged on a hotel with a phenomenal view:

One of my favorite sites we visited of the whole trip was the jaw-dropping St. Jean Cathedral. Built from the 12th through the 15th centuries, it is astonishing in its size and beauty, especially considering its age. I dare anyone to visit this breathtaking church and not feel the hand of God:

From Lyon it was on to my favorite city in the world, Paris. One of our first stops was the Opera Garnier:

The Opera Garnier is known for its opulence, which as you can see, could put Versailles’ Hall of Mirrors to shame:

I have a special place in my heart for stained glass, so we made sure to visit the famous Sainte-Chapelle:

No trip to Paris can be complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower:

Last year, my sister and her fiance visited Paris and attached a love padlock to the Passerelle Solferino, and I promised to look for it during our trip. I was beyond excited when I managed to find it (theirs is “F & M 2011” in the middle):

I also insisted on a visit to the famed English-language bookstore, Shakespeare & Company:

Though I didn’t buy anything, Mike snapped this awesome shot of Notre Dame reflected in the shop’s window, with a young worker stocking books in the background:

We managed to see and do much more than this, but these were some of the highlights. I’m very happy to be back and filled with memories from the trip of a lifetime. I haven’t read a single book in over three weeks and I’m itching to get back into the swing of real life, as well as catch up with all of you!

Graduation filler

YOU GUYS.

I’m done. Well, technically I’m not done yet since I’m writing this on Wednesday, but by TOMORROW, when this mo-fo POSTS, I’ll be DONE.

I’m so emphatically done that I can’t stop overusing CAPITALS.

What am I done with? My capstone project. Grad school. Done, done, donezo. I turned in my final product last night, and barring any problems, I will be officially graduated by next week. Commencement is this Sunday, and I have lots of cleaning to do and family to spend time with, so bear with me just a little bit longer as I stay a bit removed from the blogosphere.

I’m really looking forward to the end of school, the start of summer, and the renewed vigor with which I will attack commenting. I’m all sighs of relief over here and am happy to have tons of free time open for more reading and writing from now on.

Wheee!

And now I use my special Small Review painted wand to wish magical sparkles upon you all.