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!

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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!

‘Tis the Season…for NaNoWriMo!

Hi everyone!

As most of the country nurses their Halloween hangovers, I’m taking advantage of the extra hour from Daylight Savings Time to commence National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo!).

For new readers of my blog, NaNoWriMo is a challenge to write 50,000 words in the 30 days of November. This is my third year participating: in 2013, I reached 30,000 words, and last year, I only achieved 19,000. Hopefully, third time’s the charm, and I’ll finally win!

If you’re one of the 300,000+ people around the globe taking part in this crazy endeavor, then add me as a writing buddy here: http://nanowrimo.org/participants/bookclubbabe

I also wanted to give you a heads up that my blogging will be on pause this month. I’ll try to provide updates on my real-life book club and any major literary news that might hit the headlines, but don’t freak out if I’m MIA. I’ll be back to normal in December, and I’ll be sure to share what I hope will only be a slightly traumatizing NaNoWriMo experience!

Whether you’re a pantser, a planner, or somewhere in the middle like myself, I wish you the best of luck with your novel! Bring on the caffeine, because we’re going to need it!

Now get back to writing!

Sounds like a plan to me!

My Top Ten Goals for 2015!

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

Every now and then, I make time for participating in “Top Ten Tuesday,” a fun meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week takes a break from books to talk about general goals and resolutions for the new year. They can be reading and blogging-related, but you can also discuss other milestones you want to reach.

Without further ado, here are my top ten reading, writing, and blogging goals for 2015!

Who needs food, anyway?

1. Read 20 more books. I’ve averaged about 20 books for the past four years, and I plan on continuing with this reading quota. Those next up on my TBR list include Invisibility by Andrea Cramer and David Levithan, It Happened One Wedding by Julie James, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s translation of Beowulf.

2. Read more fan-favorite romance novels. I’ve read my fair share of romance, from authors such as Vicki Lewis Thompson, Christina Dodd, Julie James, Heather Webber, and Meg Cabot. But after reading a Jezebel article on the genre, I’ve been inspired to read some of the greats. According to the article’s comments, I should check out Loretta Chase’s Lord of Scoundrels, Julia Quinn’s The Duke and I, and Jennifer Crusie’s Bet Me. Anyone have other recommendations?

3. Read more classic literature. Not every book I read in 2015 will be a bodice-ripper, and I want to make more time for the classics. I got a “50 books to read before you die” bookmark from the New York Public Library when I visited NYC in October, and I’m disappointed that I’ve only read 17! I’m most interested in checking off Anna Karenina, Huckleberry Finn, and The Count of Monte Cristo.

4. Reach 65,000 total blog views. My reach goal is 70,000, so I hope to create enough high-quality, consistent content to achieve this. I love blogging, and despite the difficulties of keeping up with Book Club Babe with a full-time job, I can’t imagine life any other way.

5. Create more vlogs. At the eager insistence of my loved ones, I released my first vlog for my 25th birthday, which discussed the top 25 things that books have taught me. Tomorrow, I’ll be vlogging my summary of the books I read this year. It’s nerve-wracking and time-consuming to put yourself in front of a camera, but thanks to the awesome video-editing skills of my brother Nick Jarrett, I’d like to continue doing these fun videos once a quarter if I can.

6. Research monetization. I never went into blogging to make money, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt, however how small. I’d love to learn more about online advertising on WordPress and other ways to earn some cents from giving you my two cents!

Story of my life!

7. Make significant progress on my novel. I wrote 19,000 words this year during NaNoWriMo, and I’m finally at a place where I enjoy my story enough to keep going. Although I haven’t set a specific word quota yet, I plan to making writing regularly a top priority!

8. Improve during NaNoWriMo. Speaking of November’s most popular challenge aside from growing facial hair, I would love to redeem myself. 19,000 words was better than nothing, but I can certainly do better than that!

9. Attend more write-ins. Even during NaNoWriMo this year, I only had time in my schedule to attend two write-ins. I’d like to squeeze more into 2015, since the East Bay writing group is full of fun, quirky people who love writing as much as I do. I’m positive that this goal will help me make progress on my novel, because there’s always strength in numbers!

