Guilty Pleasure Reading …. What’s Yours? You know you have one! (W/giveaway)

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You know the books… the ones you are drawn to but even you are not always exactly sure why.  It may be a long-term addiction… or it could be fairly new… but either a genre, a topic, or certain type of book draws you to it time and again.

 

We may not even care to admit that we like to read them.  In fact… we may overreact if caught reading them or if someone speaks against them…

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Relax.  Sheila says relax.  😉  I have them too.  Mine fall under the category of books that may be defined as dorky…. but I really have found that I like reading about companies…. corporations…  and the people behind them.  I mean I loved the move Social Network (about Facebook).  And I loved reading about Steve Jobs, The Makers of the game Doom, Straight Flush (about the college kids who brought the online poker industry to an all time high, and most recently Creativity Inc about the success of Pixar.  

I think I am drawn to the creative thinking process.  I am so amazed at the brilliant people who come up with things like the IPOD, creating video games, developing winning strategies.  I guess what they all have in common is success.  And if I am honest… I am drawn to it.

 

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On the darker side… I also like to read the occasional true crime.

What does that say about me?  I am not sure I want to know….

What is your guilty pleasure read?  Craft books, how to books, vampires, dystopian, harlequin romances, books about animals…..  Oh my!  Share 🙂

 

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For fun…. (I like fun!) leave a comment with your answer and I will enter you into a giveaway for a $15 Amazon gift card to purchase one of your guilty pleasure books of your choice.  I will email the winner the gift card on Friday of this week.

I can not wait to hear what your guilty pleasure reads are 🙂

 

 

How Do You Receive Advanced Reading Copies of Books for Review? (Or…how do I get books for FREE?) ;)

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For new book reviewers, this can be a big draw…. a chance to receive books (Glorious books!) in the mail not only before they are released to the public (insert squueeee here) but also at no cost to you.

When I first discovered that publishing houses and authors would offer you their books to read in exchange for hopefully a review on your blog… that was so exciting. And for the record…

I totally blew it.

1aaaaaaaaaaaaa11By blew it I mean…. when offers started coming in for books I said Yes.  I said Yes to just about everything – books I may or may not be interested in, self published books because I wanted to help the author… and when the books arrived… I knew I had agreed to read them and now it felt like work.  A few of those books… I never did review and I still feel bad about that.

For the record – you do not want your love of reading and enjoying books to feel like work.

 

So – with that little trip down memory lane, let’s get back on track here and let me share with you a few tips to bringing books to you for review. 😀

First and foremost, I am not an expert.  I am not the first person to write about this topic and I am more than likely not the best source for this topic.  I am mainly writing this post because I am often asked through email and through posts, how does a newer book blogger connect to the authors and publishers, and for those who are asking for the right reasons – to be able to read a book prior to publication and post reviews on these books, I am more than happy to offer what little knowledge I have gathered through the years. I hope something here is helpful.

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  • Before you start looking for publishing houses to start pounding down your blogs door… ESTABLISH your blog and its name.  How do you do that?  Do what your blog was set up to do… write reviews.  Write reviews on books you have read, write reviews on new books you have purchased, write reviews on books you check out from your library.  Basically write reviews. A publishing house usually likes to see several months of reviews happening.  They like to see what you are reviewing and how you review.  It’s your blog… do it proud.  *insert chest bump here*

 

  • Write a review policy.  That may seem premature.  Maybe it is – but I know once I started looking at the blogs that I admired, they all had one.  And you will find out it is a life saver at times to spell out exactly what your policy is.  Here is mine, tweaked and re-tweaked through the years but it is a necessity for those interested in you reviewing to know what you are able to do and what you are not. 

 

  • Have a way for people to email you that is not hidden.  A contact me area on your blog is essential.  If a publishing house likes what you are reviewing, they need to be able to connect with you.  Make it easy to find your “contact me” area.  Most people will not work for it.
    • As a side note here – I created a new email for all of my bookish/bloggish emails to go to.  I personally would recommend that.  It is nice to have one email to go to for all my blog conversations and book review requests.  It is also nice not to have the book emails mixed into my personal emails.

