101 Years and Counting: Remembering the Armenian Genocide

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Another year, another moment to reflect on one of our world’s most devastating tragedies. April 24th marks Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day, commemorating the massacre of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks during World War I.

If you’re wondering why anyone outside of Armenia and its diaspora should care about this event, it is important to note that to this day Turkey denies that the genocide ever occurred, or at the very least asserts that the death toll is extremely overestimated (untrue) and that the Armenians started the conflict and therefore deserved their retribution (grossly untrue). Even worse, despite the outrage of millions of Armenian-Americans like myself, the United States also does not formally recognize the Armenian Genocide for fear of damaging its military alliance with Turkey.

If you’re a new reader of Book Club Babe and were unaware of my Armenian ancestry and of the cultural significance of the genocide, then I urge you to educate yourself today and spread your knowledge with others. You can do your part by sharing this blog post to your social networks with hashtags, such as #RememberAndDemand and #TurkeyFailed. And if you’d like to read some historical fiction, then I recommend The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian and The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian.

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And for more information on the Armenian Genocide, please read my posts from previous years (20152014, 2013, 2012). Thank you for your support!

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Meet the Book Club Cats!

Hi everyone!

Last July, I shared some big news: I had adopted twins! Now before you get ahead of yourself, these twins are of the feline variety, and they go by the names Lyra (after the protagonist in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy) and Pippin (after the hobbit in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings).

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The Book Club Cats: Lyra (left) and Pippin (right)

Since then, the kittens have evolved into fully grown cats and are turning one year old on Monday. To celebrate their birthday, I created their very own Instagram account. Granted, I should have done this much earlier, while they were still young and tiny, but it’s never too late to live vicariously through their cuteness!

You can follow the lives of Lyra and Pippin on Instagram at @bookclubcats. I just got started as their momager, so there’s only a small handful of photos and videos right now, but trust me–they are crazy adorable.

Lyra and Pippin will be sharing their experiences with me as I read and blog my Book Club Babe reviews. Here’s little Lyra posing next to the most recent book that I finally crossed off my to-read list: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell.

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If you love cats as much as you love books, then go follow @bookclubcats right meow and tell everyone you know about them!

2016 Goals: Q1 Progress

If there’s something that you should know about me–the Book Club Babe–it’s that I’m obsessed with goal-setting. I love writing tasks down and crossing them off the second they’re completed. The rest of the world may have gone digital, but there’s nothing like a paper life planner (especially my new one from Erin Condren) to keep me organized.

At the beginning of the year, I listed my top ten goals for 2016. Usually I just do my end-of-year check-in to see how I did, but I have realized that I need more accountability. This means that I’ll be providing quarterly updates of my progress to keep everything transparent. It’s easy to brag when you’re kicking butt, but I also need to be honest with myself when I need a kick in the butt!

So here we go! After three months, how am I doing?

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Reading: the only thing standing between cats and world domination!

1. Read 20 more books (4 books read in Q1, progress at 20%): SLIGHTLY BEHIND

So far I have read Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Between You and Me, and The Heart Goes Last (review coming soon!), and I’m currently reading Eleanor and Park, the oh-so-popular YA romance by Rainbow Rowell. I’m supposed to be done with the book by Apr. 9 to stay on track, but that might be too difficult a challenge. I’m not worried though, because I imagine that I’ll make up for lost reading time on my long international flights to and from Europe next month!

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 proud to say that I have successfully avoided the siren call of new books! It doesn’t mean that I’m reading any less, however, since I’m using the library more often, and my boyfriend sweetly gave me a gift card on Valentine’s Day to spend at San Francisco’s famous City Lights bookstore, so I’ve now added Neil Gaiman’s American Gods and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion to my to-read list. I also received an Apple gift card when I purchased my new iPhone SE yesterday, which will probably go towards audiobooks on iTunes–instead of an Apple TV, much to said boyfriend’s dismay!

