January Wrap-Up

Every month I intend to create a bloggie wrap-up.  I swear to myself I’m gonna do it next month.  Then, the first of the month rolls around and I read Fyrefly’s and DevourerofBook’s, among others, and I say, “Ah CRAP! I forgot to do a wrap-up post!  Dang it!  Okay, I’ll do it next month, I swear…”  And you’ll know how many times I’ve actually followed through on that when I say, “Yay! This is my first monthly wrap-up post!”  LOL.

K, I have ADD bad.  I get distracted so very easily.  Sometimes it’s TV or gardening or doing stuff with the kids, and sometimes it’s computer games like SecondLife or World of Warcraft or the latest, face book apps.  SecondLife pulled me away from everything for about 5 months straight, and now I can’t remember the last time I was on.  With WoW, I’d learned a thing or two from SL, and so I didn’t go so long or so deep, but still I was absent for a while, traipsing through Azeroth.  Facebook games are so getting old, and I’m down to a few that have to be tended daily:  Farmville, the café game and the pet games.  I’m mostly still doing those because my mom is actually on facebook, SHOCK! and the kids play, too, so I play with them.

Where was I even going with that?  Oh, ADD… lol, I swear, that wasn’t on purpose!  Okay, I’m lost now… that was funny, and I laughed, and lost my train of thought.  Oh well, must not have been too important.  That’s why I like to outline things, and why I hate stream of conscious storylines.  I get lost enough in my own thinking, I don’t need to do so in a book!

Moving on…

I decided during Bloggiesta, that the best way to do a wrap-up post was to write it all month long, keeping track of commentors and other things that happen, so I started this post about a week after Bloggiesta, because I got distracted and it took a while to get back to it.  Maybe that’s where I was going with that up there. :-D

Maybe ADD is why I hate long paragraphs?  It feels like being trapped in a room with no windows.  I often skim through the middle of them, or just read the first and last lines of it and move on.

Moving on…

During the Month of January I:

Started my first book challenge, The Welsh Reading Challenge, because I wanted to read more books relating to my own heritage, but needed a little prod to do it and keep on track. The fact people joined the challenge was GRAVY :-)

Joined a total of 13 reading challenges, 11 of which are being tracked on my Reading is Challenging! page, as well as two more at LibraryThing:  The 75 Book Challenge, and the Books off the Shelf ChallengeThe Sookie Stackhouse Challenge was in progress, though I don’t know if I can call it progress, since I have YET to pick up the first book. Actually, I picked it up, read 2 paragraphs, then put it back down… don‘t tell BethFish :-D.  This is the most challenges I’ve ever participated in, and I don’t expect to complete them all, realistically, but I’m hoping!

Spent a total of 21 hours working on blog improvements as part of Bloggiesta.  Thanks, Natasha! And after all the work everyone else did and the mini-challenges I wanted to do but didn’t get to, I now have a longer to-do list than when I started!

Created The Welsh Reading Challenge blog.  After reading how other bloggers who host challenges have found a separate blog is a better way to keep it all organized, I started the blog for TWRC during Bloggiesta, and had it open and ready for visitors about a week later.  We’ve also got a couple sponsors, some mini-challenges in the planning stages and some prizes on the way :-) Too cool!

Started a weekly award called The Kool-Aid Flavor of the Week.  I’m still trying to figure out the exact criteria for this, but right now it’s been for people who are doing something to make the world better.  Presenting Lenore received my inaugral award for her International Book Blogger Mentor Program, and She’s Too Fond of Books received the second for her post about Kiva.org and how micro-lending requires so little of us and can make such a difference in the life of someone overseas.

Joined the Tolkein Readalong.  I’ve been wanting to read the Lord of the Rings for a long time, but just needed the push.

Books read and reviewed in January:

Of Bees and Mists by Erick Setiawan ~ A magical and fantastic adult fable about love, self-respect and self-confidence, about doing what’s right and forgiveness.  I gave it 4 stars.  It counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

Fruits Basket, Volume 5 by Natsuki Takaya ~ I love the Furuba series, and volume 5 introduced Kisa, the tiger, and Hanajima’s little brother.  I gave it 5 stars.  It counted as a food title for my What’s In a Name?3 Challenge, Manga Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland ~ Atrocious, far-fetched and just plain BAD. 2 stars.  It counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge and New Author Challenge.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl ~ Filled me with warm feelings of childhood and chocolate, and was a pleasure to read cuddled up with Maggie.  I gave it 5 stars.  It counted for The Welsh Reading Challenge.

