Category Archives: blogging

2012 in review

20132012 was a good reading year for me, particularly the first half of the year.

Depending on how you count it, I read 156 or 160 books in 2012.  I read 156 distinct books, but I reread some of them, putting my total count at 160.  (That’s not counting books I didn’t finish for whatever reason– there are at least 3 where I made it to the halfway point before abandoning them.)

I went through to pick my top books I read during the year. I came up with a 16 of them I wanted to recognize– a top 10 list and 5 more I didn’t want to leave off :-).

The list is:

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
  2. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley
  3. The Shoemaker’s Wife by Adriana Trigiani
  4. Bury Your Dead/A Trick of the Light by Louise Penny
  5. Wonders of the Invisible World by Patricia McKillip
  6. Spy Mom by Beth McMullen
  7. Wallflower in Bloom by Claire Cook
  8. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  9. Insurgent by Veronica Roth
  10. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
  11. Garment of Shadows by Laurie R. King
  12. The Lola Quartet by Emily St. John Mandel
  13. How to Eat a Cupcake by Meg Donohue
  14. The Garden Intrigue by Lauren Willig
  15. How it all Began by Penelope Lively

The books on the list are fairly recently published– 11 from 2012, 4 from 2011, and 1 that I snuck in combined with another book, from 2010.  Only 45 of the books I read were published in 2012, so that’s pretty impressive.  I also read 40 books from 2011, 10 from 2010 and 47 from 2000-20009.  8 were from the 1990s, 3 from the 1980s, and then I had books from 1961, 1953, 1929 and 1595 (Romeo and Juliet).

Of the books on my list, I read 11 of them  before July 2012.  I liked most of the books I read during the year, but not many got past that level in the second half. This indicates that I need to start thinking harder about how I’m picking my books again.   I’ll set that as my first goal going forward to 2013.  I don’t know what form that will take, but I want to read more books I’m going to love, not just like.

My other goal is to get back to writing one review per week.  That won’t be everything– I’m planning to read around 150 books again this year, with an increasing number of them as audiobooks, but it is a number I think I can sustain.

Happy New Year everyone!  May 2013 bring you many books that you love.


Posted by on January 7, 2013 in blogging, books, summary


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Armchair BEA: Introduction

The big book event every year is Book Expo America (BEA).  Publishers, bookstore owners, writers, and now, bloggers gather together in New York to find out about upcoming books, industry trends, and most of all, meet each other.

I was able to go 2 years ago, but regular trips to New York are not part of my lifestyle.  Other people in the same boat organized Armchair BEA to allow those of us at home to experience some of the fun of BEA.

Today, all participants are encouraged to introduce themselves, so we can all meet one another, and maybe my regular readers will learn more about me as well.  The format was a list of suggested questions, and a suggestion of answering 5 of them.

Introducing Laura

Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging?

My name is Laura, and I’m currently a Mom at Home.  I have been for 14 years now. I used to be in the high tech world, but that has been left behind.  About 5 years ago, I decided I should try to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.  I still haven’t figured it out.

A little over 3 years ago, I set out with a friend to explore social media.  We started up on Twitter and Facebook, and I decided to start a blog.  All I had to do was figure out what I could talk about, and even pretend to myself that anyone might be interested in reading.  It didn’t take long, given that I ran two book clubs, read more than anyone I knew, and had started successfully tracking my reading on Goodreads.  I tried out Blogger and, picked WordPress, and off I went.

What are you currently reading, or what is your favorite book you have read so far in 2012?

I currently am reading Spy Mom by Beth McMullen, the followup to my favorite read of last year, Original Sin.  I’m listening to Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani. I’m taking a short break from Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, which I’m reading for book club, but our meeting was postponed.    My favorite book so far this year is probably The Rook by Daniel O’Malley, but it has competition for that spot.

Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you.

Well, I was born in Phoenix, Arizona.  My family moved around a lot when I was small, and I lived by the Grand Canyon, in small town Northern Californa, in Texas, and in Germany before we settled in Las Cruces, New Mexico for most of my elementary school years, and then back to Phoenix for my middle school/high school years.  I headed to Southern California to attend Harvey Mudd College, where I majored in Mathematics.  I’ve been in Silicon Valley ever since graduation.

