2016 Goal Recap: How Did I Do?

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Image: Lara Casey

Last year I learned a lot about goal setting, mostly about why it doesn’t work. This fact was difficult for me to come to terms with, considering how much of an overachiever I am. However, when you’re ambitious, it’s easy to take on so many projects and tasks that decision fatigue sets in, and you question why you’re even working toward these objectives in the first place.

In 2017, I am determined to care less about achieving arbitrary goals and more about implementing successful systems. It truly is about the journey, not the destination, because it’s your daily habits that lead to meaningful accomplishments.

If we’re just looking at how many of my 2016 goals I crossed off my list, then I only hit a 50% pass rate. More importantly, though, I realized which goals were actual priorities and which ones were added merely to fill a “top ten” list. The sad part is that the goals that really matter to me are the ones that went uncompleted. That desperately needs to change, so I am more focused than ever on the steps that it takes to reach those goals, no matter how small.

So for what it’s worth, here’s the final tally:

1. Read 20 more books: PASS

I’ve hit this quota for several years now, and it seems to work for me. I read one book per month with my book club and a handful of others in between meetups. I’ve already blogged my reading recap of 2016, and for the most part, the selection was okay. A few excellent novels, but overall a mediocre reading experience.

2. Don’t buy any new books for myself until I’ve read everything I currently own: PASS

I thought that this goal would be difficult to stick to, but I received enough books and gift cards from loved ones that I didn’t have to spend a dime on my favorite hobby last year. And although this is not an important goal to maintain, I still have half a dozen books from my Christmas present haul that will keep me entertained for a few more months.

3. Read 10 new authors: PASS

I broke out of my comfort zone last year by committing half of my reading to new authors. Some I loved (Meg Elison, Paula Hawkins), others were hit or miss (Rainbow Rowell, Neil Gaiman, Jojo Moyes), but most were, unfortunately, forgettable (Mary Norris, Anne Brontë, Gabrielle Zevin, J. Kent Messum, Charlie Jane Anders).

4. Reach 100,000 total blog views: FAIL

In 2016, I gained 15,332 more views: not an impressive amount, but about average for me. I needed to earn 22,835 views to reach a total of 100,000 since I began blogging, which was very much a stretch goal. Since I’m over 92,000 total views now, I imagine that I’ll hit 100k in 2017, but I’ll be scaling back on Book Club Babe, so losing views is a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

5. Blog at least once per week: PASS

Even after taking a month-long hiatus in November for NaNoWriMo, I was able to blog 55 times in the 52 weeks of the year. The two most popular posts in 2016 were interviews with author Meg Elison and Recycle Bookstore in San Jose, and my most popular Top Ten Tuesday post was about the characters I love, but other people don’t.

6. Original goal: Write 10,000 words of my novel per month. New goal: Write 45,000 words before 2017: FAIL

It pains me to admit that I only wrote about 5,000 words in 2016, almost all in Q3, the brief time period when I wasn’t searching for or adjusting to a new job, or preparing to move into a new place. I’ve quickly learned that 10,000 words per month is too ambitious, and I’m better off slowly working my way up to that goal. This year I’m committing to the very small baby step of 100 words per day instead, because enacting a regular writing habit is the key to future success.

7. Complete the first draft of the manuscript of my novel: FAIL

Obviously, I didn’t complete my manuscript in 2016, so I’m not going to continue beating myself up for failing this goal. On the axis of productivity, writing a novel falls under the “important, but not urgent” category and always gets pushed aside for tasks that are “urgent and important” like work deadlines, or worse, activities like checking social media that are “neither urgent nor important.” I will certainly make a better attempt at prioritizing my personal goals this year.

8. Visit 5 new bookstores: FAIL

You can tell that towards the end of this list is where my goals become less meaningful. Visiting new bookstores is fun, but not life-changing by any means. I made a trek to two local bookstores and one in Rome during my spring vacation, so I’m appreciative of the memories I made. It’s always something I try to do when traveling, so I’m sure that I’ll continue doing so without needing to add extra pressure on myself with an arbitrary quantity.

9. Brush up on my Latin (goal abandoned): FAIL

Why I even bothered with this goal is beyond me, but I don’t have the heart to discard my old Latin textbooks from college. I will most likely never study this language again, but I enjoyed the two years that I did tremendously. Cogito ergo sum, but in this case, I did not think realistically about this goal and abandoned it without a hint of guilt.

