Thoughts on Thursday: Reading Rituals

Reading Rituals

What are your reading rituals? Do you have a reading nook? What snacks or drinks must you have handy? Share pictures and recipes!

I am most comfortable reading in bed. Honestly, I do everything in my bedroom. It is my nook, my happy place. I only spend time in my living room if I have guests over, and even then most of the time we stay in my bedroom, too. (Typically it is my mother and brother and friend down the street.)

Yes, I eat in bed. I blog in bed. I watch TV in bed. I keep my TV on at night. I curl up with all my pillows just right, lay back, and read until my eyes hurt or I have to get ready and go somewhere. I usually have the TV on for background noise, something on Netflix I’ve seen before.

Just like when I write, when I read I get in a trance. I can ignore most of the bodily functions for quite a while. I’ll wait until I have to race to the bathroom because I am so engrossed. I typically ignore the fact that I’m hungry. Sometimes it goes away, and sometimes I slink off to the kitchen to find whatever requires the least amount of time.

What are your reading rituals?

Thoughts on Thursday: Why I Read What I Read

Why I Read What I Read

Why do you read the books you read? Explore why you gravitate towards certain genres and/or authors. How do you pick the next book you will read?

In general, I think I enjoy a wide variety of genres. There are a few I look at with sideeye, and a few I won’t even look at. I tend to gravitate to historical and romance the most. Those are the two foundations of my childhood, thanks to Little House on the Prairie and Harlequin Romance. I am also always up for a good middle grades read or murder mystery. I have shied away from YA in general due to the copious amount of tropes and love triangles. I also enjoy writing styles, so I will pick up books by authors with similar styles (such as Kristin Hannah and Elin Hilderbrand). In the last couple of years I have tried to broaden my horizons and I think I did a pretty good job.

Now that I think about it, the majority of my reading palatte comes from my relationship with my grandmother (except the romance). She was my confidant as a child. I spent more time with her than any other person. We watched the Little House on the Prairie series starring Michael Landon (my first book boyfriend). We watched a lot of comedy shows (All in the Family, Three’s Company, Family Matters, The Facts of Life), and all of the mystery shows we could (Murder She Wrote, Matlock, In the Heat of the Night, Magnum P.I., Diagnosis Murder).

I am proud of myself that I have been trying to get better about listening to audiobooks. I know most people listen while they commute, but I enjoy singing when I drive. I kind of have to in order to stay calm with the ignoramuses on the road these days. I listen when I’m working on the blog, cooking, or cleaning. While I don’t finish that many (I think this year I’ve finished three), I learned I can change the speed and won’t have to spend as long listening. These are typically books that have been out for a while and count for this challenge! I started downloading SYNC books three summers ago, so I have plenty to choose from!

Since I started my blog, I didn’t really “pick” my next book. They were always scheduled because I thought I couldn’t say “no” to an author (and also didn’t know I should shut down review requests). I still have a handful of books from repeat authors to read, but I am now at the point where I can actually pick my next read. I really do think I pick my next read based on cover love. If it’s pretty or interesting, I’ll start it. I don’t really have any type of system. I’m not really a mood reader like some people, either.

 

How do you pick out what you read? Are there certain genres you gravitate toward?

Thoughts on Thursday: Mid-Year Check-In

Mid-Year Check-In

I have fallen behind in a lot of things on the blog, particularly discussion posts. One month late isn’t too terrible, is it?

Currently I stand at 15 books for the Shelf Love Challenge. Up until now, I have been doing a lot of review tours with books that came out this year. I slowly weaned myself off of review tours like I had been doing. I did sign up for a few in August-October for series I want to finish reading, but I am being much more selective in tours. And I am grateful one of the tour companies I was very stingy with opted to shut down their operations. The reviewers were doing most of the legwork, so it was really frustrating and why I only signed up with them once in a blue moon.

Now I can read almost anything! Which means I really need to read my NetGalley backlog… :/

 

How have your challenges been going? 

Thoughts on Thursday: Lack of Creativity

2016-Discussion-Challenge

Lack of Creativity

I haven’t posted a discussion post in over a month. I have a draft saved with prompt examples that I have used in the past, but I can’t be bothered to look at it.

I haven’t felt like I’ve been very creative on the blog in months, and I think everything is catching up with me and imploding. I don’t want to think of new ideas, new content. I don’t even want to write reviews. I have been lacking in the creativity department for a long while.