 

  • Post frequently.  It does not have to be every day, but 3 -5 times a week is a good standard to set.  If a blog sits idle, it is hard to increase readership. It is hard to establish good connections with publishing houses if you do not have a readership.  During your start up period this is a great time to work on your readership as well.  How?  Write interesting reviews and bookish topics.  AND – read other blogs AND comment.  Your interest in other blogs does bring readers to you – it is how I established this blog… I set a guideline of visiting and commenting on twenty blogs a day and I did it.  Most of those bloggers, visited me in return.  I believe it works.  Put yourself on social network sites – Facebook, Twitter…  it is hard to make your blog grow if you write a post and then sit back and wait for people to notice.  Keep up these practices – your blog will grow.

 

Now you may be thinking, “Wow Sheila… all I wanted to know is how to start receiving books for review in the mail and I get all this extra stuff to do!”  Well, that extra stuff is important and should help you to start building relationships in the publishing world to start receiving the books you wish to read and review.

 

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  • Ok…. so you have done all of the above.  You are excited…. in fact, you may have already had contact from an author or publisher and you about wet yourself.  Been there… I get it.  But remember what happened to me…. proceed with caution.

 

  • Remember you are a professional.  Maybe you didn’t think you were… you are just writing a fun blog about books… but once you are making contact with the publishing houses and authors- surprise…. you just upgraded to professional.  This basically means…. act it.  Do not approach a publishing house with your long list of book requests – ESPECIALLY when you are new.  Introduce yourself.  Link to your blog.  Tell them a little bit about what you review, how often you review and your readership.  You may be thinking, “Really Sheila?  Isn’t that a bit TMI?”  In which I look at you dead pan and say, “It is not.”  This is information many may ask from you anyway.  After introductions, request an advanced copy of a book (yes one).  If they send it…. READ IT.  REVIEW IT.  Then – email the person who sent it to you thanking them for the opportunity to read the book and link your review.  Relationship established… or at least the beginning of one. 

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  • Always ALWAYS be professional when inquiring about books for review.  At the Book Expo one year publishing houses told horror stories of how some bloggers have made requests for books – practically demanding books, or as I mentioned before, requesting long lists of reads and even to the point of becoming angry with the publishing house when their request was refused.  You would think common courtesy would be a no-brainer but as a book blogger; this sort of poor behavior gives us a bad name.  So – I say it out loud.  Introduce yourself – inquire nicely – if you are turned down – do what has been asked (establish blog more, have more reviews, work on readership…) and politely try again at a later date. 
  • Do not make promises you can not keep.  Sure things come up occasional that were unanticipated, however if you are telling an author or publishing house that you can review within a certain amount of time or on a certain date – you should do your best to do so.  This is an important piece of my review policy – with my busy schedule I no longer can give a time frame when I will be able to review a book.  As an established blogger, I suspect I have a bit more leeway because most of the publishing houses know me.  When I started blogging however, my policy said I would read and review within 6 weeks. 

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  • As I mentioned – it is easy to get in over your head and as book lovers it is not hard to act like a kid in a candy store and want and want and want.  Start slow…. receive a few books, review them… repeat.  As you do this – you may be surprised how the publishing houses start to find you.  Remember – you never know who is looking at your blog…. maybe they found it by searching for a particular book title…. so keep it professional.  I dont mean don’t have fun… of course have fun…. just remember if you want to grow the blog – your reviews need to be something that publishing houses want their books on. 

 

Here are a few suggestions of places other than the publishing houses to possibly pick up a review or two:

 

TLC Book Tours – A great group to work with that connects to book reviews to books to review on specific dates

 

Netgalley – books to download to your phone or e reader.

 

Blogging For Books – the more established you become – the more book choices will be offered. 

 

Library Thing – you can request books and they go into a drawing to see who receives the copies, a lot like Good Reads Giveaways

 

Booklook Bloggers – a lot like blogging for books.

 

BookBrowse.com – sign up and receive a monthly list of available books

 

Audio Jukebox – for those who like to listen to and review audio

 

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Receiving great reads and reviewing them can be a lot of fun.  I really enjoy it and I have been doing this since 2009.  I still am not as organized as some with their contacts list and knowing which books I want to pursue months in advance.  Some day… I hope to get there 😀

 

Fellow book reviewers – please feel free to add your own thoughts in the comments – I am sure there are vital steps I should have mentioned and neglected to 🙂  Newer bloggers, if I didn’t answer something – please inquire about it in the comments and I will answer it then. 🙂

Location… Location… Location…. Does It Matter?