10. Attend more book signings. After having the opportunity to meet Scott Westerfeld and Azar Nafisi, I’m wondering why I never thought about going to book signings before this fall. Now that I’ve got a couple under my belt, I just want to add more notches. Who doesn’t want to hang with awesome authors?

So those are my top ten reading, writing, and blogging goals for 2015! If you’ve got a few resolutions yourself, post them in the comments! I’d love to hear everyone’s plans for the new year!

Quick December Check-In!

Especially after a very long weekend!

Hi everyone!

Just wanted to check-in and reassure you that I’m still here! It’s been a busy Thanksgiving break, but I’m looking forward to the dust settling and getting back into the swing of things! I’ve missed blogging!

Now that November is over, I can finally put NaNoWriMo behind me. My final word count barely topped 19,000 words, so it’s pretty obvious that 2014 just wasn’t my year. However, I learned a ton, and I still made progress on my novel! Hoping that I can gain some momentum, keeping the creative juices flowing this month and into the new year!

As for my book quota, I’ve been much more successful at reading than writing. I’ve completed the audiobook version of Yes Please by Amy Poehler and will post my review later this week. In the meantime, I’m working my way through my 20th book of 2014: Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld. Looks like I’m ahead of the game of finishing my reading goal for this year!

I also watched “Mockingjay: Part 1″ and “Gone Girl” over the holiday, so be on the lookout for my movie reviews this month! This fall has been an excellent season for film adaptations of books, and 2014 will end with a bang with the final installment of “The Hobbit” trilogy! Can’t wait!

So while I try to find the time for all these blog posts, let me know how you’re doing! Read any good books or see any fun movies? And what are your plans for December? It’s been forever, so catch me up!

Lessons I’ve Learned During NaNoWriMo

Well, everybody, I wish that I could say that I’m on track to hit 50,000 words and thus win National Novel Writing Month. The reality is that I’m nowhere near that quota, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve haven’t gained anything from NaNoWriMo.

(Last year I summarized my experience after November ended, but I figured that since Thanksgiving has a way of screwing up your good intentions, it would be best to share my thoughts now before life gets really hectic!)

As week four approaches, here are the top things I’ve learned during my second attempt at NaNoWriMo:

1. Accept your failures. At the time of this writing, I’ve written 18,000 words. That’s not even half the desired word count, and it’s still 12,000 words less than I wrote last year. There were at least five whole days where I did absolutely no writing. Zero, zilch, nada. And I didn’t even have a week-long business trip standing in my way this year! By my standards, that is straight-up pathetic.

Thanks NaNoWriMo, as if I need a visual reminder of this epic fail!

Thanks NaNoWriMo, as if I need a visual reminder of this epic fail!

But guess what? Most Wrimos are pathetic. According to the NaNoWriMo blog, in 2013 there were 310,095 participants and 42,221 winners. That’s a measly 14% success rate. In fact, the average word count per person was only 11,352 words. I have to admit, after finding those statistics, I don’t feel so bad! At least I’m in good company!

2. Celebrate your successes. On my best day, I completed over 2,400 words, and on good days I could pump out 1,000 words an hour. Even though most days were paltry in comparison, I know that if I concentrate 100% and give it my all, I can win NaNoWriMo in the future. Knowing that I have that capability makes me determined to keep pushing, one line of dialogue at a time.

Just don’t play the comparison game! Nobody wins!

3. Recognize your excuses. However, just because I can win NaNoWriMo, doesn’t mean I did. After working a full day, it’s easy to procrastinate because you’re tired, lazy, or uninspired. During this month, I suffered a minor infection, and the last thing I wanted to do was write when I wasn’t feeling well.

But I knew that the words weren’t going to type themselves, and I tried to overcome my obstacles. I could whine that my 45-minute BART ride to and from work was making it impossible to write, but when I could, I sat down, took out my laptop, and sucked it up. Even if I had to sit the floor of the train, because there were rarely available seats. Write where you can, when you can, dirt and germs be damned!