3. Read 10 new authors (3 new authors read in Q1, progress at 30%): SLIGHTLY AHEAD

Out of the four books I read this quarter, three were written by authors unfamiliar to me, which is fantastic! And as I mentioned earlier, I’ll soon be able to add Rainbow Rowell and Neil Gaiman to reach the halfway mark. With nine more months of 2016 to go, I’m positive that my book club will recommend some great new authors to me to finish my goal!

4. Reach 100,000 total blog views (reached 5,730 views of the 22,835 total needed this year, progress at 25%): ON TRACK

Based on these numbers, I envision reaching this goal by the skin of my teeth. I knew that it would be a stretch, but it would be awesome to say that I’ve hit 100K total views after five years of blogging. I’ve called Book Club Babe the little blog that could, and as long as I keep writing, sharing on social media, and participating in the book blogging community, it can succeed!

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Me furiously blogging at the end of the week to meet my quota!

5. Blog at least once per week (blogged 15 times in 13 weeks of Q1, progress at 29%): SLIGHTLY AHEAD

Much to my surprise, I have managed to blog at least once per week this quarter. I can never promise that I’ll blog at a certain time on a particular day, but if I want to reach 100k views, then blogging regularly is a must–no matter how busy life gets while juggling work and a social life!

6. Write 10,000 words of my novel per month (wrote 3,100 words out of 30,000 needed in Q1, but 0 words on my novel): REALLY BEHIND

The moment of shame: I have totally dropped the ball on working on my novel. Those closest to me are not at all shocked, since I have absolutely no procrastinating tendencies except for the work that really matters. In fact, the only writing that I have accomplished this quarter is a short story that I wrote as a gift, which is great but doesn’t really count.

That said, I should have specified in this goal to write 10,000 words per month until my novel is finished. I have 45,000 words, or about 140 pages, of my novel already completed, so I’m at the halfway mark. If I can complete another 45,000 words before 2017, I’ll still consider this goal a success!

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This cat has been writing more than me!

7. Complete the first draft of the manuscript of my novel (no progress made on novel in Q1): REALLY BEHIND

As I stated previously, this is the goal that’s the true indicator of winning. And as luck would have it, today’s the first day of April’s Camp NaNoWriMo! After participating in NaNoWriMo for the past three Novembers, perhaps the lesser-known camp sessions are the motivation I need to write more regularly. I’ve just signed up and have committed to writing 10,000 words this month. If I achieve this goal and repeat it for the camp in July, in addition to the 20,000-25,000 words that I write in the fall, I can call my first manuscript draft officially done!

8. Visit 5 new bookstores (visited 1 new bookstore in Q1 with 2 planned for Q2, progress at 20%): ON TRACK

This year I’m dedicated to supporting independent bookstores, and last month I featured Recycle Bookstore, located where I live in San Jose, Calif. It was fun interviewing the owner, Eric Johnson, and meeting the store’s feline mascot Emma, so if you’re in the neighborhood, be sure to visit! Next month I’ll be traveling to Greece and Italy for the first time, so you bet I’m going to explore a bookstore in each country!

9. Brush up on my Latin (not yet started, progress at 0%): REALLY BEHIND

Honestly, I can’t seem to muster much enthusiasm for this goal. I can understand my intention of going through my old Latin textbooks from college, so I have a better understanding of any writing I see in the classical ruins in Italy, but I know that’s not a requirement to enjoying the historical landmarks. If I get around to it, fantastic, but this goal is just icing on the cake for me now.

Not to mention, if there’s any Latin still remaining, it will probably be Roman graffiti, which is often too profane for your typical Latin grammar lessons. Of course, the vulgar stuff is the most fun to learn, which is why I can still quote Catullus: “Moecha putida, redde codicillos, redde, putida moecha, codicillos!” (“Dirty whore, give back my tablets, give me back, dirty whore, the tablets!” to you non-Latin scholars out there. I did a whole presentation on this poem, in case you’re wondering. The classics program at UC Santa Cruz is AWESOME.)