I feel like I got a little bit of that back with Parajunkee’s Summertime challenge. I loved this post and this one. Once I got started it wasn’t very hard, but I’m dragging my feet about everything blog right now. The only thing I am able to do is keep up with my weekly features, and that’s just barely.

Am I in a blogging slump? Is this what it feels like? Or am I just not motivated? Is

I have seen two different features around that are less book-focused and I think I might join one of them. I’m hoping that will help.

 

What do you do to get inspired?

How do you handle blogging slumps?

Thoughts on Thursday: Those Suuuuummmer Reeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaads

2016-Discussion-Challenge

Those Suuuuummmer Reeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaads


Now do you get the title? 🙂

Do your reading habits change in the summer? Do you find yourself reading more whimsical books, knowing that summer will eventually come to an end and real life will resume?

Summer is soon upon us. Unless you live in Texas. It’s already summer the first of May.

Once summer is officially here and I am no longer a slave to the public education system is when I notice the change in my summer reading habits. I don’t necessarily read summery genres, but I do read more.

A LOT more.

Last summer (May 1 – August 31) I read 28 books. That’s an average of of 7 books per month. A couple of them were lengthy. I also taught summer school all through May and half of June, as well as attending multiple 3 and 4 day PDs, so it was not a true reflection of my summer reading, but 2014 was!

The previous summer (2014) I read 39 books in that same time frame. That’s almost ten books each month, nearly double what I read on average for a good month.

Since my summers truly operate exactly like a summer (unless I have work obligations, re: summer school, required PD), I enjoy spending that time catching up with old and new friends in books.

I have no problem reading all day long. Sometimes I even forget to eat, and I put off doing other things just to simply read. It is an indulgence and a pleasure that I don’t typically get to enjoy at such extended lengths. I usually have to read my books in short bursts whenever I have free moments. To sit down and read an entire book in one sitting is marvelous.

It is now that prime summer time, and I’m going to enjoy my books all the way til the start of the new school year. 🙂

Do you notice your summer reading habits change?

How does your reading change for summer?

Thoughts on Thursday: Literary Vacation

Literary Vacation 

Many of the historical books I’ve read are set in Europe, particularly England. A large part of my focus of my English minor (and English teaching degree) was focused on British literature (and American). I discovered some books that will stick with me for the rest of my life, such as Remains of the Day, which I still own all these years later. The Secret Garden is perhaps the first book I truly remember peaking my interest and realizing how different the British lifestyle is – or just the European lifestyle in general.

I’d also like to visit Venice. I’ve read several books set in this beautiful city, as well as a few historical period movies.

How awesome would it be to just take a book vacation, visiting all those spots from great books along the way?

 

Where would you travel for a literary vacation?

Thoughts on Thursday: The Battle of Series vs. Standalones

2016-Discussion-Challenge

 

Series or Standalones? 

 

One of the age-old questions.

OK, not really, but it is a serious blogging question. Some people get all bent out of shape over silly things like people’s reading preferences, but I feel there is a serious camp for series in the blogging world.

Almost all of those books that are on everyone’s Waiting on Wednesday posts and grace the upcoming TBRs and those much anticipated next-year’s-releases are series books, or books by authors who have previously written a much beloved (or hyped) series.

I feel like standalones are lessening. In the last year, a good 75% or more of the books I read were part of a series, whether I realized they were or not. Many I thought were standalones recently released at the time I read them, and they have now turned into series.

Are all the good men gone? Are standalones a thing of the past? Why? Why is it I feel this way?

Is it easier for publishers to push books in a series? Is this the “easy way out” for authors to continue sales and an income? Is it harder to write a standalone, build an entire world and setting, develop such rounded characters, and then walk away from everything at the end and start completely anew?

Do we even like standalones anymore? I want to say for me the answer is yes, but in the past I’ve made it known that I am kind of anti-series.

Let’s be real, though. Look at my Goodreads shelves for last year. Hardly any of them were standalones (except for the children’s books). Do I even like standalones anymore?

I don’t even know. Legitimately, I don’t know.

 

How do you feel about series and standalones?

Do you find yourself exclusively reading only one or the other?