Nim’s Island by Wendy Orr ~ I read this one with Mags, and since it was a re-read for me, I had Maggie sit down and write her first book review.  I did help her with grammer and spelling, but the words and thoughts expressed are totally Maggie… lol… including her expressing how much she disliked having to sit and write a review on a snow day from school when she could be outside playing.  Mags gave it 4 out of 5 stars.  This counted towards my We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge

Islands Apart by Ken McAlpine ~ Interesting reflection on life in our modern world and how our advances in technology are contributing to a decline in interpersonal relationships, as well as a disconnect from nature.  I gave it 4 stars.  This counted for my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and We Didn’t Start the Fire Challenge.

The Blue Notebook by James A. Levine ~ Reading this felt like a prolonged hug from creepy Uncle Stan at the family reunion, but was a necessary evil.  Still, I stand by my 2.5 rating, which is based more on the writing itself than the book’s subject material.  I wasn’t wowwed by Levine’s writing, though it had some beautiful moments.  This book counted toward my ARC Reading Challenge, New Author Challenge, and POC Reading Challenge.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkein ~ I finished off this month with a comfort read and old friend.  Even though it was a third read through, not to mention the numberous times I watched the 1977 cartoon of it growing up, it still held my attention and kept me in suspense, a sure sign of a classic book.  5 stars for sure.  This was for the Lord of the Rings Readalong and counts toward my 451 Challenge.

People who Commented:

Bluestocking from The Bluestocking Guide
Kathy at Bermudaonion
Wendy, the Literary Feline at Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Anna at Diary of an Eccentric
BethFish at Beth Fish Reads
Kailana at The Written World
Ita
debnance at readerbuzz
Care at Care’s Online Book Club (Hi, blogging buddy!)
Mona Everett
Aarti at B O O K L U S T
Annette
Sally906 at Sally906’s Reading Challenges
Sharon at Ex Libris
Eibhlin
Lynda at Lynda’s Book Blog
Ladybug at Escape in a Book
Aastacia
Amanda at Life and Times of a “New” New Yorker
Serena at Savvy Verse & Wit
Susan Evans at Well-Mannered Frivolity
Melanie at Cynical Optimism
Shannon at Flight into Fantasy
Sheila at One Person’s Journey Through Books
Janet at Fond of Snape
Vasilly at 1330v
Snowbell
Jack at Slightly off-center
Debbie at Debbie’s World of Books
Amber at Mommy Mania
Zee at Notes from the North
Meghan at Medieval Bookworm
Gina at BookDragon’s Lair
Rebecca at The Book Lady’s Blog
Jennie at Biblio File
Amused at Amused by Books
Michelle at Michelle’s Masterful Musings
Rebecca at Lost in Books
Lenore at Presenting Lenore
unfinishedperson at Unfinished Person
Marie at The Boston Bibliophile
Dawn at She is Too Fond of Books
Rhinoa at Rhinoa’s Ramblings
Traci at Traci’s Book Bag
Laza at Gimme More Books!
Grad at The Curious Reader
Sandra at Fresh Ink Books
BookMoot at BookMoot
Jackie at Literary Escapism
Janelle at Brimful Curiosities
Novroz at Novroz’ Life
Jennifer at Rundpinne
DanaB at Windows Wide Open
Nisé at Under The Boardwalk
Alayne at The Crowded Leaf
Violet at Violet Crush
Angie at Annie’s Home
JDaniel4’s Mom at JDaniel4’s Mom
Ann Marie
Joy at Joy’s Blog
Stephanie at Bad Mom
Emerald Yomi at Emerald Yomi
Debbie at Wrighty Reads (go lefties!)
Pippi at Pippi’s Postings
Memory at Stella Matutina
Petunia at Educating Petunia
Sarah at SmallWorld Reads
Lisa at Online Publicist
Myriam Kross
Guatami Tripathy at everything distils into reading
Ariel at Sycorax Pine
Nicole at Linus’s Blanket
Kay at The Infinite Shelf
jo at attalife
Dawn at For the Love of… Eloquence 
Kimberly at A Child of the King!
Mizhelle at Life Can’t Wait
Amateur Reader at Wuthering Expectations
Keely at The Un Mom
Rebecca Reid at Rebecca Reads
Molly at my cozy book nook
uninvoked at uninvoked 
Stacey at Confessions of a Pastor’s Wife
Lisa at Lit and Life
Vicki at Reading At The Beach
Callista at SMS Book Reviews
Farmlanebooks
Meg at write meg!
Marce at Tea Time with Marce
Jenny F at Have a Happy Day
Irene at Irene’s Desk
Wordlily at Word Lily
Beth at Weavings
Laurel-Rain Snow at Laurel-Rain Snow Creations

And that’s a total of 81 commentors so far (1/25)

Other fun facts:

Kitty Litter Cake (and Cat Litter Cake), Gary Larson (and The Far Side) and qoutes for The Book Thief are the most widely used search terms that bring people by, along with Confessions of a Shopaholic and Vampire Kisses bringing in plenty, too. “erotomania” surprisingly, brings in a fair share. Uh oh, do I have a stalker?