10. Learn conversational Greek and Italian (32% fluent in Italian according to Duolingo, 0% fluent in Greek): REALLY BEHIND

Refreshing my Latin may not be a big deal, given that no one but those in the Vatican still speak it today, but there’s no excuse not to pick up a bit of the modern languages of the places I’ll be visiting. I’ve been studying Italian through the free app Duolingo, which is fun, but not exactly the most practical. I think that I learned the names of animals before I learned how to state my own name! And Duolingo doesn’t have lessons in Greek, so this month I’ll need to create a list of common phrases in both languages, so at the very least, I can order in a restaurant and locate the nearest restroom.

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Sensing a theme with these gifs…but traveling never looked so cute!

TOTAL Q1 PROGRESS: On track or ahead on 5 goals; Behind on 5 goals (50% success rate!)

All in all, I’m not doing too shabby with my 2016 goals, but there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’m keeping up with reading and blogging, and now I need to pick up the slack on writing and language-learning. Stay tuned for my Q2 progress report in the beginning of July!

My Top 5 Books of 2015

Happy New Year’s Eve!

Another wonderful year has ended, and it’s time to recap all the books that I have read! According to Goodreads, I have completed 23 books in 2015, totaling 7,364 pages! This year was above average in quality, considering that I rated over half of these books at least a 4 out of 5.

This, of course, made it very difficult to select my top five books of 2015, but I managed it! Click on my vlog above to hear my thoughts on my favorite books of the year in detail, and see below for the full list from best to worst. (Big shout-out to my awesome brother Nick Jarrett for producing this video; feel free to reach out to him for stellar work in graphic and web design!) As noted, be on the lookout next week for my rant on my least favorite book of 2015, Chuck Palahniuk’s Beautiful You.

I already have 11 more books waiting for me on my desk, so it’s time to ring in 2016 with lots and lots of reading! Thank you so much to all of you who read my blog; these past four years of blogging have been an amazing journey, and I look forward to sharing many more with you!

XOXO Book Club Babe

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Blind Assassin – Margaret Atwood

Rating: 4 out of 5

The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
Uganda Be Kidding Me – Chelsea Handler
Bet Me – Jennifer Crusie
Frankenstein – Mary Shelley
Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs
The Husband’s Secret – Liane Moriarty
Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari
China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan
Selfish, Shallow, and Self-Absorbed: 16 Writers on the Decision Not to Have Kids – Meghan Daum
It Happened One Wedding – Julie James
Why Not Me? – Mindy Kaling
Texts From Jane Eyre – Mallory Ortberg

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Gendarme – Mark T. Mustian
P.S. I Still Love You – Jenny Han
Royal Wedding – Meg Cabot

Rating: 3 out of 5

Invisibility – Andrea Cremer and David Levithan
Sisterhood Everlasting – Ann Brashares
Popular – Lauren Urasek
When in Doubt, Add Butter – Beth Harbison
Me Talk Pretty One Day – David Sedaris
God’s Debris – Scott Adams

Rating: 2 out of 5

Beautiful You – Chuck Palahniuk (book review coming soon!)

2015 Goal Recap: How Did I Do?

Next week, all the book bloggers who participate in “Top Ten Tuesday,” a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, will present their ten resolutions for the new year. But before I discuss my plans for 2016, I need to review this year’s goals that I set and evaluate how I did! I’m a bit nervous, because this is the moment of truth, but there’s definitely something about having hundreds of followers as your accountability partners that makes you get stuff done!

So let’s get started: of the ten goals I made for 2015, which ones did I pass with flying colors and which were epic fails?

1. Read 20 more books: PASS. As of now, I have read 22 books this year, and I can probably complete Ransom Riggs’ Library of Souls before this month ends. I’m already over 70% done, so I just need to hustle!

2. Read more fan-favorite romance novels: FAIL. “More” implies greater than one, and unfortunately I couldn’t even meet this requirement. This goal was to stretch my reading comfort zone by not falling back on familiar authors, so although I continued to read Julie James and Beth Harbison, I don’t count their novels toward this resolution. However, I did finish Bet Me by Jennifer Crusie, which ended up being my favorite romance novel of the year!