10. Learn conversational Greek and Italian: PASS…ish

To better navigate through my two-week adventure to Greece and Italy last year, I tried picking up the native languages. After using Duolingo for a few months, the app deemed me about 35% fluent in Italian, but there are few online resources that teach Greek, so I just taught myself a few basic phrases. Not that any of this training really mattered, since both countries are so accustomed to American tourists that they prefer to speak to you in English anyway to make everything easier.

2016 GOAL RECAP: Passed 5 goals; failed 5 goals (50% success rate)

Do I consider 2016 a successful year? Not in the traditional sense of reaching the goals that I set, but definitely from a self-awareness standpoint. I’m grateful for the experience, because it taught me that I need to try things differently this year if I want to see a dramatic transformation. 2017 will be the year of system-setting, not goal-setting: progress is made by incrementally improving every day, so I’m committing to baby steps, not giant leaps for mankind.

This means that I will sadly be devoting less time to this blog. I will still check in to post my book reviews but mostly as maintenance rather than engagement in the book blogging community. I never intended to make money with Book Club Babe, but its stagnant growth and lack of ROI is becoming a larger opportunity cost than the pleasure I gain from blogging.

I love my followers so much and am thankful for their support.I’ll always enjoy book-blogging, but it’s about time that I publish a book of my own for others to blog about! One day I hope that you are as excited to read a novel of mine as I am to share my fiction with the world.

Knowing when to step back can save yourself from burnout and resentment, so I appreciate your understanding as I focus on my greatest passion. I wish you all a fantastic 2017!

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My 2016 Reading Recap

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This year has certainly been a rollercoaster: in addition to this crazy presidential election, I’ve suffered the lows of two job transitions, but I’ve also experienced the high of moving in with my amazing boyfriend. However, when you average all the peaks and valleys, what you’re left with is a state that is somewhere in the middle, and my year in books was no exception.

2016’s reading recap can best be defined as “meh.” Although there were a few knockout novels, for the most part, I was disappointed. Super-popular stories like American Gods and Me Before You were just okay, and ones that were supposed to disrupt their respected genres were flat-out terrible. Some authors I’ve read before were consistently good, but others like Rainbow Rowell ranged from amazing to mediocre.

Here are my 2016 reading stats according to Goodreads:

  • 20 books read, totaling 6,482 pages
  • Shortest book: The Tales of the Peculiar (160 pages)
  • Longest book: American Gods (635 pages)
  • Average rating: 3.6 stars

And here is my master list of books, ranked from best to worst. Consider this my public service: reading lackluster stories so you don’t have to!

Rating: 5 out of 5

Rating: 4 out of 5

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Rating: 3 out of 5

Rating: 2 out of 5

I have two books left to review, which I hope to get around to during my three-day weekend. I’m also still adding new books to my to-read list for 2017, so let me know what your favorites were this year and which ones I should avoid!

Happy New Year!

XOXO, Book Club Babe

The Book Club Babe is Back!

“America’s Next Top Model” will also be back this month, but sadly without runway diva, Miss. J.

Hi everyone!

As much as I’d like to say that I conquered NaNoWriMo, I have to confess that I spent last month’s hiatus preoccupied with another major task…getting a new job! Between resumes and cover letters, I didn’t leave much writing time for my novel. In fact, I only clocked about 300 words on the first day of the challenge before life took over. I know..excuses, excuses! But I hope those of you fellow Wrimos crushed it on my behalf!

I’ve only been sitting at my new desk for a few days, so you’ll have to wait a little longer while I get acclimated before I can tackle my blogging backlog. This month, I’ll be focusing on my final four book reviews, then publishing my 2016 wrap-up before the new year.

I’m currently reading the oh-so-popular young-adult novel Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, so I’m excited to learn what all the fuss is about! You should also keep an eye out for my reviews on these other books:

If you’ve already finished these stories, then please let me know what you think of them! It goes without saying that I’m also taking recommendations for what to read in 2017, so share your favorites in the comments!

Book reviews coming soon!

Book reviews coming soon!

2016 Goals: Q3 Progress

And just like that, summer is gone. As my favorite season ends and we head into the home stretch before the winter holidays, it’s time to check my progress on my top ten goals for 2016.

Was this quarter as productive as it should have been?