Have your reading tastes changed since you started blogging? How?

My tastes haven’t really changed, but my selection of books has.  Some of it is simply a much greater exposure to more titles.  Also, oddly enough, I’m much more selective about books for review than I am books from the library, or impulse buys, so I’m reading a more carefully considered collection, overall.

Where do you see your blog in five years?

I have no idea.  I hope I’ll still be enjoying blogging.  I hope I’ll have figured out what I want to do when I grow up, and that I will continue to have the time/energy for blogging.  I’m sure I’ll still be reading, and I’ll always want to talk about books.

To meet other bloggers participating in Armchair BEA, visit the Linky.


Posted by on June 4, 2012 in blogging


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A look back at 2011

This blog may have been fizzling a bit towards the end of 2011, but I’ve still been reading lots of books, and I’m hoping for an even better year here in 2012!

I went back and forth on what to choose for my top books of 2011, and on how to present them.  I’m going to just present a list of books alphabetically by author, and pull out one I want to flag as my favorite– not necessarily the best, but the one that I just found delightful!

These aren’t necessarily books that were published in 2011, but books that I read for the first time last year.

My top reads:

  1. The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (2011)
  2. Science Fair Season by Judy Dutton (2011)
  3. Horns by Joe Hill (2010)
  4. Pirate King by Laurie R. King (2011)
  5. Original Sin by Beth McMullen (2011)
  6. Domestic Violets by Matthew Norman (2011)
  7. State of Wonder by Ann Patchett (2011)
  8. The Year of Fog by Michelle Richmond (2007)
  9. Falling Together by Marisa de los Santos (2011)
  10. The Cat, the Professor, and the Poison by Leann Sweeney (2010)

Honorable Mentions go to those that I had a really hard time not putting on this list– I probably could legitimately made it  a top 20 list, and not differentiated between those and these.:  The Last Unicorn (Graphic Novel) by Peter S. Beagle, Peter Gillis, Renae De Liz, & Ray Dillon (2011), Stiltsville by Susanna Daniel (2010),   Where She Went by Gayle Forman (2011), A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness (2011), Up From the Blue by Susan Henderson (2010), The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist (2006), Defending Jacob by William Landay (2012), I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett (2010), Devotion by Dani Shapiro (2010), and The Tapestry of Love by Rosy Thornton (2010),

The book I want to pull out as my favorite of 2011 is Original Sin by Beth McMullen.  I was delighted by this book as a crazy spy adventure, and I laughed out loud many times at the wording and the situations.  Even more than that, I loved the look at the change of self-identity with a major life change– in this case, motherhood, but other events can and do prompt a total change in how you see yourself.  I haven’t seen this book around the Internet much, so I want to encourage more people to pick this book up and read it.  (Ironically, there was another book by the same name published around the same time, so keep an eye on the author’s name on this one!).

I read 169 books total last year.  This is a few less than the previous year, which doesn’t particularly bother me.  I want to push myself to keep reading a variety of books  I did do that this year.

At the end of the year, I started cutting down on books I received for review..  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the first part of the year is significantly overrepresented on my lists above.  60 of the books  (36%) I read this year were review copies. 70% of my top 10 list and 65% of my top 20 list were review books.  Between TLC Book Tours, NetGalley, various publicists and the publishers themselves, I find out about books that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, and as long as I remain cautious about what I accept, I think I’ll be thrilled to be in this position.

I read 24 books for my two book clubs. Of my top 20 books of the year, 4 of them were books I read for one of them.  Interestingly, 3 of my bottom 10 were also book club books.  4 of the bottom 10 were review books, and 3 of those were tour books.  That makes sense, since if it’s a book I’m reading for myself, I have the option of giving up on it and picking up something that is a better match.

Last year, I had a strong set of non-fiction books in my favorites of the year,   I made an effort to continue reading more non-fiction this year.  I’m glad I did, but only one made my top 10, (and just one more in the next 10).  I think I want to make an effort to track down better recommendations for non-fiction, to try to find more great books for next years lists.

I don’t have any real changes planned for my reading.  I do want to get back to posting more regularly.  I also want to be realistic about my expectations. My daughter is starting her rhythmic gymnastics season, I’m planning on taking one or two classes starting in February, so I don’t want to get too ambitious and not be able to meet my goals.

