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!

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!

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!

RIP Harper Lee, America’s Literary Sweetheart

I was feeling cheery this Friday morning and was brainstorming my next blog post, when I clicked through my RSS feed and this news broke my heart.

It’s not that I was surprised that Lee passed away, given that she was 89 and in failing health. It’s that a light has gone out in American culture. As the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee has shaped our views on race relations, the justice system, and what it means to be a true patriot. In a sense, it’s as if Lee and Atticus Finch were synonymous in our minds, and today we are all Scout mourning the loss of a parent.

I can only hope that Lee found peace in her last years, and that her lawyers and publishers respect her final wishes. I’ve already discussed why I won’t be reading Go Set a Watchman, given the controversy surrounding its release, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t hold Lee’s words dear. In fact, it only seems right that I share some of my favorite quotes from America’s literary sweetheart:

On reading: “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”

On equality: “I think there’s just one kind of folks. Folks.”

On courage: “Courage is not a man with a gun in his hand. It’s knowing you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

I could write pages and pages worth of gratitude, but my words would never deliver as much impact as yours have. Thank you for all that you have done, Harper Lee. The world will surely miss you.

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!)