Brought to you by Giphy's results for

Brought to you by Giphy’s results for “goals”

1. Read 20 more books (6 books read in Q3, progress at 75%): ON TRACK

This quarter I have read The Guest Room, The Honeymoon Hotel, The Book of the Unnamed Midwife, Agnes Grey, Tales of the Peculiar and The Girl on the Train (review coming soon!). In total, that makes 15 books read so far this year, so finishing five more before the end of the year should be a piece of cake.

2. Don’t buy any new books for myself until I’ve read everything I currently own (No new books purchased): ON TRACK

I’m getting closer to completing my book backlog, but this month I celebrated my birthday and received four new books and a $50 Amazon gift card. I am confident that I can go another three months without spending a dime of my own money on books! Huzzah!

3. Read 10 new authors: PASS

Out of the six books that I read this quarter, three of them were written by authors new to me: Anne Brontë, Meg Elison, and Paula Hawkins. They span genres from post-apocalyptic to thriller to classic literary fiction, so I’m proud to achieve this goal with such diversity!

Passed my goal to read 10 new authors!

Passed my goal to read 10 new authors!

4. Reach 100,000 total blog views (reached 12,272 views of the 22,835 total needed this year, progress at 54%): REALLY BEHIND

Summer is my favorite season when I’m having fun in the sun, but not when it comes to blog traffic. I’m sure everyone had better things to do than read my book reviews, but hopefully some people found some gems to add to their to-read lists in the fall when they’re ready to hibernate in front of a fireplace with a good book! There’s no way I’m meeting my 100k goal, but blogging should be about quality, not quantity.

5. Blog at least once per week (blogged 16 times in 13 weeks of Q3, progress at 87%): REALLY AHEAD

This quarter I wrote six book reviews, participated in six Top Ten Tuesdays, and even celebrated my 5th blogiversary! This puts me way ahead of my goal, which is great, because there’s only one more month until NaNoWriMo, and I prefer to take a blogging hiatus to focus on writing my novel in November.

6. Original goal: Write 10,000 words of my novel per month. New goal: Write 45,000 words before 2017 (wrote 4,650 words of my novel in Q3): REALLY BEHIND

I could beat myself up over the fact that I couldn’t reach my word count goal for one month, let alone three. But I’m pretty proud that at least I broke my writing dry spell! Work was especially busy this quarter as we prepared for a major conference this past week. I hope to keep up a better habit and make up for lost time during NaNoWriMo!

7. Complete the first draft of the manuscript of my novel (progress at 11% in Q3): REALLY BEHIND

This goal is dependent on the previous one, so obviously I’m nowhere close to a complete first draft. 14 pages written this quarter, so only about 135 pages to go!

If Marlin can find his son Nemo, then I can finish my novel!

If Marlin can find his son Nemo, then I can finish my novel!

8. Visit 5 new bookstores (visited 1 new bookstore in Q3, progress at 60%): ON TRACK

This quarter I made the short trek from my office to the Mission District of San Francisco and dropped by Alley Cat Books for a quick Q&A. The eclectic art around the store gives it a unique personality, so if you’re located on the west best coast or making a trip in the near future, I highly recommend that you make a visit as well!

9. Brush up on my Latin (goal abandoned): FAIL

Let’s face it: we all have way too much going on in our lives to get nostalgic about stuff we studied in college. As much as I would have loved to squeeze in some Latin before I visited the ancient ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum in May, all of the signage is in Italian anyway, so there wasn’t much for me to attempt translating. I have zero regrets for letting this slip off my priority list.

10. Learn conversational Greek and Italian: PASS…ish

I studied enough of the European languages to get around on my vacation, only to learn that locals have little patience for tourists, choosing to speak English with us rather than listen to us struggle in their native tongues. I now know that learning languages is a “nice to have” skill, not a “must have.”

TOTAL Q3 PROGRESS: On track or ahead on 6 goals; Behind or failed on 4 goals (60% success rate!)

I’ve made some good progress in Q3, so now it’s about catching up and finishing strong in the last three months of 2016. Wish me luck!

Happy 5th Blogiversary to Me!

I know that I’ve been busy, but I cannot believe that I almost missed the fifth anniversary of my blog! Many of the book bloggers whom I follow are college students just getting started, so I definitely feel like a veteran after half a decade. In fact, a recent blog referred to my Why I HATE Nicholas Sparks post as “ancient.” Thanks?

