Monday, January 23, 2017


All the Books of 2016


Here are the links to all the books I read in 2016. Lists 1-6 are pieces of one chronological list of 99 books and poems from my Excel Reading Spreadsheet, the pride and joy of my life. Ahem. Click on each image to read it.

List One



List Two



List Three



List Four



List Five



List Six


Thursday, January 19, 2017


#TBRChallenge Reading: The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin


2017 TBR Reading Challenge
Book: The Happiness Project
Author: Gretchen Rubin
My Categories: Nonfiction
Wendy Crutcher's Category: We Love Short Shorts!

(Ahem! Here goes my justification for not following Wendy's category suggestion. I'm reviewing only the "Getting Started" and "January" portions of the book, rather than the entire thing. So it's a "short," right? Never fear, I won't be reviewing the succeeding chapters every month. That would be an excessive departure from Wendy's themes even for me.)

One day, Rubin asked herself, "What do I want from life, anyway?" The answer came back: "To be happy!" That was the impetus to start a year-long happiness project of self-examination and self-determination. Before this epiphany, she'd never taken a moment to assess how happy she currently was, what made her happy, or how she might be happier.

She readily admits that she wasn't depressed or even unhappy. However, she felt that there were aspects of her personality and her life that could be better, thereby increasing her happiness levels. The most important point she gleaned from all her research was that it was always possible to be happier. There was always room for improvement, no matter where in your life you were, and it all depended on how you thought and acted.

Armed with all her research and the practical self-knowledge after doing her Happiness Project for a year, Rubin decided to share her nuggets of wisdom with others through this book, because as Blaise Pascal has argued: "All men seek happiness. This is without exception. Whatever different means they employ, they all tend to this end."

Following Ben Franklin's practice, she created a similar daily Resolutions Chart where she recorded a check or a cross for each item every day. In order to do come up with her list of resolutions, she first identified what areas she wanted to work on—her goals—and then converted them into happiness-boosting resolutions—actions—that were concrete and measurable. She decided to focus on one new subject—and all the new resolutions that came from it—per month, and carried forward all the resolutions from the previous months. Some of her work areas were: social bonds, perspective, work & play, passion, money, and mindfulness.

As she worked on arriving at her list of subjects and resolutions, she discovered that some themes kept coming up in her thinking. She put those down as her Twelve Commandments. The number twelve had nothing to do with the number of months of the year; that was just a coincidence. Some of her commandments were: Let it go, Do it now, Be polite and be fair, Enjoy the process, Lighten up, and There's only love.

In addition to this, she came up with a set of fuzzier guidelines called Secrets of Adulthood, which included things like: Do good & feel good, It's important to be nice to everyone, People don't notice your mistakes as much as you think, If you're not failing you're not trying hard enough, What you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while, and (a parenting biggie) You can't profoundly change your children's natures by nagging them or signing them up for classes.

Rubin's January Subject was: Boosting Energy Levels. Her corresponding January Resolutions were: Go to sleep early; Exercise better; Toss, restore, organize; Tackle a nagging task; and Act more energetic. While some of them are self-explanatory, a couple of them need a little thinking over.

Energetic:

If you act as if you feel energetic, you will become more energetic. In other words: Be the change you want to see. Why did she address energy? "I know that when I feel energetic, I find it much easier to behave in ways that make me happy."

Organize:

She addressed becoming organized, because "household disorder was a constant drain on my energy." She felt that clearing up her clutter from every part of her house would boost her domestic satisfaction and, thereby, her happiness. Speaking solely for myself, I can attest to this. My Project House Organization has made me feel distinctly successful, clear, and satisfied. Back to Rubin: She first identified different types of clutter, so she could decide how to address each type. For example, Nostalgic Clutter was made up of "relics I clung to from my earlier life." (C'mon, raise your hand if you have unopened boxes in your attic from more than a decade ago.) Bargain Clutter was from unnecessary things bought because they were on sale. A close cousin was Freebie Clutter. Aspirational Clutter were things she owned but only aspired to use. And so on.

A lot of people in her life and on Amazon have accused her of supreme self-centeredness by spending so much effort on her own happiness. However, she agrees with Aristotle, who said: "Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."

To this, I add what His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama has said: "“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions."

[I will cover the remaining chapters of this book in my monthly reading round-ups, one, each month. I will add links here when those blogs post.]


Thursday, January 12, 2017


My December Reading


I'm usually not a fan of anthologies or short novellas, because I feel that the romance usually gets shortchanged in the shorter format. However, I was intrigued by the premise of the anthology, Silver Belles when Laura K. Curtis tweeted about it. And I'm so glad I read it. Love is for everyone, even for folks in their forties and fifties after the children from their previous relationships have grown up and left home. I enjoyed this read so much that I ventured out and read another short novella. It was less rewarding, but I've changed my mind about romances not working in the shorter format. In the hands of the right authors, they can work convincingly.

