2017 Reading Challenges

New year, new reading challenges! This post a bit belated seeing as how 2017 started almost two weeks ago at this point but as I’ve said, things have been kind of crazy around here lately so I’m behind on some things.  I didn’t even finish my first book of the year until a couple of days ago.  But, I’m slowly getting back on track so here we go!  First of all, this is the first year ever in my reading history that I decided to lower my Goodreads goal.  I want to invest more time in longer books and read more adult fantasy and non-fiction without the added pressure of reaching a higher goal.  Once I make my goal, I will re-evaluate and raise it but for now I’ve set it at 75 books.

The Challenge: Flights of Fantasy

Hosts: Alexa Loves Books & Hello Chelly

The Goal: There’s no minimum, and the reader is encouraged to set their own goal for how many fantasy novels they want to read in 2017.

Official hashtag: #flightsoffantasy

Additional Info: This year, Alexa and Rachel are continuing the Flights of Fantasy book club but they’re modifying it to occur quarterly.  The full schedule for the year has already been posted on both of their blogs.  In addition, there will be monthly link-ups and two giveaways!

MY GOAL: 40 books (last year I read 38!)

Some Fantasy Books I Plan to Read:  

1) A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab

2) Calamity by Brandon Sanderson (The Reckoners #3)

3) The Black Prism by Brent Weeks (Lightbringer #1)

4) The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

5) The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman (The Magicians #3)

The Challenge: Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge 2017

HostsAndi’s ABCs

The Goal: There are different levels the reader can chose from for their 2016 goal, both of which can be found on the hosts sites.

Official hashtag: #ContRom2017

Additional Info: There will be monthly link-ups and giveaways!

MY GOAL: Grand Slam – 21+ books

Some Contemporary Romance Books I Plan to Read:  

1) Magnolia by Kristi Cook

2) I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

3) The Goal by Elle Kennedy

4) By Your Side by Kasie West

5) Three Day Summer by Sarvenaz Tash

The Challenge: 2017 New Release Challenge

HostsUnconventional Book Reviews & Books, Movies, Reviews, Oh My!

The Goal: There are different levels the reader can chose from for their 2016 goal, both of which can be found on the hosts sites.

Official hashtag: #2017NewReleaseChallenge

Additional Info: There will be monthly link-ups and giveaways!

MY GOAL: 1-30 books per year – New Release Newbie

Some Contemporary Romance Books I Plan to Read:  

1) Windwitch by Susan Dennard (The Witchlands #2)

2) A Conjuring of Light by VE Schwab (Shades of Magic #3)

3) The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey

4) By Your Side by Kasie West

5) Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han

The Challenge: 2017 Diverse Reads Book Challenge

Hosts:  Chasing Faerytales & Read Sleep Repeat

The Goal:  Set your own goal & follow the monthly mini challenges (1 category per month for a total of 12 books)

Official hashtag: #DiverseReads2017

MY GOAL:  20 Books

Some Diverse Books I Plan to Read:  

1) Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone

2) Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Chirapotra & Dhonielle Clayton

3) When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

4) The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue Side by Mackenzi Lee

5) Always and Forever Lara Jean by Jenny Han

The Challenge: Rock My TBR 2017 Reading Challenge

Hosts:  The YA Book Traveler

The Goal:  Read a minimum of 1 book per month that was previously published.

Official hashtag: #RockMyTBR

MY GOAL:  30 Books

Some Backlist Books I Plan to Read:  

1) A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab

2) Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Chirapotra & Dhonielle Clayton

3) Scythe by Neal Shusterman

4) Lady Midnight by Casandra Clare

5) P.S. I Like You by Kasie West

The Challenge: 2017 Prequel & Sequel Challenge

Hosts:  Novel Heartbeat & Writer Grrl Reads

The Goal:  Read prequels, sequels & novellas to catch up on series

MY GOAL:  51-75 points (visit their sites to see how points work!)

Some Prequels / Sequels I Plan to Read:  

1) A Gathering of Shadows by VE Schwab

2) Shiny Broken Pieces by Sona Chirapotra & Dhonielle Clayton

3) Scythe by Neal Shusterman

4) Lady Midnight by Casandra Clare

5) Throne of Glass #6 by Sarah J. Maas

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Kristin

January Small Goals

I’ve seen a bunch of people post small monthly goals and I really like the idea of re-centering and re-evaluating everything more frequently.  It’s awesome to make yearly goals but it’s also easy to lose focus or forget about them entirely over the 365 day period we’re aiming to accomplish them in.  Having small monthly goals to help get to those bigger picture yearly ones is something I’m eager to try out!