To celebrate this major blogiversary, I’m here to share five fun facts about your very own Book Club Babe!

1. The Hard Numbers: In the five years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve written 416 posts and gained almost 87,000 total views from over 46,600 visitors. The day with the best views ever (463 total) was April 8, 2015, but that’s only because my talented brother Nick Jarrett launched my personal website alyssajarrett.com that day, which hosts a feed to this blog. Check it out to see my professional portfolio and find links to my vlogs and other social media networks.

2. The Fanbase: Speaking of social media, let’s tally up my fans! I have a total of 850 followers, which includes my WordPress (123) and email (18) subscribers, personal Facebook (234), Facebook page (71), Twitter (151), Pinterest (98), personal Google+ (36), Google+ page (94), Goodreads (21), and YouTube (4). I’m certainly not the most popular blog on the web, but I’ve heard many times that people found books they loved thanks to my reviews, and that makes everything worth it.

3. Most Popular Day and Time of Posts: Tuesday (17% of views) at 12:00PM PST (6% of views). Not surprising, given the popularity of the Top Ten Tuesday meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. If you’re a new book blogger, join us!

4. Most Discussed Posts: Other than my rant on the romance novel king, my most commented on posts include My Top Ten Goals for 2016, Top Ten Books When You Just Want to Laugh, and my rant on Fifty Shades of Grey.

5. VIP Commenters: I have to give a special shout-out to Alison Doherty at Hardcovers and Heroines, The Other Watson at Wanton Creation, and Bridget at Dog-Eared and Dog-Tagged for supporting me all these years. I consider them some of my first blogging friends, and I wish them all the best in the future!

Another year down, hopefully many more to go! Thank you for all the insightful conversations, amazing recommendations, and wonderful memories!

XOXO

Book Club Babe

2016 Goals: Q2 Progress

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I can’t believe that this year is half-over already! It seemed like it was just yesterday when I set my top ten goals for 2016. In previous years, I waited until December to evaluate my progress, but this year, I’m writing quarterly updates to keep myself more accountable.

So let’s jump right into it! After six months, how am I doing?

1. Read 20 more books (5 books read in Q2, progress at 45%): SLIGHTLY BEHIND

This quarter I have read Eleanor and Park, Bait, Me Before You, Suddenly One Summer, and All the Birds in the Sky (review coming soon!). In total, that makes nine books read so far this year, so I’m confident that I can pick up the pace to reach my annual quota!

2. Don’t buy any new books for myself until I’ve read everything I currently own (No new books purchased): ON TRACK

Thanks to an Apple gift card and a Marriott points redemption, I’ve been funding my book addiction by getting my book club’s selections on audio. Considering that I still have about six more books sitting patiently for me on my shelf, I’m in no rush to waste money adding to the stack.

3. Read 10 new authors (4 new authors read in Q2, progress at 70%): REALLY AHEAD

Out of the five books I read this quarter, only one was written by a repeat author. I only need to read three more new authors to complete this goal, which will be a piece of cake. The big question is…who should I add to that list?

4. Reach 100,000 total blog views (reached 9,372 views of the 22,835 total needed this year, progress at 41%): REALLY BEHIND

Unless my blog sees an unusual surge in traffic, I am skeptical that I’ll be able to reach this goal. I’d have to receive over 2,200 views per month until the end of the year, and I’ve only averaged about 1,500. I understand that I’m not blogging frequently enough to take Book Club Babe to the next level, but I’m okay with that, since it just means I’ve got lots of exciting things in my life keeping me busy!

5. Blog at least once per week (blogged 14 times in 13 weeks of Q2, progress at 56%): SLIGHTLY AHEAD

Of course, just because I’ve often preoccupied with other things, that doesn’t mean I should abandon this blog I love. I’m still writing weekly, just enough to review the books I read and participate in a Top Ten Tuesday every now and then. Big shout-out to all my followers who still visit regularly, because you make blogging completely worth it!

