Book Tag: My Reading Habits

Do you have a certain place at home for reading?

Not really, though I probably should. I don’t have a designated reading spot — I’ll read in bed or in my recliner or even at work. But I probably should make a cozy reading spot to encourage myself to read more.

Bookmark or a random piece of trash?

Preferably a bookmark. I don’t always have one readily available, but I will try to use a neatly folded post-it note or something like that rather than just random trash.

Can you stop reading anytime you want or do you have to stop at a certain page, chapter, part, etc.?

I can stop anywhere. I’ve never had a problem putting my book down when I’m done reading. Heck, I can even stop in the middle of a word!

Do you eat or drink while reading?

I eat and drink while doing just about everything. I don’t have a problem doing this, though I do run the risk of getting more involved in eating my snack than actually reading my book.

Can you read while listening to music/watching TV?

Absolutely not, but I wish I could. I seriously can’t concentrate on reading when there’s anyone talking or singing in the background. The only type of music I can somewhat listen to while reading is classical, but even that can get distracting. When I’m trying read in a place where I can’t control the noise, I’ll listen to some ambient music or white noise. That’s about all I can handle.

One book at a time or several at once?

Several books at once. I have such a long TBR and such a short attention span that I can’t stick to just one book. I’ll usually read one physical book and one audiobook at a time.

Reading at home or everywhere?

Everywhere! I like taking a book with me to read during random down time like at work or waiting at a doctor’s office. I find sometimes I read more when I’m not at home ad not as easily distracted.

Reading out loud or silently in your head?

In my head. I’ve never enjoyed reading aloud, plus I feel like it’s generally not socially acceptable to read aloud in public.

Do you read ahead or skip pages?

I don’t read ahead (anymore), but I do sometimes skip boring parts. I used to be a pretty disorganized reader. I remember when I was younger and reading the 4th Harry Potter book, I wanted to find out what happened and I skipped around so much that I forgot where I originally was. I don’t do that anymore, haha.

Breaking the spine or keeping it new?

The spine is one of the most important (and visible) parts of the book, so it should be kept new! I don’t get why people break spines in right away, but I prefer my books stay looking as pristine as possible.

Do you write in books?

I don’t, but I don’t have any problem with it. I am just too much of a perfectionist to write in my books and not feel like I ruined them, although I do like the idea of annotating books for future reference.

Source: Alysha @ Bookish & Bright

This was a really fun tag, and I encourage any one who wants to try it to consider themselves tagged!

Book Review: The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket

Lemony Snicket #5Title: The Austere Academy
Author: Lemony Snicket
Series: A Series of Unfortunate Events #5
Publication Date: August 31, 2000
Genres: Fiction, Young Adult
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Goodreads Summary

Violet, Klaus, and Sunny are at first optimistic–attending school is a welcome change for the book-loving trio, and the academy is allegedly safe from the dreaded Count Olaf, who is after their fortune.

Dear Reader,

If you are looking for a story about cheerful youngsters spending a jolly time at boarding school, look elsewhere. Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire arc intelligent and resourceful children, and you might expect that they would do very well at school. Don’t. For the Baudelaires, school turns out to be another miserable episode in their unlucky lives.

Truth be told, within the chapters that make up this dreadful story, the children will face snapping crabs, strict punishments, dripping fungus, comprehensive exams, violin recitals, S.O.R.E., and the metric system.

It is my solemn duty to stay up all night researching and writing the history of these three hapless youngsters, but you may be more comfortable getting a good night’s sleep. In that case, you should probably choose some other book.

My Thoughts

First of all, I have to say that I hate the fact that my first review on my blog from this series is of the fifth book, but reviews 1-4 are on my Goodreads from before I began blogging.

That being said, let me catch you up on why I’m reading these books in my mid-twenties. When I was younger, I read the first nine books in the series, and let me tell you: I LOVED THEM. Then, last November, I heard tell that there would be a NETFLIX ORIGINAL SERIES based on these books, and I was there for it. I decided to to binge reread the first four books in the series in preparation for the show, which covered those four stories.  The second season should come out sometime in early 2018 and will cover books 5-7.

I know a lot of people don’t like these books or think that they’re just for kids, but I strongly disagree. I think they’re hilarious and witty for people of all ages. Are they the most literary books ever written? No, but they’re pretty dang entertaining. I will say, however, that you have to be in the right mood to enjoy them. I really can’t read more than two or three in a row without getting tired of them.  The basic outline of the plot is the same for books 1-5 (I think it starts to change a little after that), and it can get a bit tiresome and repetitive.

Earlier this week, I read the fifth installment of this series, The Austere Academy. This one wasn’t my favorite or the funniest, but it wasn’t bad.  This book introduces some new characters and a new subplot, which adds some more interest and depth to the storyline to keep it going.


Is anyone else excited for season two of the Netflix series?!

2018 Reading Challenges

2018 Reading ChallengesSince 2018 will be my first full year of blogging, I am going to be participating in some reading challenges. I’m really excited because I’ve never done a reading challenge before, but I think that it’s a great way to read more diverse books and genres than I would normally.