DECEMBER CHECK-IN

I have to be honest here.  December was a major fail on the monthly goals front. My mom was in the hospital for the last two weeks of the year and I was just to stressed before her operation and then too busy visiting her every night afterward to complete anything.  I did make the blogging goal but my other two goals were a no go, so I’m going to start 2017 with a fresh slate.

1) Clean our kitchen & hall closets – I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up before my aforementioned vacation and let me tell you, it was life-changing.  I spent almost all of my days off cleaning out my closet, my drawers, my comic book collection, collectibles and other random things that I’m not even sure how I acquired.  I set up a filing system for our important paperwork (#adulting) and I’ve felt so much better ever since.  More on this process to come!

2) Blog 2-3 times per week – While I wish I would’ve had the time to fall back into my blogging routine in November, I realize that with the amount of commitments I had, it was unreasonable to believe I could make time for writing (this is why I’ve also failed NaNoWriMo 2x – November is just not a good month for me).  Now that my room is completely clean and organized, I’m feeling an overwhelming sense of clarity and that I’m in the right mental state to sit down and be creative instead of stepping over piles of books, feeling guilty about blogging instead of tidying and then giving up and binge-watching YouTube videos instead. Plus Christmas so I’m SUPER excited.

3) Re-read a favorite book – I’ve often talked about how I grapple with re-reading things because there are so many things I haven’t read (a bunch of them are currently mocking me from my shelves) but December is such a comfort month that I want to make the conscious choice to re-read.  I know I’ll enjoy it, I just have to do it.  I’m thinking of picking up Fangirl or The Raven Boys since I’ve re-read Harry Potter so many times I can’t count anymore and I feel like some of my other favorites deserve some love<3

JANUARY GOALS

1) Reorganize Bookshelves / Buy a new bookshelf (or two…) – I rearranged my shelves a little while ago and while there are some shelves I love, there are others that just aren’t working for me.  Plus, it’s been very confusing to find certain books since I moved them around because I don’t think my new system is organized enough.  And if you’re someone who watches my book hauls… you know very well that I could always expand my Potter shelves!

2) Clean out kitchen & hall closet – I’m going to carry this goal over since our weekend in January seem pretty free which is the most exciting! We’ve been talking about possible getting a shelving until for our hall closet so I can organize what we have in there better too.

3) Read The Black Prism by Brent Weeks – I’ve been dying to get to this book, I’m in full-blown fantasy mode which tends to strike me as soon as the holidays are over.  So far, I’ve read the first chapter but I had to put it aside momentarily so I could read The Amateurs by Sara Shepard for book club on Sunday.  That’s going to be quite the ridiculous discussion.  Cassie and I have already started a list of all the awful elements so far!

4) Cook better meals at home – I’m adding a fourth goal this month! Once I finish writing this post, I’m going to head over to pinterest and look for some simple healthy recipes.  Because of our long commute, I really don’t have the time to be spending an hour or more cooking on weeknights which is why Trader Joe’s frozen foods have been such a godsend in the past.  But I really want to start making some more homemade meals, even if I only devote 1-2 nights per week to cooking for a longer period of time.  Some things I want to try out are more Asian meals (ramen, pho, etc.) and those delicious looking smoothie bowls (although that will be more of a weekend breakfast food)! I have to remind myself that watching YouTube while cooking is pretty much the same as watching it in my bed or desk and I’ll be happier with the end result.

What are your goals?

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Alexandra Bracken Interview!!!

It’s no secret that I’ve been obsessed with Alexandra Bracken’s Passenger since I first read it last Christmas.  In fact, it sits prominently displayed on my favorites shelf facing outward so I can admire the gorgeous cover every time I look over at my bookshelves.  What initially piqued my interest about the story was the prospect of time travel and pirates but what truly hooked me were the characters I fell so deeply in love with, Nicholas and Etta.  Alex’s newest book, Wayfarer, continues their adventure as they search for an ancient artifact needed to keep the timeline in tact.  Wayfarer is the conclusion to the Passenger duology and to celebrate its release, I was somehow lucky enough to get to chat with Alexandra about the story!  (Just a warning that there will be mild spoilers below for Passenger – if you haven’t read the first book yet, you can read my review here)

