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

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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!

Literary News: In Case You (Really) Missed It

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The past 14 hours have been a whirlwind of fun: last night my book club met to drink a few bottles of wine while discussing the horrendous novel All the Birds in the Sky (review coming next week!). This morning was even invigorating, because I was finally able to login to Pokemon Go, the mobile game that’s taken over the globe. I’ve been gallivanting around San Francisco hoping to catch them all!

But now it’s time to get serious…I have a confession to make.

In full disclosure, I have a terrible habit of filing away articles for my blog, then forgetting that they exist. Every time my cursor hovers over the bookmarks folder on my browser, I cringe and try to ignore the growing list as best I can.

But 2016 is half over, and I just can’t take it anymore! Time for some summer cleaning!

Here are the first six months of literary news in review, in case you really, really missed the boat, or just want to relive the excitement!

Literary Feminism

  • “Damn, you’re not reading any books by white men this year? That’s so freakin brave and cool” (Jezebel)
  • “In literature and in life, men and women still want different things in a mate” (Jezebel)
  • “One weird trick that makes a novel addictive” (Jezebel)

Harry Potter News

  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child to be eighth book” (BBC)
  • “J.K. Rowling’s History of Magic in North America was a travesty from start to finish” (io9)

Hollywood Adaptations

  • “Ava DuVernay confirmed to direct A Wrinkle in Time” (IndieWire)
  • “Inside the peculiar new home of Tim Burton’s Miss Peregrine” (Entertainment Weekly)
  • “6 adaptations that fixed the book (according to the author)” (Cracked)
  • “First Look as Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf on A Series of Unfortunate Events set” (Spinoff Online)
  • Will drama about young William Shakespeare picked up to series by TNT” (Deadline)

Et Cetera

  • Placing Literature maps out real places you’ve read about in books” (Lifehacker)
  • “The mass-market edition of To Kill a Mockingbird is dead” (New Republic)

Can you tell I’m a fan of Gawker Media publications? After reading this list, what literary news made you most excited? And if I missed any headlines, please send them my way!

Top Ten Tuesday: Underrated Books I Enjoyed

2000 rating

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, is interesting, because it’s all about the books that don’t get enough love. Out of all the novels that I’ve kept track of reading on the ultimate literary social platform Goodreads, I’m supposed to choose my top ten with fewer than 2,000 ratings.

Unfortunately, it seems that my favorite books are also everyone else’s, so finding these diamonds in the rough was more difficult than I expected (hence why I’ve reduced my top ten to my top five!).

That said, there is a lot of diversity in this list, from junkie thriller to geeky romance. There’s historical fiction, a modern retelling of a classic novel, and even a two-sided love story. So pick the book less traveled and enjoy!

Bait by J. Kent Messum
590 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.4 stars
My rating: 3 stars

The Gendarme by Mark T. Mustian
1,467 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.68 stars
My rating: 3 stars

Gilded Age by Claire McMillan
730 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.08 stars
My rating: 3 stars

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss
823 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.3 stars
My rating: 4 stars

Talk Nerdy to Me by Vicki Lewis Thompson
1,454 Goodreads ratings: avg. 3.78 stars
My rating: 4 stars

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!

goals2bhumor

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!

Top Ten Tuesday: Reasons Why I Love Romance Novels

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

As I’m reading another one of Julie James’ romance novels, Suddenly One Summer, this week’s topic for Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) got me thinking about all the reasons why I love the genre so much, especially since it suffers so much ridicule and so many misconceptions in the literary world.

Why do I love reading romance novels? Let me count the ways!

  1. Overlaps all literary genres. Sure, romance novels are, in essence, love stories, but those stories can be wrapped in a variety of casings. There are romantic thrillers, supernatural romances, historical romances, among many others. There are subgenres for Christians, the military, even the Amish. Whatever kind of love you’re looking for, someone is writing the book for you.
  2. Mass appeal. Because romance is a genre that easily overlaps with others, it has a global reach. Just like some moviegoers prefer indie films to Hollywood blockbusters, some readers may prefer experimental fiction to commercial fiction. I am not one of those people–at least not when it comes to love stories. Bring on the tried-and-true tales of what works!
  3. Series or standalone. If you’re like me, you’re burnt out on long, sprawling series that take over your whole life. It may be because of the nature of my book club, but nowadays I tend to gravitate toward stories that are one and done. Julie James’ U.S. Attorney series is a happy medium: her novels inhabit the same universe of law and order in Chicago, but by no means do you need to read them all to enjoy them.
  4. Interesting, multi-dimensional characters. Don’t let bad romance novels (*cough* Fifty Shades of Grey *cough*) color your opinion about the merit of the genre’s characterization. Not all the women are Mary Sues, and most in fact, have fulfilling lives outside of their relationships. Shocker I know!
  5. Increasing diversity. Love is blind, but as a white heterosexual woman, I’m not going to declare that the entire publishing industry feels the same way. That said, I applaud efforts to increase diversity in romance novels by supporting more books with racial minorities, LGBT characters, and the disabled. It’s been proven that inclusive media makes people more tolerant, so we all benefit from reading diverse romance novels.
  6. Support of feminism. If there’s a theme that I love seeing in romance novels, it’s that the women don’t need to have men in their lives. They simply want them there. Rather than enable traditional gender norms in which the prince rescues the damsel in distress, both parties should inspire the other to become better people and treat them with mutual respect. After all, what’s truly sexy is equality!
  7. Sexual tension. Okay, I can’t talk about what’s sexy in romance novels without discussing the actual sex. While I abhor books that waste my time with nothing more than fade-to-blacks, I enjoy the slow burn of building the sexual tension between characters before watching the explosion. Foreplay is essential, and I only wish it was as present in the male-dominated forms of erotic media (aka porn) since it’s clearly men–not women–who need to learn this valuable lesson.
  8. Hilarious dialogue. Sometimes it’s good; other times it’s so bad, it’s good; and in a few gems it’s bloody fantastic. Sex doesn’t always have to be serious, and I love characters that have playful banter with one another. Whether it’s witty or even slightly on the corny side, I’m a sucker for quick quips. In my mind it’s the fastest way to verbal seduction.
  9. Happy endings. Call romance novels formulaic, but there’s a reason why Game of Thrones isn’t in the genre. The world can be downright depressing, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to read a story in which the bad guys get their just desserts and the lovers live happily ever after. I definitely use romance novels as my literary Prozac when I’m feeling blue and need a pick-me-up!
  10. Escapist fun. Extending my previous point, what I love most about romance novels is that they don’t depict real life. Yes, I know that meet-cutes are rare and that love is much messier and more complicated, but in these books, I know that the stakes are low and that everything will work out in the end. And if I can be entertained by larger-than-life characters and zany plots, then all the better!

Do you like romance novels as much as I do? Share your reasons for reading in the comments!

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!