3. Read more classic literature: FAIL. Following the same point in #2, I only got around to reading one classic: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley. Beowulf is still sitting on my nightstand taunting me. Perhaps I can convince my book club to pick up a classic novel next year, but if not, this goal will continue to challenge me–which is good, because classics are worth the work!

4. Reach 65,000 total blog views: PASS. Thanks to my loyal readers, I blew this goal out of the water! Currently, I have over 76,000 total blog views, 22,000 of which I received this year. Looks like I’ll have to set higher blogging standards for 2016!

5. Create more vlogs: PASS…ish. If more is greater than one, then yes, I will accomplish this goal. In September, I recommended classic alternatives to popular YA novels, and I’ll soon publish my vlog for my top five books of the year. I ideally wanted to produce videos once per quarter, but since I’m relying on the editing skills of my brother Nick Jarrett, I’m limited to creating vlogs when I have the time to make the three-hour road trip to visit my family.

6. Research monetization: FAIL. I’m not disappointed in not reaching this goal, because it’s not like I started blogging to make money. If people enjoy reading my blog and find great books through my recommendations, then I consider myself successful. I’ll continue learning about monetization, but it won’t be making my goals list for 2016.

7. Make significant progress on my novel: PASS. Finally, a goal I’m super proud of achieving! After this year’s NaNoWriMo, I have written a total of 44,000 words, which comes out to a whopping 145 pagesI I feel accomplished in reaching what I believe may be the halfway point of my novel, and I’m excited to keep going until the end!

8. Improve during NaNoWriMo: PASS. Related to the previous goal, I did extend my word count for National Novel Writing Month this year, increasing 2014’s count of 19,000 words to 25,000. Although that’s only half of NaNoWriMo’s 50,000 word challenge, any amount greater than zero is still winning in my opinion!

9. Attend more write-ins: FAIL. I think that I may have to nip this goal in the bud, because after attending two write-ins during NaNo this year, I felt that they weren’t that useful. My region was poorly attended, and I don’t see the point in feeling obligated to buy a drink at a coffee shop just to sit at a table with a couple other people and write silently. Writing is naturally a solitary activity, and that’s okay. I realized this year that I prefer it that way.

10. Attend more book signings: PASS. Sure, I only attended two book signings this year, but I believe this goal should be weighted more for quality rather than quantity. And boy, oh boy, did I get the highest possible quality! In 2015, I received once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to meet my literary heroes, Kazuo Ishiguro and Margaret Atwood. These two powerhouses were absolutely delightful in person, and I thank my lucky stars that I live in a metro that always makes the cut on just about every book tour.

With six passes and four fails, that would make my performance a solid 60%–in school, that would be a pathetic D average, but for goal-setting isn’t too bad! Think about how little we would get done in a year if we never wrote down our goals and held ourselves accountable. I’m proud of what I did accomplish and look forward to a whole new set of goals for 2016!

What are your New Year’s resolutions?

My Top Ten Blog Posts of 2015

As 2015 comes to a close, it’s natural to get nostalgic over everything that’s happened during the year. Between changing jobs and relocating, to starting my own real-life book club and adopting my two kittens, the past 12 months have been a crazy rollercoaster ride!

If your life has been equally eventful, there’s a chance that you’ve missed a blog or two on Book Club Babe. That’s okay, though, because today I’m sharing the top ten most-viewed posts from 2015!