The Sunday Salon ~ Reading Can Be Such a Challenge!

 The Sunday Salon.com

Okay, I’ve been sitting back this last week and evaluating my last year in reading and blogging.  I’ve come to the conclusion that my mama was right, I need more organization!  LOL…  Seriously, I think I need to do a monthly proposed reading list and see how close I get, as opposed to a yearly one.  The yearly one ended up with me in the sprints for the first half of the year, then almost nothing from June through November, then sprinting to the end for the last six weeks.  I did actually make it to 75 books, with one to spare, even, but was it quality reading that way?  Some of the books I’ve read I don’t even remember, except what’s in my blog posts.

Which is another thing…  I used to think I was blogging reviews of books for other people to read, but I think I’m the one who has benefited the most from them.  I can look back to a book I read in 2008 and get an accurate feel for how I liked the book.  Sometimes, I don’t really even remember reading the book at all.  So blogging is as much for my benefit, if not more.

So, 2009 was my first full year of reading and blogging (In the Shadow of Mt. TBR began in June of 2008) and I tried to join a few challenges, to varying degrees of success.  First off, I completed the 75 book LibraryThing challenge, and I’ve already joined it for 2010 (The Kool-Aid Mom cracks the whip!).  I’ve also joined LibraryThing’s Books Off the Shelf challenge, a challenge to read books you already own *what a concept!*.  I’ve started out with the conservative goal of 35, but I think I’ll hit higher than that.  You can find my thread here, The Kool-Aid Mom’s Wet Dream of 35.

My reasoning for believing this will be a low figure is because I intend to clear out my intimidating stack of ARCs that have sat and loomed over my right shoulder for almost a year (before that, they were a smaller stack of books on the desk to my left, but after we couldn’t find the phone anymore, I decided to move it).  It mocks me, points out my failures, and never lets me get a moment’s peace.  So, 2010 is the year I will slay this beast once and for all!

**?**?**?**?**?**?**?*    Was that over the top?    *?**?**?**?**?**?**?**

And it is in this spirit of conquest that I have decided to join Teddy Rose’s ARC Reading Challenge 2010 at So Many Precious Books, So Little Time.  I’ve recently updated my ARC-alance Pile page to reflect where I am right now, and It’s a list of 65, which leaves me only 10 extra in the 75 books to play with.  Also, if I do the Manga Challenge again, then I’ll either go over the 75 (which is a good thing)  or I’ll have to take the manga’s out of the 10.  AND, I’m in the Sookie Stackhouse Challenge, which I signed up for 2 books, and it ends in June.  So, I’ll probably go over…. oh, crap!  forgot a book… fixed.  66 ARCs to read… you do the math on the rest of all that, I have a brain ache.

So, other challenges…

I read about Beth Fish’s What’s in a Name? 3 Challenge on BermudaOnion’s 2010 Challenges post and thought it sounded cute.  Basically, it works like this:

1 book from each of the following categories:

  1.  
    1. A book with a food in the title: Clockwork Orange, Grapes of Wrath, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
    2. A book with a body of water in the title: A River Runs through It, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, The Lake House
    3. A book with a title (queen, president) in the title: The Murder of King Tut, The Count of Monte Cristo, Lady Susan
    4. A book with a plant in the title: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Wind in the Willows, The Name of the Rose
    5. A book with a place name (city, country) in the title: Out of Africa; London; Between, Georgia
    6. A book with a music term in the title: Song of Solomon, Ragtime, The Piano Teacher

Making a total of 6 books for this challenge.  I’m going to try to get as many of them to overlap with my ARC challenge, but I’ve only gotten 3 that I can for sure make work:  The Crying Tree will fill #4, The Mysterious Receding Seas will cover #2, and Strange But True, America:  Weird Tales from All 50 States takes care of # 5.  I’ve been debating where “Father” counts as a title, since that’s not the man’s name, in which case I can read My Father’s Paradise for #3.  And would Spiced count as “A book with a food in the title”?  If I can slip those two in, then I just have to find a music term… WAIT!  The Organ Grinder‘s Monkey takes care of #6 :-D

So what’d’ya think?  “Father” and “Spiced” count?