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Fellow readers… we can talk right?  We have that “love for books thing” in common, and if I may be so bold… we do enjoy hunkering down to a really good read.  Now while traditions and props may differ almost like a set up for a game of Clue…. 

In the recliner, favorite blanket, bowl of popcorn

on the deck, in the sun, large glass of iced tea

at the library, in a sunny window, feet propped at a 30 degree angle

in the living room, on the couch, surrounded by cheese,crackers,grapes and a glass of wine…

we can probably all agree that not much compares to digging into that book that fully takes you inside the story line… blood, sweat and tears… you are ALL IN.

Which brings me to my point….

If a book is not clear about where it is locally centered, is that a bump in the read for you?  If you do not know if you are reading about a smoldering California summer or a wintry bout in Alaska… does the book miss something?

I ask because I fall into the I want to know category.  I like to know where I am reading, it is a part of my level of involvement with the book, placing me into a deeper sense of knowing where I am and what that might feel like.  In some books, location is such a large part of the book, it almost becomes a character in itself…

Even dystopian reads can give you a feel for where you are, even if the world is no longer as know it… take Hunger Games for instance.

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I love this visual of what the districts look like and what states they encompass.

And even though I do prefer knowing States or countries, I am even ok with an area being described as, “in the south” or “way up North”, at least that gives me something.  Although I do love the brave authors that put us right into a city and state 😉 )

For todays bookish topic of discussion I am curious if this love of knowing where I am at geographically is more of a “yeah that’s just you Sheila”, or is it a “I agree, I like to know where I am in a book”.

And since this is the topic at hand (or at keyboard)….

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When Paper Hits The Road ( a moment of heartbreak)

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My heart lays heavy.

Recently I was asked if I would be interested in being a part of a new group of readers in the area that would preview books to see that they are appropriate for middle grade and teenage children.  I liked the thought of that, I have done some of this proofing for friends in the past.  As the information unfolded I discovered that this group would work at having books that they decided were deemed unsatisfactory for young eyes to be removed from the schools.

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Visions of book burning swam before my eyes.  This is when I realized there is a difference between book lovers, lovers of the written word – and readers.

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There was a particular book that was already being sought out for removal I was told.  A book filled with inappropriate language. I started to think what YA book could have caused such a stir… was it Hunger Games, Twilight, certainly we have moved beyond Harry Potter by now….

and then I was told the book’s title,

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.

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At this point my heart fell.  Steinbeck.  A Classic. Banned Books. Censorship.

I called a friend, a fellow book lover and someone I know who takes great care with what she has her children read (ages 7 – 14) to ask her thoughts on this and she was shocked.  She said what I needed to hear at that moment, that it is up to us as parents of our younger children to help them choose books and to help them understand when a book may not be a fit for them due to language, sexual content…  or EVEN why a book was written that way – perhaps it was the time period…. The answer is not to take the books away…

the answer is not censorship.

Of course, Of Mice and Men is not new to this battle.  Published in 1937, this book is one of the most challenged books of the 21st century due to the vulgarity,offensive, and racist language  within its pages.   And while I am not a fan of the language – the story does cover such topics as friendship and bullying – BULLYING. A topic that is huge today.

Please chime in on this one.  I would love to know your thoughts. 

What Makes a Good Book – Book Discussion Worthy?

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Books.  There are great books out there.  As readers, we are quite familiar with these books.  Perhaps they are beautifully written and each word creates a full picture in your mind of the scene, the scents, the heat (or lack there of) in a room.  They can create great emotions – from joy to pain; laughter to anger.  (Come on, admit it – haven’t you ever thrown a book down on a table or across a room because of the emotion it evoked?  No?  Just me?  Well… this is awkward…. 😛 )

My question I present today is what types of books lead to great book discussions?  Not all great reads make for great discussion.  I know personally from my own book club experiences, some are really hard to group review other than just opening the room up to discussion.  No hot topic questions come to mind… no great emotion.  The book may be perfectly fine, there’s just really not much to say.  😯

I love books that stretch us.  That make us think differently.  They cause a difference in opinions within the group – love or hate the protagonist; lets talk about it.  Hot topics of today and/or in the past… lets discuss. 

SO I toss this question out to you.  Many of us are in book clubs or book discussion groups. 

When choosing a book that you think would be great to bring to the group to read, what do you look for within that book? 