4. Repeat after me: Something is better than nothing. Unless you cheated and spent your time copying and pasting song lyrics or typing “blah blah blah” over and over, you probably made progress on your novel. And if you did any of those scams, screw you. Why are you even participating?

Outsiders may think we’re crazy, considering that there is no cash prize or other reward for winning NaNoWriMo. Heck, there’s only a simplistic word count validator, so it’s pretty much on the honor system anyway. Bragging rights aside, the words you write are still a lot more than zero. NaNoWriMo is supposed to motivate you to write, and has built an entire community to cheer you on. So rejoice for every single word–it’s better than nothing!

5. Don’t write for NaNoWriMo. Write for you. That may sound strange, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that NaNoWriMo is what you make it. This year my competitive nature overtook me, and I became consumed with my word count. This obsession transformed my passion for writing into a chore that I resented, which is exactly what NaNoWriMo should NOT be about.

It should also not be about this one month. Writing 50K in one month means very little if you write nothing during the other 11 months of the year. Instead of writing like a maniac for 30 days and feeling miserable that you didn’t achieve your goal (let’s face it, much like the Hunger Games, the odds are not in your favor), let NaNoWriMo inspire you to set writing goals throughout the year, however small.

6. Don’t forget about the grand prize. If the #1 priority is to get published, you’ll need a whole lot more than 30 days to accomplish it. 50,000 words written hastily while you’re suffering from exhaustion and over-caffeination isn’t going to be your best work, plain and simple. I believe that you should first get it written, then get it right. NaNoWriMo only assists with the first step, so make sure you follow through!

So all and all, I may have failed NaNoWriMo epically, but it wasn’t all for naught. I’m dedicated to reform my way of thinking and become a writer, not just a Wrimo. Writing a novel is and has always been my dream, but it’s time to make it a reality. Writing should be a consistent habit, so that NaNoWriMo is simply icing on the cake you’ve been creating all year…

Alright, now that I’ve succeeded in making a crappy metaphor and made myself hungry in the process, it’s time to end this blog post! There’s still one more week of NaNoWriMo and even though I’ll be preoccupied with friends and family, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Get off the couch, Wrimos, and go socialize! Remember all that you have to be thankful for, and be proud of all that you’ve accomplished this month!

I’ll see you in December!

Here’s to Surviving NaNoWriMo!

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween, chock-full of tricks and treats! I celebrated by dressing up as my favorite super-villain: Loki, the Norse god of mischief who is played by the sexy Tom Hiddleston in “Thor” and “The Avengers.”

And I am burdened with glorious purpose!

And I am burdened with glorious purpose!

But now that November is upon us, it’s time to dive into NaNoWriMo, aka National Novel Writing Month! Every year, hundreds of thousands of delusional people commit to writing 50,000 words in 30 days. I’ll save you from whipping out a calculator: that equals 1,667 words per day for a total of approximately 175-200 pages. Holy moly!

Needless to say, this lofty goal is causing participants to absolutely freak out today, especially those of us who may or may not still be hungover from last night. I mean, why November of all months? The time of year in which I should be focusing on relaxing and spending time with loved ones during the holidays, not holing up like a hermit until I hit my daily word count.

Loki gifs make it better though!

Even though we all have a love/hate relationship with NaNoWriMo, I can’t help but feel inspired by my fellow writers. There’s nothing like write-ins and word wars to fuel your competitive spirit and encourage you to do your best.

This is only my second year participating, so I’m still a newbie. If I had to offer any tips, I would say that the only thing you should be taking seriously is your output. When it comes to plots, characters, and settings, it’s best to be open-minded and flexible about where your story goes. There’s nothing wrong with outlining, but you shouldn’t be so rigid that your story can’t roll with the punches and evolve over time.

Of course, there’s power in numbers so attend local write-ins, comment in the forums, and share your experiences on social media. Tell the whole world about your crazy mission! The people around you will hold you accountable and root you on, making it all the more special when you finish.

Sweet victory!

So good luck to all the Wrimos out there! My username is bookclubbabe if you’d like to add me as a writing buddy. Obviously, I’ll be too busy writing to do much blogging, but I’ll try to pop in from time to time.

Alright, I’m off to write! LET’S DO THIS!