I hope every one of you had a good 2011 and has an even better 2012!


Posted by on January 1, 2012 in blogging, books, summary


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BBAW: Book Blogger Inteview

Book Blogger Appreciation WeekIntroducing Nishita from Nishita’s Rants and Raves!

I’m happy to have been given Nishita as my interview partner.  I’ve asked her some questions about her blog and her reading.  She asked me some in return– you can see my answers on her blog.

Here’s what she had to say:

1)  Tell me about your blog.
My blog is primarily a book blog, but it’s not ‘only’ a book blog. I am too lazy to maintain multiple blogs, so I do post some amount of personal stuff. I also post about other things that excite my interest – travel, shopping, fun events, basically anything is grist for my blog.
2) How did you get started blogging?
My blog started out as a personal blog where I wanted to document my regular day to day life and events – a sort of online diary.
Once I started, I realized that:
1. I felt uncomfortable putting quite a bit of my thoughts and activities on paper. Nothing to do with the online privacy issue, it just felt like I was rambling and incoherent and sometimes my thoughts were best left as thoughts…I don’t know if that makes sense, but it was what I felt.
2. Most of my blog posts started dealing with books, so my blog sort of just evolved in that direction. It was a very slow evolution though. I lead a full life juggling work + family + hobbies/personal life + blog, and a lot of times, my blog ends up as the last priority.
3) What is your favorite part of blogging?
I love experimenting with my blog so that it reflects my personality. I play around with my blog appearance quite a lot, I also love the various online friends I’ve made through blogging. Very few of my real life friends are into books, so it is a lovely forum to discuss stuff I enjoy with other bibliophiles.
4) What’s your favorite book you’ve read in the past year?
I think I loved ” The Story of Edgar Sawtelle” by David Wroblewski the best.
5) Is there a book (already out or coming out soon) that you are really looking forward to reading?
I am looking forward to Christopher Paolini’s next book “Inheritance”. I love Fantasy, and I am curious to see how this series is going to end. I am also looking forward to reading “Syren” and “Darke” by Angie Sage – the 5th and 6th books in the Septimus Heap series, which is my favorite (almost comes close to the Harry Potter series).  Although the book has been out for some time now, I want to wait for some time and really savor them.

Thank you, Nishita! Everyone, be sure to check out Nishita’s Rants and Raves— I’ll certainly be returning.

Once you’ve checked out her blog, go to the BBAW site and see the other Book Blogger Interviews


Posted by on September 12, 2011 in blogging


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Book Blogger Appeciation Week

Book Blogger Appreciation Week
Today marks the beginning of Book Blogger Appreciation Week!  This week, I’m going to attempt to keep up with my normal posts and add the BBAW themed ones as well.

I’m just starting out, and I’m behind already, so I’ll suggest you appreciate the community of book bloggers by going to the Linky at and picking out some blogs you’ve never read before, seeing what they have to say about the community, and leaving some comments!

I’ll be back tomorrow with an interview of a new to me book blogger, so check back to see who it is.




Posted by on September 12, 2011 in blogging


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Are book bloggers responsible for the downfall of books, or merely a symptom of the problem?

Serena from Savvy Verse and Wit tweeted a link to an article on bemoaning the fate of Book Expo America and the state publishing in general.  The author stated:

This year’s BEA confirmed what most writers and book reviewers already knew: that the publication of serious literature, and particularly of literary fiction, has been abandoned by the big publishers to the small or medium-size independent presses.

The article then turned to a discussion of Book Bloggers. According to the author, Book Bloggers

are mostly women between 20 and 50 years old, often known as “mommy bloggers” because they are housewives who blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories and paranormal novels.

She goes on to state

The main difference between the new book bloggers and the old book reviewers is that the former don’t have any literary “prejudices.” They are children of pop culture and the mass media, and have transferred their interests onto the realm of books. Their electronic chatter will soon cover whatever is left of book reviewing.


First of all, even it the situation at BEA was as dire as she stated (1/3 children’s books with garish colors, and 1/3 e-readers intending to replace print), that doesn’t mean the publishers have abandoned all other projects.  It just means they didn’t choose to feature them at BEA.  The death of print/literary fiction/etc. has been predicted before, and will be again.  I don’t think it is true, but that’s not what I want to talk about here.