I’m going to participate in three challenges (as of now) and my hope is that they will be a fun encouragement for me to keep reading throughout the year.

Mount TBR Challenge

One of the challenges that I’ll be participating in next year is the Mount TBR Challenge, hosted by Bev at My Reader’s Block. The goal of this challenge is to whittle away books in your TBR pile; however, only books that you own prior to January 1, 2018 will count for this challenge.

The challenge levels (or “mountains”) are as follows:
Pike’s Peak: Read 12 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Blanc: Read 24 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Vancouver: Read 36 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Ararat: Read 48 books from your TBR piles/s
Mt. Kilimanjaro: Read 60 books from your TBR pile/s
El Toro: Read 75 books from your TBR pile/s
Mt. Everest: Read 100 books from your TBR pile/s
Mount Olympus (Mars): Read 150+ books from your TBR pile/s

I will only be attempting Pike’s Peak this year because I don’t want to burn myself out on my first year participating in challenges. However, this could change. To keep up with me on this challenge through out the year, visit my Mount TBR Challenge page.

If you’d like to participate as well, click here.

A-Z Reading Challenge

Another challenge that I’ll be participating in is the A-Z Reading Challenge, hosted by Megan at Ginger Mom and the Kindle Quest.  The goal of this challenge is to read a book that starts with each letter of the alphabet. I’m excited about this challenge because I definitely do not have a book for each letter in my review index yet.  The neat thing about this challenge is that books that I read for other challenges can easily count for this one, too. You can keep up with my progress here.

If you’d like to participate as well, click here.

POPSUGAR Reading Challenge

The last challenge (as of now) that I’ll be participating in is POPSUGAR’s 2018 Reading Challenge.  Apparently they do one every year, but this is the first year that I heard about it.  There are 50 prompts such as, “a book with an ugly cover” or “a book about time travel,” and then you simply record which book you read that answers that prompt. You can see the books that I read for this challenge here.

If you’d like to participate as well, click here.

Are you participating in any challenges this year? If so, which ones?

Book Review: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Charles DickensTitle: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Series: Stand-alone
Publication Date: December 19, 1843
Genre: Fiction, Classics
My Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Goodreads | Amazon


Goodreads Summary

The story of Ebenezer Scrooge opens on a Christmas Eve as cold as Scrooge’s own heart. That night, he receives three ghostly visitors: the terrifying spirits of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come. Each takes him on a heart-stopping journey, yielding glimpses of Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit, the horrifying spectres of Want and Ignorance, even Scrooge’s painfully hopeful younger self. Will Scrooge’s heart be opened? Can he reverse the miserable future he is forced to see?

My Thoughts

I read this for the first time in high school, and then after reading it again last year, I decided to start a personal holiday tradition and read it every holiday season.

Even when considering the length of this short book, the characters never seemed shallow or flat to me, and the development of Scrooge’s character is perfect. Dickens’s writing is beautiful and full of unexpectedly dry humor.

There is such a poignant moral message at the end of the story that really does evoke a positive and joyful outlook from the reader without seeming cliche or cheesy at all.

In Conclusion

This is such a classic Christmas story that never gets old and never fails to put me in the Christmas spirit (pun intended).

What is your favorite Christmas story?

Book Review: And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

AgathaChristie#2Title: And Then There Were None
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Stand-alone
Publication Date: November 6, 1939
Genres: Mystery, Classics
My Rating: ★★★★★
Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Goodreads Summary

First, there were ten — a curious assortment of strangers summoned as weekend guests to a private island off the coast of Devon. Their host, an eccentric millionaire unknown to all of them, is nowhere to be found. All that the guests have in common is a wicked past they’re unwilling to reveal — and a secret that will seal their fate. For each has been marked for murder. One by one they fall prey. Before the weekend is out, there will be none. And only the dead are above suspicion.

My Thoughts

I first read this book in 2007, and I remember that I really loved it but couldn’t quite remember any details. Therefore, I’ve been meaning to reread it for a while now but just never got around to it. Finally, after reading Murder on the Orient Express (you can read my review here), I decided to stick with reading Christie’s books and pick up And Then There Were None. I loved this story just as much as I did the first time I read it ten years ago. It was full of suspense, a unique cast of characters, and plenty of plot twists.

One of the most unique things about the book to me was that all of the characters were all pretty terrible people. There was no hero or detective that the reader could root for or trust — it’s all told from the various points of view of the ten people in the house (except for a small bit at the end). This created a really unique narration because all of the narrators were extremely unreliable.

There were a few elements of the story that were really a bit too convenient and were clearly there just to tie everything together perfectly, but it didn’t really bother me too much because that’s kind of what you pay for with this type of classic murder mystery.

In Conclusion

Overall, I found this to be a quick, enjoyable read that was full of good old fashioned murder, intrigue, and quite a bit of humor, and I highly recommend it (I’m still trying to get my husband to quit playing video games and read it). Honestly, I have really enjoyed both of Agatha Christie’s mysteries that I’ve read so far and I’m excited to read more.