Thoughts on Thursday: My Confession About My “Copied” Features

2016-Discussion-Challenge

 

My Confession About My “Copied” Features 

Recently in the blogosphere there has been a lot flying around about copying and inspiration. Cait @ Paper Fury covered the differences pretty well, Lexxie @ (un)Conventional Book Reviews also chimed in about inspiration and her situation and why she doesn’t want to write discussion posts, and Evie @ Bookish Lifestyle did a sound off on copying. I am sure there are more also coming out, but these are the ones I have seen.

Lexxie had a situation where she created a challenge that was very similar to someone else’s. She emailed the blogger and asked if it would be okay. My confession is similar, but different.

When January rolled around, I decided to start my own feature. Not a weekly meme hosted by someone else, but something personal and meaningful to me on my blog. Famous Last Words was born and so far has appeared the third Thursday of each month. I never gave a second thought to it. This was my content created from my idea based on a very personal experience. In my little blurb in each post, I talk about how I came by the idea because I was inspired by Pudge in Looking for Alaska by John Green.

After the second installment of my feature came out, I discovered another blogger who has a feature with the same title. When I learned this, I researched and went digging to find the origin. Was this a meme (that wasn’t credited to the host) or is this her own self-created feature? How and why did she start it? I didn’t find answers to any of my questions. So I continued my own feature without contacting her.

There’s more to the story that I haven’t shared. 

Or at least connected the dots for readers.

I have talked in the past or referenced on more than one occasion (and again)about my cousin who committed suicide. In fact, I was dating the man back then during that time, and he took me the nearly two hours home because I couldn’t drive. Interestingly enough, they share the same name. This TTT was my most recent post really coming out about the entire suicide-book relationship.

I even talked about Pudge and The Colonel in a Thoughts on Thursday post about book baes and friends. After looking back at it, I realize that my cousin was a mix of everything I said about Pudge and The Colonel. He was a thoughtful friend who pondered deep subjects – although he rarely let on. He read the Bible in 7th grade at school during silent reading time. It ended up pissing off teachers because it ended up sparking students having their own conversations (respectfully) about religion outside of class, but the damage was done and the buzz was buzzing. Really, it was because the teacher was Jewish – and  I know this because I later had this same teacher.

Whatever you are picturing, my cousin was not.

He was not a holy roller Christian. He was not someone who had that religious, wholesome look. He was not a devout church goer.

He was none of those things.

Instead, he was so far from what you would think. And that was the plague that dogged him all through school because he chose to embrace his difference and show it to all who cared. My cousin was bold and daring. He didn’t look before he leaped – unless others were involved. He was fiercely loyal and would take the blame for someone else. My cousin looked and acted differently, and teachers associate that negatively. Things about kids get around, and everyone knew who my cousin was the minute they saw him.

They didn’t know what to look at first: his dangling skull earrings, the long sweeping black trench coat that led their eye down to the clunky Doc Martens or up to his elaborately spiked and distinctly colored hair. 

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Is this the kind of kid you would expect to have other students asking him about Jesus, God and the Bible? Probably not.

He looks like a punk teen who could have been arrested. And he was. For standing his ground and standing up for himself in the right way when a principal laid hands on him. The school district and superintendent had a very hard time explaining that one, and he was arrested under false pretenses. You cannot assault a person and then have them arrested for unhanding and extraditing from the situation to get away.

My cousin was 27 when he committed suicide – with two small children both below the age of five. I really can’t say later in life he started religiously attending Cowboy church services because he was only 27. He didn’t have a “later in life.” But as an adult who was also a parent, he sought out the very thing that started all his troubles – the Bible. The pastor of the Cowboy church gave testimony at his funeral service about how he had been sought out multiple times to consult on interpretations of the Bible and application to life. A coworker shared his own story of struggling in life, and how my cousin counseled him and tried to help him through a serious situation by referencing the Bible and talking him through things.

The night we lost him, I knew. I talked about my premonition dreams before on the blog, and what I didn’t share was I also have premonitions or signs of other sorts. It isn’t all the time, it is very subtle. Again, I was dating the man at the time. I was with the man that night. The man woke me up because I was thrashing all around in bed and making a strange noise – like a whining, a keening sound. I remember sitting up straight in bed and just looking at the man and feeling empty. Like I was looking through a ghost.

I later found out my thrashing fit was within the same thirty minute window in which my cousin took his own life, locked and barricaded behind his bedroom door with his two sleeping babies only two rooms away.