The Sookie Stackhouse Challenge continues through June 30, 2010, and is hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  As it stands I still have my original TWO (so pathetic!) books to read.

  • Dead Until Dark
  • Living Dead in Dallas
  • And I guess I’ll go ahead and go for the Manga Challenge.  Mags will demand I continue to read Fruits Basket with her, so I might as well fill a challenge with it.  LOL, too bad I don’t have ARC mangas :-D

    The goal is to read a minimum of 6 mangas. There will be the odd prize throughout the year and bonus points if you manage to watch at least one anime film or 3 episodes of a series.

    Well, the bonus will help A LOT, since we’ve been watching xxxHolic (I’m dying to get my manga for it, but it got lost in the mail… boo!), Oh! My Goddess season 2, and plan to watch Negima, as well as a few other anime serieses… serii? just series? SHOWS.  lol.  And they watch Fruits Basket anime constantly, so I’m good to go on the bonus ;-)

    Planned books at the moment:

    1. Fruits Basket volume 5 by Natsuki Takaya
    2. Fruits Basket volume 6 by Natsuki Takaya
    3. Fruits Basket volume 7 by Natsuki Takaya
    4. Ranma 1/2 volume 1 by Rumiko Takahashi
    5. Ranma 1/2 volume 2 by Rumiko Takahashi
    6. Vampire Knight volume 1 by Matsuri Hino

    ____________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Okay, so in an attempt to start out this year a bit more organized, here is my planned reading for January (Subject to change at a whim, though I’m going to try to be stronger than whimsy ;-) )

    1. Of Bees and Mist by Erick Setiawan - This was the Barnes & Nobles First Look book sometime last summer or so, and I’ve been “reading” it since then.  Okay, so I’m trying a little harder to actually read it now, but still… every time I crack the spine a gazillion interruptions fly in.  I feel like Elias being annoyed by the bees.  And when I’m left alone, and it’s nice and quiet, I get about 3 paragraphs read before falling asleep.  I swear, I’m shocked I don’t have a permanent crease mark running down my face like a vertical hold pattern!  It’s a really cool book, I just seem to keep slipping into unconsciousness with it.
    2. Any Given Doomsday by Lori Handeland - I got this book back in FEBRUARY as a LibraryThing Early Reader book.  FEBRUARY.  10 months ago.  I feel like I’m going to go to LT Hell for this, and it gets worse…
    3. The Mom’s Guide to Growing Your Family Green by Terra Wellington – A BONUS book in the February (or March, not sure anymore) LT ER round.
    4. The Blue Notebook by James A Levine – Won in the March batch of LT ER program.  This book thoroughly fascinates me and I’ve been wanting to read it… but just not done so.  Did I mention I have reserved seats for LT Hell?
    5. Holy Roller by Julie Lyons – Snagged in the April ER batch.  I don’t even look at the ER list at this point, because I feel horribly guilty for taking books that have sat so long, and other people never even get a book.  Yeah, I’m at the right hand of the MC in LT Hell.

    These are the ones I plan to get through this month.  You can see why they’re so urgent, as well.  If I get through these 5, I plan to read The Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Halevy and Strange But True, America by John Hafnor, as I have copies of these to give away.

    ___________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Oh yes!  and don’t let me forget about Bloggiesta! Last year, I didn’t officially participate, but I did do a lot of the activities.  So this year I’m gonna throw my sombrero in the ring and partic-a-icpate.  This year’s event will be from January 8th-10th.  Here’s a quick description from the Maw Books Blog announcement page:

    Some of you may be asking what is Bloggiesta?  In short, it’s a blogging marathon.  An opportunity to cross those nagging items off of your to-do list and improve your blog while in the good company of other awesome bloggers doing the same thing.  Break out the nachos, enchiladas, drinks, mariachi music and whack a pinata or two!

    I’m gonna grab some tortilla chips and medium-heat salsa to munch along for the event, just to keep in the spirit of things.  Maybe I’ll even make Saturday here Taco Night… mmm… better yet, make my own taco casserole :-D  * homer drool drool homer drool *  ‘K, now I’m hungry.

    _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

    Edited to add:  I solved my trouble with which books to put in the What’s In a Name?3 Challenge’s food and title title.  Since I’m doing the Manga Challenge, I’ll be reading Fruits Basket books and Vampire Knight, so those will cover the WIaN3 needed titles.