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6. Original goal: Write 10,000 words of my novel per month. New goal: Write 45,000 words before 2017 (wrote 0 words of my novel in Q2): REALLY BEHIND

I know that there are absolutely no excuses for epically failing at this goal, but here I go making them anyway. I abandoned April’s Camp NaNoWriMo for reasons I can’t remember, I spent half of May touring Europe, and I was preoccupied with moving in June. Even after revising my original goal, I still haven’t made any progress…yet! *cue sad trombone*

7. Complete the first draft of the manuscript of my novel (no progress made on novel in Q2): REALLY BEHIND

Well, setting metrics was my way of keeping track of my goals, but it’s obvious that I’ve been moving the goalpost on this one. Considering I’m halfway done with my novel, I will need to write 7,500 words per month for the rest of the year to mark the first draft as completed. That’s 246 words per day, which only takes me about 30 minutes to write. I. CAN. DO. THIS.

8. Visit 5 new bookstores (visited 1 new bookstore in Q2, progress at 40%): ON TRACK

While traveling in Greece and Italy this spring, I came across a hidden gem in Rome: the Pocket 2000 book and comic bookstore! Not only did I get to explore an indie bookstore abroad, but I found some awesome souvenirs as well! And now that I’m working in the heart of San Francisco again, I know that there are some amazing places to check out. I’ve already had Green Apple Books recommended to me multiple times, so perhaps that will be next on my list!

9. Brush up on my Latin (goal abandoned): FAIL

Frankly, I don’t know why I set this goal, other than the fact that I’d be seeing the ancient ruins of Pompeii on my vacation. I was feeling nostalgic about my time in college spent translating thousands of lines of Latin per week–everything from Caesar and Cicero to Catullus and Seneca. I figured that it would be cool to refresh my skills, perhaps to read some Roman graffiti, but what I didn’t expect was that many parts of Pompeii were closed for reconstruction and that all the remaining sites would be labeled in Italian instead. Definitely my d’oh! moment of the year.

10. Learn conversational Greek and Italian: PASS…ish

I guess that you could see that I achieved this goal, depending on your definition of “conversational.” After studying Italian through the free app Duolingo for four months, I became about 35% fluent in the language, meaning that I could introduce myself, construct simple sentences, and discuss things like food, animals, and clothing.

As for learning Greek, because it wasn’t available on Duolingo, I created a list of common phrases instead. However, I have to admit that since both countries catered to English speakers, I didn’t partake in many opportunities to practice my skills. It will be quite awhile before I visit Italy and Greece again, so I’m comfortable retiring this goal.

TOTAL Q2 PROGRESS: On track or ahead on 5 goals; Behind or failed on 5 goals (50% success rate!)

At the year’s halfway point, it’s clear that I can prioritize the basics of reading and blogging, but I’m having trouble making time for writing and personal development. Let’s see the progress I make in Q3, so check back in the beginning of October for my update!

My Literary Finds in Rome!

After a refreshing two-week vacation, the Book Club Babe is finally back home! I spent this trip of a lifetime traveling around Greece and Italy, and I absolutely loved seeing all the ancient ruins, meeting people from all over the world, and–of course–stuffing my face with delicious food!

One of my goals of 2016 is to visit five new independent bookstores. In March, I interviewed the owner of Recycle Bookstore in San Jose, CA, and last week I discovered Pocket 2000, a small book and comic book store in Rome.


The shop was small and quaint, but it had a ton of popular series in their native Italian. I knew that this would be the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs, since my brother and boyfriend are crazy about comics. The men who were working there that day weren’t English speakers, so I unfortunately can’t share any more information about them or the bookstore, but if you ever happen to visit Rome, but sure to check out Pocket 2000!

Another amazing hidden gem of Rome that I visited was the Keats-Shelley House near the Spanish Steps. Our Airbnb host shared some guidebooks with us, in which I learned that English Romantic poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley had both lived in Italy during the early 1820s and died shortly thereafter–Keats from tuberculosis and Shelley from a tragic sailing accident.

The two-room apartment that Keats stayed in for four months while suffering from his illness became his final resting place. Now it exists as a memorial museum for the two friends, with some of their personal possessions, including a drawing of Keats’ that inspired his famous poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn.”

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I knew that I would be nerding out over ancient Roman sites like the Colosseum and the Pantheon, but I had no idea that this piece of history existed. In fact, the Spanish Steps were under construction during our stay, so it’s probable that without our guidebook, I would have walked past the inconspicuous building obliviously. If you’re a lover of literature like I am, you must make the trek to the Keats-Shelley House!

I could spend hours discussing my recent experiences in Europe, but right now I’m close to finishing the book everyone’s talking about, Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Stay tuned next week for my review!