Alex started the call with a synopsis of Wayfarer and gave me some information on her writing process saying “I‘ve been calling this book my problem child in the sense that it was the book that came out kicking and screaming whereas some books just sort of rain down on you from the heavens and explode out of you, and those stories are amazing.  But I am really proud of this book.  I think I managed to accomplish everything that I was going for in it.” And as someone who has read Wayfarer, I can attest that accomplish it, she did!  Stories involving time travel are always some of the most difficult to write because of all of the paradoxes that you can fall into if you’re not careful.  On top of that, Alex had to do in depth research of each location and time period the characters visit in order to ensure her story is accurate.  Luckily, Alex is a history nerd!  According to Alex, “Originally Passenger was just going to be set in 1776 in New York.  I studied Revolutionary War history and 18th century America in college, so I felt very comfortable writing in that time period.  I had a really good grip on what the different concerns were, what the economy was like, what the atmosphere was like.  That’s why I felt weirdly comfortable writing in Nicholas’ voice, then I decided I’ve got to push myself and expand the story so I could make it more inclusiveFor the places that I’d never visited, I never expected this to actually be the case, but tourists, when they walk through places, will actually record themselves walking through the entire site.  It made it very easy to write about the layout of all of those different places.

One of my favorite things about Wayfarer is that we get to know Sophia and Julian a lot better than we did in the first book.  While it did mean the separation of Nicholas and Etta, Sophia and Julian were such fascinating characters that it made it easier to cope with.  Alex said “I really like writing group dynamics, and that was one of the challenges of Passenger, that there wasn’t a big group.  It was only Etta and Nicholas for most of the book.  And so with this one, I had a blast writing different groups and managing everyone’s personalities.”  Speaking of those other characters, I asked Alex which character she would write about if she had another opportunity to write a full length novel in the Passenger world (because she’s already written a Rose Linden short story which is available in the Target edition of Wayfarer) and what she would do with them.  Alex said “I always thought if I wrote another book set in this world, it would probably be about Julian because he doesn’t get as much page time as Sophia and Li Min do.  I sort of have a concept – and sorry, this is a spoiler for the end. At the end of the book, their way of life has sort of been dissolved, and they’re starting to reestablish rules and reestablish a way of life.  And, so Julian I think, would be at sea – not literally, but figuratively – in terms of what to do with himself. I had this image that he would go and work for the Belladonna and go do an errand for her, and kind of have a love story of his own.  I hope I get to write it one day, and rope Sophia and Li Min in as well.

And I obviously had to ask Alex about her plotting process and if she ever considered having any of the characters go into the future or to have anyone from the future come back to visit the characters since Passenger and Wayfarer only cover traveling into the past.  Alex said “Yeah, I thought about it. So Rose ultimately goes on this single-minded path, I guess you could say, to try to prevent the astrolabe from falling into the Ironwood’s hands.  Originally, in my mind when I was plotting out Passenger, it was going to be someone from the future that actually warned Rose about it, and it was probably going to be Nicholas and Etta’s kid, or their grandchild, or something to that effect. But you sort of get into grandfather paradox, where you can’t travel back in time to kill a grandparent or do something that affects a grandparent because it could affect your birth.  So the action cancels itself out.  I tried to avoid that the best I could, and avoid having to explain that over several dozen pages. So I was like, you know what?  I’m just going to keep it a little bit simpler and go the direction I went in Wayfarer.”  And as for what Alex would bring with her if she were to travel through time, “Well, it totally depends on if you’re going into the future or if you’re going into the past… Going into the future, I feel like I would bring a notebook so I could keep notes.  If I was going into the past, I think I would probably bring matches with me.”  Such a writerly answer!

Wayfarer Synopsis

I’ve been orphaned by my time.

The timeline has changed.

My future is gone.

 Etta Spencer didn’t know she was a traveler until the day she emerged both miles and years from her home. Now, robbed of the powerful object that was her only hope of saving her mother, Etta finds herself stranded once more, cut off from Nicholas—the eighteenth century privateer she loves—and her natural time.

When Etta inadvertently stumbles into the heart of the Thorns, the renegade travelers who stole the astrolabe from her, she vows to finish what she started and destroy the astrolabe once and for all. Instead, she’s blindsided by a bombshell revelation from their leader, Henry Hemlock: he is her father. Suddenly questioning everything she’s been fighting for, Etta must choose a path, one that could transform her future.

Still devastated by Etta’s disappearance, Nicholas has enlisted the unlikely help of Sophia Ironwood and a cheeky mercenary-for-hire to track both her and the missing astrolabe down. But as the tremors of change to the timeline grow stronger and the stakes for recovering the astrolabe mount, they discover an ancient power far more frightening than the rival travelers currently locked in a battle for control. . . a power that threatens to eradicate the timeline altogether.

From colonial Nassau to New York City, San Francisco to Roman Carthage, imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, New York Times #1 best-selling author Alexandra Bracken charts a gorgeously detailed, thrilling course through time in this stunning conclusion to the Passenger series.