I want to talk about who blogs, why, and what our impact is (and can be).

At a first glance, I fit the description given above.  I am between 20 and 50 (closer to 50 than the 20 year old “girls” the author says she met). I am a “housewife” (although I don’t usually use that word to describe myself).  I blog about romance novels, horror/vampire stories, and paranormal novels.  I also blog about cozy mysteries, hard-boiled mysteries, woman’s fiction, science fiction, historical fiction, general fiction, non-fiction, and even (gasp) literary fiction and translated works.  I’m even a “mommy” that mentions my daughter at times in my blog.

However, I will object to the label mommy-blogger.  Mommy doesn’t describe what I blog about.  It doesn’t describe my audience.  It doesn’t describe me, as it pertains to the work I do on my blog.  I dismiss it as irrelevant.

That dismissal is not just on my behalf, but on the behalf of all my fellow book bloggers.  (If any of the children’s book bloggers want to keep that title, they are welcome to.  It might make sense in some cases).  If the label doesn’t fit me, how much less does it fit the older/younger/employed-parents/non-parents/men/etc. that make up the book blogging community?

More relevant is the second quote above.  I’ll argue with the assertion that my interests (and those of most bloggers) were formed more by pop culture and mass media.  I’ve always been a reader.  I do enjoy pop culture as well, but it isn’t a primary influence.

On the other hand, I’m still struggling to figure out what it means to not have  any literary prejudices.

I think that’s probably true of me, or of my reviews.  My goal in reviewing a book is to discuss what I did and didn’t like about it, and hope that will help my readers make a decision about what books they are interested in reading  Honestly, literary merit isn’t what I’m looking for.  In many books I read, I am looking for mental stimulation of some sort.  In others, I’m looking for an emotional connection.  Sometimes I just want to relax and have a good laugh.

In other words, I’m just your average reader.

Sure, I read more books, and in a wider variety of genres.  But I’m not trying to be an expert, telling you what’s good for you.  I’d like to encourage you to read, maybe more than you would have otherwise, and maybe a wider variety.  I’d like to encourage you to talk books with me, and with your other friends, whether in book clubs, on-line, or in casual conversation.

Because that is how books will survive.  Not by experts that talk about the books that their “literary prejudices” say we should appreciate, but by every reader that picks up any kind of book.

I’m happy to be part of that future.


Posted by on June 23, 2011 in blogging



Thoughts on blog comments & Dan Ariely

This post is inspired by reading Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irrationality (which I just finished, a review will be coming soon). I actually wrote this post (as opposed to just thinking about it, but never getting around to it) because it ties in (albeit loosely) with today’s Armchair BEA theme, which is Nurturing Book Blogger relationships.

I’m pretty sure I’m not the only blogger that really, really loves comments.  A post that actually gets them makes me smile all day and feel blogging with worthwhile for a little longer.

Reading Dan Ariely’s The Upside of Irationality, I realized we bloggers are not alone in wanting acknowledgement.

He describes an experiment that he (and some colleagues) performed.  In essence, the participants were all given pages of meaningless busywork to do.  They were paid a small amount per page.  This amount decreased with each successive page.  The subjects could continue with the task until it was no longer worthwhile to them.

The subjects were divided into 3 groups.  For the first, each page was acknowledged with a smile, and the experimenter glanced at the page before putting it into a stack.  For the second group, the pages were simply stacked, no acknowledgement at all.  For the third group, the experimenter simply took the page and fed it directly to a shredder.

For me, the first condition models getting comments on a blog post.  The second models getting hits but no comments, and the third is the post that simply goes unread.

It should come as no surprise that in the experiment, the first group continued with the task the longest, and the third the shortest length of time.   The surprise is that the middle group, where the work was simply stacked, had almost the same results as the group where the work was shredded.

I’ll freely admit that the cases in the study don’t map cleanly to my blogging example, but it’s close enough to cause me to think that my desire for some simple acknowledgement isn’t unusual.  I’m going to try to be better about commenting on other blogs from this point on.  Will you join me?


Posted by on May 26, 2011 in blogging


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