Do you look for something in the synopsis that you think will work great for a group discussion, or is that not a part of it? 

When you select a book for a reading discussion have you already read it? 

 

I am excited to hear what your group does. 🙂

What Book Are You Afraid Of?

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There are different ways to be afraid of a book.  The most common way to think of it is obviously, the scary ones… the ones that you feel may just be too dark, too frightening, or perhaps on a topic that kind of freaks you out… like lets say…. CLOWNS.

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GAH!

But there are also other ways to be afraid of a book and this is the type I am talking about today.  It could be that final book in a series that you want to read, but at the same time you don’t want to end… don’t want to set free that character, or perhaps really… even know what will happen. 

It could also be, as in my case…. a book you are afraid to read because you have put said author up so high on the pedestal from previous books they have written that you LOVE and you are afraid that this new book may just show you they are human after all.

My book that I am afraid to read is:

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If you know me as the BIG HARRY POTTER fan dork that I am… then you may understand why.  I thinking JK Rowling is brilliant.  Every time I re-read a Potter book or an article on the books – I catch something new and then I love her writing even more.  It’s kind of like people who do not want to go to a funeral of a friend because they want to remember them as they were….  and no I am not comparing Casual Vacancy to a funeral.  😛

I am not saying I will NEVER read Casual Vacancy.  It is JK Rowling after all.  I do own the book, I pre ordered it before release and it has sat on my shelf in the “R’s” ever since.  I will get there…. someday.  I just need time. 

Is there a book that you are afraid to read?  Please share your thoughts here! 

Readers! I Need Your Help With A Blind Date! ;) w/ giveaway!

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Hi everyone!  For February at our local library we are putting up a Blind Date Display.  I am pretty excited about the concept, which is to take people out of their comfort reading zone and try a new genre or a new author.  We will have a whole display up of books wrapped in brown paper with only the scan code uncovered for check out.  Other than that you have no idea what you are checking out to read.  We will put a little “singles ad” on the outside of each book so they have a little idea about who they will be dating…. for instance:

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If this book were wrapped up and on the shelf the singles ad may read… “I am overly sweet and predictable, but people tend to love those qualities about me.”

I am VERY excited about this!

This afternoon I will be going in and setting up the window at the library to let people know about this and encourage them from February 1st – 15th to come in and check out a blind date.  🙂  Once they return the “date” they will have an opportunity to the end of February to fill out a little “Rate Your Date” survey with fun questions like, “Would you date this author again?”  “How was your date as a whole, did you find you had things in common? ”  Stuff like that.

Here is where YOU come in. 🙂

I am working on compiling a list of books for the library staff that would make for great dates.  As we will be pulling these books off the shelf we do not want to use the uber popular books that are hot right now, but instead books that may expand the reader.  You know, the favorites of your past.  A book that might make the reader, “Go wow! I have truly been missing out!”

My challenge to you that I hope you will accept is to leave in the comments titles of books that you think would fit this “blind date” event.   I will enter each person who responds with a book title between now and January 17th into a drawing for a $10 Amazon gift card.  IF you can also give me a fun singles ad to go with the book you suggest you will receive two entries. 😀  We want to have enough books to keep filling the shelf we set up as they are checked out.  I will be encouraging my book club to go in and give it a try as well.  🙂

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So there it is. I was working on ideas at home and then thought, who better than to ask the readers what books would make for great blind dates? 

Thanks in advance!  I so look forward to what books you will come up with!

Where Were You When Dumbledore Died?

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It was book 6, The Half Blood Prince; so much was going on… Sirius had died,the Order of The Phoenix was a mess, and Dumbledore had taken Harry under his protective wing, sharing secrets of Tom Riddle.  This is the book where we learn of the Horcrux’s.  And this is the book… when Dumbledore dies and my heart breaks a little….forever.

It would take me 8 years before I realized this was my favorite book of the series.

~Sheila

I dont know why but this question has been in my head for a few weeks now and finally has made it to the blog.  It is one of those pivotal fiction moments that is embedded in me forever.  