    Also, I’ve added another challenge to my reading for 2010.  I’m hosting it, as well, and that is The Welsh Reading Challenge.  I’m planning to read 12 books for that.  I’ve realized that if I get ALL my challenges done this year, I’ll have nearly 100 books read by the end of the year.  I can do it, but it’ll mean sticking to it all year and not getting bored, or distracted, or sidetracked, like I am prone to do.  The REAL challenge for me in 2010 will be to stick to my schedule and stick with it.  I think it’ll be good for me. :-)

    Bloggiesta ~ I Didn’t Play, but I Wish I hadda!

    blogiestaI hate housekeeping. 

    When I was a kid, and my mom was trying to force me to do my chores, I’d mouth off that I was going to get a maid when I grew up, so I didn’t need to learn how to do dishes or laundry or clean the toilet. 

    I’m still waiting for my maid.

    This past Friday and Saturday (June 19-20), Natasha at Maw Books hosted the first ever BloggiestaOlé!  The idea was to clean out the broken links, write the reviews you’re behind on, clean out the clutter, and in general bootify yer blog.

    Housekeeping.  For my blog.  Blech!  Needless to say, I didn’t sign up. 

    However, as I read through everyone else’s Bloggiesta updates and challenges, I found myself doing all the activities and wanting to fix up my blog, too.  I don’t wanna be the family in the trailer with four foot grass and the car on blocks while everyone else has mansions…  Wait, I wanna bootify my place, too!

    So here’s some of the things I ended up doing.

    1.  Updating Mt. TBR’s inventory page, adding a page for my ARC-alanche pile.  Unfortunately, I got about halfway through the TBR page when LibraryThing pooped out on me, so I’ve still got some more work on that.  It’s no where near what’s allon my TBR shelves.

    2.  Stealing a page from Stella Matutina, literally, I’ve written up a review policy for Mt. TBRand linked it in my “contact me” widget on the sidebar.  I didn’t really have a policy before… not one set in stone, anyway, just a  kinda-sorta flimsy plan.  This fact is made painfully obvious by the amount of books on my ARC-alanche pile.

    Other things to improve my blog, more on the cosmetic side of life:

    One of the things that irk me is that I can’t find a theme that I like… I mean, really like.  The colors on this one seem a bit pale, and the sidebar and main area run together for some unknown reason sometimes, but my problem is:  I wanna knew layout, but hate all the wordpress ones, halp?  Is there a site somewhere that makes them to paste in the CSS thingy like MySpace does?

    Another thing I’ve been wondering lately:  Is my site too busy?  Too many pics?  TMI?  Is it navigable and readable, or does it overwhelm and turn off?

    A third, and major… in my opinion it’s big, is that there will be a book review change.  I’ve learned that blog posts look a lot different on Google Reader, and I’m beginning to see that the whole itemized list of title, author, publisher and date and page numbers… blah blah blah… is unnecessary.  Who cares what year it was published and how many pages!  It’s making the post needlessly longer.  From now on, the reviews will have the title, author and ISBN only and smaller covers.  Personally, I like the ISBN handy to grab and paste to my wishlist instead of having to sift through similar titles and other books by that author.  Smaller covers, again something I’ve learned from Google Reader, because, while the big ones with detail are pretty, they take up soOOoo much space.

    Website Grader, FINALLY!  After months and months of trying to make the web grader inspect my blog, and every time the ‘tarded thing telling me my URL was invalid, I clicked the link “free seo tool” in the gray box to the right and MAGICALLY! it took the URL in the next page.  It was so frustrating to hear everyone tell all about the wonderful things they discovered through this thing, and I couldn’t even get past the front dang door!  BTW… I gots a 95 :-)

    Meta whota whata?

    Some of the things in the report from Website Grader made sense, but some things left me very confuzzled.  like Meta.  Meta tags.  Meta description.  I’m missin’ out on the Meta deal, but have no clue on how to get hip and get with it!  How do I add the Meta parcels?

     

    File that under miscellaneous…

    I took time to add the newer awards I’ve received, added the Viral Video Wednesday button, and put my 4Rchallenge button and linked them all up, so now they’re all good to go :-)

    RSS feed ~ Fail?

     

      IDK… I’ve tried to use the RSS feed (thank gawd for Google Reader!), but this is what I see:

    My view of an RSS feed

    Is this what I’m suppose to see?  With all the code and stuff?

    *************************************************************************************

    So that’s where I’m at on all the “Keep the Bloggie Beautiful” stuff, though… I figure it’s probably a lot like my desk.  No sooner than I clean it all up, someone will dump a load on it and I’ll have to start over.

    Now here’s where I need your help, everyone…

    What kinds of things would you suggest to improve Mt. TBR?  Any help is appreciated!

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