Alexandra Bracken Bio

Alexandra Bracken is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Passenger series and The Darkest Minds series. Born and raised in Arizona, she moved East to study history and English at the College of William & Mary in Virginia. After working in publishing for several years, Alex now writes full-time and can be found hard at work on her next novel in a charming little apartment that’s perpetually overflowing with books.

Official Links

Find out more on UnrequiredReading

Visit the author at her Website

Social Media

@alexbracken on Twitter and Instagram

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Kristin

2017: POWER

(All photos in this post were taken by me during 2016 – and I’m linking up my post with Writes Like a Girl, a fashion blogger I’ve grown very fond of in the past year!)

First things first, you may want to grab a cup of tea because this post turned out to be longer than I was expecting!  My 2017 word of the year is POWER (which I’ve felt the need to type in all caps or flex an arm muscle and use a deeper voice when saying out loud).  Now, hear me out before you write me off as a super-villain who’s attempting world domination.  Of all the millions of words I read in 2016, I was struggling to find to the one to describe my focus in 2017 until that AHA epiphany moment struck.

My word last year was risk and I felt like I only half lived up to the potential there.  I took major “risks” in certain areas of my life and by risks, I mostly mean that I openly embraced change.  In January, I left my stable job at one of the best law firms in NYC to join a new company and that was one of the hardest decisions ever.  I couldn’t be more happy to have taken that chance because after the past year of working with the incredible team of people at my company I know that I’m in the place where I belong career-wise and it’s where I see myself for the long run.  I also married my best friend Andrew and we moved into our own apartment together.  This transition was one of the happiest and most seamless of my life.  I’m thanking the stars for aligning and letting me cross paths with the most amazing man in the galaxy.  People often say that the first year of marriage is the hardest but having hit the 6 month mark, if this is the hardest we should expect, we are blessed beyond belief.  So while I did take those bigger risks, I still let fear and anxiety control the majority of my everyday choices until the end of 2016.  That’s where my 2017 word comes in.

When I started thinking about 2017 and the things I wanted to focus on (saving money, reverting back to my healthy diet, etc), the first word that came to mind was responsible.  While I do want to be responsible in these senses, I couldn’t help but feel like that was such a BORING word choice when there are so many others out there.  Plus, it didn’t totally capture everything I wanted to aim for.  One of the major goals I’ve set for myself (which I’ve already started being better about) is to go out more.  To see the friends I love so much, to explore my city that I’ve been having warmer feelings for again, to pay more attention to my blog, and to put more effort into writing and creating YouTube content that I’m happy with.  Then I realized that all of these things I want to do are things that I’ve been choosing to neglect. And I have the POWER to change that.  So simple as that.  I’ve really put a lot more thought into evaluating things this New Year which I suppose is a product of getting older (and hopefully wiser).

A phrase I’ve been hearing a lot of people say lately is “new year, new me.”  This couldn’t be further from what I want.  I’ve spent the past 29 years molding myself into the me I am today and I’m happy with that person.  While there are choices I’m planning on making to push myself out of my comfort zone and minor routine adjustments that I want to make to better my quality of life, I’m not looking to start fresh as a completely new me.  Just a better version of the me that already exists.

I can honestly say that this is one of the first years that I didn’t start with the mindset of “2017 will be the year of me!”  I feel like I’ve undergone more personal growth in the past couple of years and achieved major milestones far beyond where I ever saw myself at this age.  I’m happy.  For me, 2017 is the year of my husband, my family, and my friends. I want to do everything in my POWER this year to help them along the way to finding their own happiness in whichever form they’re seeking.  I’m not at all saying that I have zero goals and I’m striving for nothing, I’m just saying that I’ve been able to identify the things that make me feel the most satisfied and the things that I want to do going forward.  I’m past the figuring out stage which has made me feel as though my path is more clear.  I don’t need to exert energy to drowning out the noise and that has made me feel free to be more creative, more apt to relax in the ways this introvert knows will effectively recharge her and like I have more time to give to others.  I decluttered both physically and mentally in the latter half of 2016.  I don’t feel like I need to be the center of things because I have a firm grasp on where my center is.  I’m more interested in investing my time into the people I love and being able to celebrate their successes with them, knowing that I’ve been there for them when they needed a push.  I’ve always been a quieter person.  I’m a listener who truly hears and my power of observation has always allowed me to see things that others aren’t able to at first glance.  This year, I want to make the most of that skill.

TL;DR – 2017 is about me having the POWER to change the things I want to change, utilize my strengths to the best of my ability, continue to focus on self care, and most importantly, to invest my time and energy into the relationships I hold closest to my heart.

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