Which Agatha Christie novel should I pick up next? 

Book Review: Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

MurderTitle: Murder on the Orient Express
Author: Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot #10
Publication Date: 1934
Genre: Mystery, Classics
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Goodreads Summary

“The murderer is with us – on the train now…”

Just after midnight, the famous Orient Express is stopped in its tracks by a snowdrift. By morning, the millionaire Samuel Ratchett lies dead in his compartment, stabbed a dozen times, his door locked from the inside. One of his fellow passengers must be the murderer.

Isolated by the storm and with a killer in their midst, detective Hercule Poirot must find the killer amongst a dozen of the dead man’s enemies, before the murderer decides to strike again…

 My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this classic Agatha Christie mystery! This was my second Christie novel (I read And Then There Were None years and years ago, but plan on rereading it soon), but was my first Hercule Poirot mystery.  My reason for finally getting around to it now was because of the new movie that came out about a week ago — which I really need to go see ASAP!

In true mystery novel form, there wasn’t much character development or background stories — except for what was needed to move the plot along. This was okay with me because character development is not the main focus of most mysteries. I haven’t read a classic “whoddunit” mystery in quite some time, and I found it refreshing!

I enjoyed the way that the book was structured: most chapters were dedicated to the evidence of the passengers, in which Poirot would interview the suspect. This moved the story along in my opinion, but I could see how some readers might find it a bit repetitive.

I felt that Poirot made some miraculous leaps and guesses when solving the mystery and, even though he ended up being right in the end, it was highly unlikely that a detective would have made the assumptions that he did. I suppose it’s possible, just not very probable.

In Conclusion

Overall, I found this to be a quick, enjoyable read that was full of good old fashioned murder, intrigue, and quite a bit of humor, and I highly recommend it!

Have you read this or any other Hercule Poirot mysteries? Do you have any suggestions for me? Have you seen the movie yet?

Five Apps for Productivity

Five Apps for Productivity1. Spark Email by Readdle (MacOS/iOS | Free)
I discovered this email app after finally getting fed-up with Apple’s stock email app, on both my MacBook and my iPhone. I did some research and found this awesome app, which is unfortunately only available for those with Apple devices. It works with any email server so, if you’re like me and have a million email addresses, you can check them all in one place. So what makes it different than Apple’s stock email app? Basically, it comes down to the fact that it’s a bit more oriented towards organization: each email address is color-coded and so when checking your entire inbox, you can see which email came from which address, simply by identifying its color. Spark also has a Smart Inbox, which automatically categorizes your emails to make sorting through your messages quicker. I definitely recommend checking out Spark!

2. Cash by Square (iOS/Android/Website | Free)
I’m sure by now everyone’s heard of Venmo, the app where you can electronically transfer money to and from other users’ bank accounts. However, there is a lesser-known mobile payment service called Cash. I was introduced to this one before I’d heard of Venmo, but I now use them both. However, I find Cash to be much more user-friendly: it’s very simple to use and understand, and doesn’t have the extra social stuff that Venmo does. It’s definitely worth checking out if you’re not into Venmo, and it also doesn’t hurt to have two options.

3. Grammarly Keyboard (iOS/Android | Free)
I’ll admit it — I’m a Grammar Nazi. I have been a fan of Grammarly for a while now, and have the grammar checker installed on my computer and so when I found out about Grammarly’s new smartphone keyboard, I was unashamedly excited.  I downloaded it and gave it a try. This is such an awesome app for people who struggle with correct grammar usage, especially when writing an important email or text message. This just kind of amps up your smartphone’s autocorrect by not only offering word suggestions, but also by offering grammar corrections as well. I only wish this could be permanently integrated into every phone’s autocorrect system.

4. Percentage Calculator (iOS/Android | Free; option to remove ads)
If you’re like me, you can’t calculate a percentage to save your life. However, if you’re also like me, you hate paying full price for things, and are constantly on the hunt for good deals, which means you need to calculate percentage discounts (especially at Hobby Lobby, amirite?). There are a few percentage apps on the market, but I like this one best out of the few that I’ve tried. It not only calculates simple percentages, but it also does tips, discounts, price/quantity, percentage increase/decrease, and converts fractions to percentages (yaaas), along with several “business calculator” options. If the math part of your brain is basically useless like mine is, this app is a necessity!

5. PDF Converter Ultimate (iOS/Android | Free; optional in-app purchases)
DISCLAIMER: I was contacted by Cometdocs, and asked to try out their app and to write an honest review.
Converting files to PDF form can be very useful, especially if you have a document that you would prefer to have in image form to share more easily. This PDF converter has a very sleek and user-friendly design, while allowing you to do a whole lot with it. You can easily convert files from Gmail, iCloud, Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, and Box. You simply tap the icon from which you’d like to get your file, tap the file that you’d like to convert, choose “convert to PDF,” and the app converts it for you in about a minute or less. Then it shows up in the “converted files” section of the app. I found it very easy to use and this is an extremely useful tool to have, especially if you share files a lot.

Are you interested in giving any of these apps a try?
Let me know what you think if you do!