*Drumroll please!*

  1. Book Review: Frankenstein. I’m guessing there are a lot of high school and college students out there who stumbled on my review while doing homework. That, or the latest movie adaptation with Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy is inciting renewed interest in this classic!
  2. Top 10 things I HATE when it comes to romances in books. Lack of racial diversity? No secondary characters? Really bad sex? Don’t get me started on all these romance novel faux-pas!
  3. Top 10 Quotes from my Favorite Books. My life’s mantra can be summed up by Gandalf the Grey: “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.
  4. Why I HATE Jonathan Franzen. Move over, Nicholas Sparks! There’s another author who sparked my vitriol this year!
  5. Book Review: The Buried Giant. There were high expectations for Kazuo Ishiguro’s latest novel in a decade, and I was not disappointed. Not to mention, getting my copy signed by the literary genius himself has to be one of the highlights of my entire life, let alone this year!
  6. Never Forget 1915: Commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. 2015 marked the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, a historical tragedy which deeply affected my ancestors and influenced my culture. Every year I educate my readers about Turkey’s massacre of 1.5 million Armenians during WWI and remind them that to this day, the U.S. does not formally recognize this event as a genocide, because it cares more about military alliances than supporting the survivors. Shame on America.
  7. I’m a New Mother of Twins! A surprising number of people were fooled by my clickbait, in which I introduced Lyra and Pippin, my adorable fur babies. The kitties are now eight months old and although they drive me insane at times, I still love them more than most people.
  8. Movie Review: Fifty Shades of Grey. No one was shocked to find out that the film sucked just as bad as the book, but at least the soundtrack was awesome!
  9. Top 10 All-Time Favorite Books Since I Started Blogging. I’ve been blogging for over four years now, and these are my favorite books during that time.
  10. Top 10 Book-Related Problems I Have. Not enough money, not enough time, not enough shelf space. Story of my life, and of avid readers everywhere!

I hope you enjoyed my blog this year, and feel free to share your thoughts of what kinds of posts you’d like to see more of in 2016! More rants? More top ten lists? More cat pics? Book Club Babe is here to serve you!

NaNoWriMo Results & My Monthly Book Club Recap!

I’m back, and it feels so good!

Time flies when you’re writing a novel, so let me share my results from this year’s NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month to those of you who haven’t been paying attention!)

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It’s the attempt that counts! 🙂

As the chart above proves, I started off strong during the first two weeks of November, falling behind on weekdays but catching up on the weekends. However, I completely burnt out the last half of the month, writing only a little over 3,000 words during that time.

I may have completed NaNoWriMo with only half of the writing goal, but I’m still so proud of those 25,000 words. That equates to about 80 double-spaced pages, so it’s nothing to scoff at! And since I continued my novel from last year, if you add in my progress from 2014, I have 45,000 words / 140 pages finished in total!

It’s crazy to think that I’m practically halfway to completing the first draft of my manuscript, and even though I did not technically “win” NaNo, I still consider the experience a success, because I’m more motivated than ever to see this book to its end! I’m currently taking a breather from writing, since I don’t want to risk burning out again, but my goal is to complete my first draft and start the editing process next year. Who knows, I may be on my way to publication by December 2016! Wish me luck!

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Yep, you’re looking at five empty wine bottles!

In other news, the real-life Book Club Babes met this week to discuss Something About You, a romance novel by Julie James. Because I was busy with NaNo, we selected a book that I had already read, so I was curious to hear whether they liked my recommendation.

The ladies thought this was a fun, light-hearted read, giving it a solid 4 out of 5 stars. One of my friends in the group is an associate attorney, so it was reassuring to hear that James portrayed the world of law and order with accuracy (not surprising, given that the author was a former lawyer herself). Many loved the book so much that they’re now interested in reading more of James’ U.S. Attorney series, so another win for the original Book Club Babe!

However, I shouldn’t jinx myself, because it’s quite possible the whole club will quit after reading our selection for December. After a long period of indecision, the group voted to try out Chuck Palahniuk’s Beautiful You. Many of us were Fight Club fans, but I fear that this book’s sexually graphic subject matter will be too offensive.

Beautiful You isn’t rated very highly on Goodreads and Amazon, but as an out-and-proud feminist, I’m still intrigued by how Palahniuk will fare writing about a society in which men are obsolete and women are addicted to their sex toys. Whether we love the book or hate it, it will be sure to incite some heated discussion next month! And if you’ve already read this novel, let me know what you thought about it in the comments!