About six months before I had read Looking for Alaska as a required reading for my adolescent literature class. I fell in love with Pudge and his friends, and I was heartbroken for Alaska. I would never have read the book AFTER. I thank my lucky stars regularly that something in the planets aligned and I was put in that specific class that spring semester and I had time to ponder over the book because it later served as a Bible of sorts for me trying desperately to understand my cousin’s actions. I now sleep with Looking for Alaska on my headboard, near to me always.

But there’s more. I didn’t create this feature only because Pudge is fascinated with peoples’ last words.

I created the feature because of the famous last words of my cousin, the ones he left on his mother’s and sister’s voicemails directly before he took his own life. 

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Mickey Mouse and Rikki Tikki Tavi, AKA: Double Trouble

He was an only son and the first grandson. A year and a half later, his cohort, his best friend, his buddy through thick and thin, died in a single-car crash. His sister asked if he died on impact or would have survived. His shins were shattered and every bone in his face broken. Even if he had lived, he would have been a vegetable.

He was also my cousin – an only son. The second grandson. 

At the time I believed it was also suicide. There had been an incident before but was an accident. Many in our family are left wondering still from the famous last words of a single text message.

That is the real reason and origin of my feature.

 

Do I have a valid origin for my feature?

Does this mean I was inspired, or do you think it’s copying?

Thoughts on Thursday: Overwhelmed By Books

2016-Discussion-Challenge

Overwhelmed By Books

Is it possible to read too much? To be overwhelmed with books? Have you ever felt this way?

I hate to say it. I hate to admit that sometimes reading is just a little too much for me. But…it is.

When I first came back to blogging seriously, I felt extreme pressure to read and review books. Many people bring this up. Their blog feels like “work,” like its own job. I am one of those people who procrastinate (often) and then the pressure is on to complete a stellar project. I’m not saying I enjoy that period of stress, but every once in a while I need that kick in the pants.

When Christmas rolled around, I was checked out. I stopped reading on December 23. At the time I was just burnt out on books, even though I feel like I hadn’t read that many. My reading during breaks this year have been nothing compared to what they were before. Then school started back up, and I had to TRUDGE through books.

I had to force myself to read. I had to force myself to find the time in an extremely overloaded state from day to day. I wanted to read, but I didn’t want to read. I was in a life slump.

Now I am a little bit more back on track, but it is still taking me over a week to finish a book I would normally have finished in three or four days. I have books I have been meaning to review since I first started blogging. I have had the same books on my TBR for months now. I made my TBR Jar and I’m not even getting to use it yet because I had pre-TBR Jar reads I wanted to finish that didn’t go in the jar.

If you’ve been keeping up with me, you’ll have noticed my reviews have dwindled to just one a week. That’s only four each month! I feel overwhelmed with books. There are so many I feel I’ll never get through them. It’s off-putting. It makes me want to avoid my Kindle. I sometimes can’t even look at it when I get home because I’ll start feeling guilty. And then the reading just piles up higher. It’s a vicious cycle.

 

Have you ever been overwhelmed by books?

How do you handle this conundrum?

Thoughts on Thursday: Local Library Love

My Local Library

My Local Library is featured below. This is my school’s library. I spend every other Tuesday here with all of my students. It is not nearly as large or fancy as many other middle school libraries today, but it services all of our students and teachers. I love helping my students find books, and being able to have a scheduled date to see my dear librarian friend. There are many kids that pile into the library in the mornings before school to read and work on homework, and I love it!

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As a child I primarily used my school library for books. I was there ALL THE TIME. I went on my own in between class visits. In middle school, the librarian and the aide let me check out myself if they were away from the counter. That’s the kind of kid I was.

I didn’t know there was such a thing as public libraries until I was eighth grade. The only reason my mom took me was to look for my summer reading book because she didn’t want to buy it. At the time, our library was literally this little shack-like building that had continuously been added on to over the years, so it was like a maze tunnel inside.

We finally got a proper library built, but one of the workers has the stink eye for me (small town political bullshit – she didn’t like my grandma because she didn’t believe in hoarding all the money for an organization they were both a part of), so I frequented it less and less due to her preferential treatment of me as a library patron. In college, I visited the local library once or twice. When I moved to Austin, I had to PAY for a public library membership. And then I had to PAY to RENEW it! After the first year I was done with that. I don’t visit any libraries now except for my school library.

What makes your local library special?