I was at the YMCA on the treadmill.  I had just read through the whole chapter of Harry and Dumbledore searching for a horcrux and they had just made it back to Hogwarts, Dumbledore being in a weakened state.  It is Malfoy who approaches Dumbledore first and Harry is hiding below the staircase where he can see it all as it plays out.  Soon Belatrix arrives with her sister and they are shouting at Malfoy to do it, just kill him… but here is where you see that Malfoy is not as evil and dark as he wished he was.  It is then that Snape comes up the stairs quietly past Harry and you think that Snape will save the day….  but he doesn’t.  He instead kills Dumbledore and the pages become a massive blur of smear as I try to keep reading and understanding believing it must be a joke… it has to be really great magic …. it can’t be….

but it is.

That July day in 2005 I was at the YMCA on a treadmill with tears rolling down my face reading a big hard cover book that was hard to hold on the treadmill but it didn’t matter.

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It is amazing that even as I write this I have to pause and take a deep breath because it all comes rushing back.

I write this post because much like the loss of a beloved relative or friend or famous actor, we tend to remember forever where we were when we first heard… first knew… it amazes me that in a really incredible read, that can happen as well.

For you maybe it wasn’t the death of Dumbledore… maybe there was another beloved character out there that even when you think of them today tears can come forward or your heart takes that little extra beat of sorrow. 

I would love to know who that character was for you and from what book.  Sure, for me there have been others, but Dumbledore was the one that really taught us all lessons (not only the students) through the years of the books leading up to book 6.  I still hold his wisdom true today and occasionally quote him the way some would quote Yoda. 😉

Please add in the comments either the answer to the BIG question, where were you when Dumbledore died, or where you were when that character you loved and cherished ceased to be.

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*Oh and just in case anyone calls “Spoiler alert” to my description of the death scene…. I am sorry but…. REALLY?  I think the statute of limitations on spoilers in a book like this ran out a long time ago.  If you have not read this or any of the Harry Potter books you are truly missing out on the books that changed fantasy writing forever. 

2013 – A Look Back… The Books, The Rides, and all the craziness in between

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Holy smokes… where did the time go?  Here we are creeping up on 2014 at break neck speed and I need a moment to look back over the year that is… 2013.

Join me please for a walk through of 2013… the best moments (maybe a couple “UGH” ones) … shall we begin?

January

Best books of the month:

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The Midwives Tale by Sam Thomas

The Gilly Salt Sisters by Tiffany Baker

It was also the first 5k of the year which was an obstacle course called The Ice Man

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February

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Eat and Run by Scott Jurek

 

March

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Six Years by Harlan Coben (rumors are this one could be a movie!)

 

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7K run for St Patricks Day… it was like 20 below zero – SOOOOO COLD!

 

April

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The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult

May

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While We Were Watching Downton Abbey by Wendy Wax

Return To Sullivan Island by Dorothea Benton Frank

June

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Quiet by Susan Cain

The Last Original Wife by Dorothea Benton Frank

July

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Looking For Me by Beth Hoffman

 

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Bookies Queen Event!

Rescuing Mater… a year later

 

August

Wine and Words – 1st Annual Brainerd book event

8 posts.  I had 8 posts in August.  WOW.  An all time low.  I had the camp bike ride, then a week of working at the camp, then a mud run, then Wine and Words.I guess that explains August.  I read…. nothing. 

September

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The Hunt by Andrew Fukuda

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A little time in a police car

October

Yes I read, but nothing I would consider “the best of”

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November

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The Husbands Secret by Liane Moriarty

City Of Ashes by Cassandra Clare

City Of Glass by Cassandra Clare

City Of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare

 

Mmmm hmmm…. had a bit of a Cassandra Clare episode.  😉

 

December

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

City Of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

I read a lot of older titles this year.  And I really lacked in the summer months.  I am hoping 2014 will be a fresh start.  I am really looking forward to the New Year 😀

First Book Of The Year 2014

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Every year I get excited about what will be that first book that I will be chatting about going into the new year.  I make a big deal out of picking the book.  It is usually a book I have wanted to read for awhile and for whatever reason, I just have not been able to make the time to read it.

This year I would love for you to join me in this tradition of picking the book that you will be reading into the new year.  It can be a coveted book that you have been waiting to read, a guilty pleasure book, a re-read of a favorite that you want to explore once again… whatever you want.

Our posts of what we are reading will go live on January 1st.  You do not need to be done with the book on January 1st, just reading it on January 1st and yes, you can start on the 31st and be reading into the New Year.  I would like to link up all your posts here on the 1st as well so others can visit you and cheer you on!  If you are interested, please feel out the short form below.