Silver Belles by Sarah M. Anderson, Ros Clarke, Laura K. Curtis, Yasmine Galenorn, Suleikha Snyder
Categories: Contemporary Romance
Comments: Five happy-for-now stories that are filled with the joy of romance and the joy of the Christmas season. I really liked this anthology.

In A Christmas Pony by Sarah M. Anderson, a pony and a gorgeous animal control officer show up on her front doorstep in rapid succession, and she doesn't know who she's more bemused by. This is a mystery (who does the pony belong to and what was it doing in an urban town?) and a romance all in the small space of a short story.

In Midnight Clear by Ros Clarke, she's felled first by a huge dog and then by the dog's owner. She's recovering from her previous relationship with a vicar, when she finds herself falling in love with a vicar. This is a story of faith and friendship set in a small town in the English countryside.

Sparks by Laura K. Curtis is a boss-employee romance where the work dynamics between them affects their private dynamics, and they both worry about separating the personal from the professional.

In The Longest Night by Yasmine Galenorn, both protagonists celebrate their Pagan beliefs while exploring their personal freedoms to be who they are individually and who they are together.

A Taste of Blessings by Suleikha Snyder has hot romantic tension going on in the midst of a religious Hindu festival. I loved this story for all the cultural details woven seamlessly into the fabric of the Indian Bengali American society in the Midwest. My review is here.

A Match Made in Mistletoe by Anna Campbell
Categories: Regency Romance
Comments: Serena Talbot has been in love with Sir Paul Garside since forever. However, Paul has been slow on the uptake. So this year, Serena makes up her mind to compel Paul to kiss her under the mistletoe. With her focus completely on Paul, she fails to realize that his friend Giles Farraday, Marquess of Hallam has been interested in her. Very interested. However, he does not believe his suit will prosper, so he's always hung back.

This Christmas, however, he's determined for Serena to sit up and take notice of him. The story's about Serena gradually realizing why she's more attracted to Giles when it's Paul she supposedly loves—it's about calf love versus mature love. The story was an okay read for me. I have nothing against the premise—in the right hands, the story could be delicious. And while I realize this is a novella, I would've liked to have seen a little more complexity of plot and, more importantly, emotions. Others have liked it more.

Aly's House by Leila Meacham
Categories: Contemporary Romance
Comments: Based in a small town in Oklahoma, this is a story of young infatuation, financial power, and horses. Aly has always had an eye for Marshall since she was in first grade and he in fifth. Unlike her family, who thinks she is strange, Marshall's mother envelopes her in love and understanding. So it's doubly shocking to her to find that her father has foreclosed on Marshall's farm. Marshall vows revenge and goes off to become a mover and shaker on Wall Street. How will Ally convince him that loving her is more important than destroying her father? My review is here.

Wild Horse Springs by Jodi Thomas
Categories: Contemporary Western Romance
Comments: There hasn’t been a single Jodi Thomas book that I’ve picked up and been disappointed with. Her quiet storytelling really speaks to me. Only Jodi Thomas with her careful, gently nuanced characterization can craft people who’re emotionally mature, quietly formidable, memorable, and relatable. While this book has some gripping action, overall, it’s a gentle tale of three intertwining strands between a small town sheriff, a bar singer, a park ranger, a law student, and a former Texas Ranger. If you’ve never read Jodi Thomas, this is a good first book by her. If you’re a fan of the Ransom Canyon series, this is a good addition to the series. My review is here.

In Farleigh Field: A Novel of World War II by Rhys Bowen
Categories: Historical Mystery
Comments: You really do not want to miss this story! It's a murder mystery with a patina of romance set in Kent involving MI5 and Bletchley Park during World War II. Simply knowing this sold me on the book, and Ms. Bowen delivered on the promise of the premise with an exciting story. This was my first Rhys Bowen book, and I can’t wait to dive into her backlist. My review is here.


Wednesday, January 4, 2017


Reading Goals 2017


A new year means a fresh look at reading goals for the year. I really like doing this, because it sets an intention to my reading that I then try to live up to as the year goes on. It means that I do less meandering, less glomming, and instead do more directed reading.

This is not to say there're no on-the-spur-of-the-moment books inspired by recommendations from sources I trust. I'm forever fiddling with my spreadsheet moving stuff around to make room for new stuff, but directed reading allows me to also read some the books I've always said I wanted to read. Sometimes, these books have a tendency to get lost under the allure of the ooh-shiny-new.

As a result, I have already planned out my reading through August. I had to spreadsheet everything in order to get through the books I have for review with deadlines attached to them and reading the books that I have had on my list for a while.

This year's spreadsheet so far includes general fiction, literary fiction, women's fiction, romance genre fiction, nonfiction, and plays. I hope to add poetry to the mix as well, but that will be more of an impulsive choice—I get poems via email daily, and sometimes, I read them and sometimes not. What are not present as much as I'd like on this list are diverse books, works in translation, and children's fiction. I hope to read more in those areas in the latter half of the year.

My Reading Goals for 2016 included the categories listed below plus romance. I tracked which books I read under these categories in a blog post on LiveJournal in addition to adding the appropriate tags to my spreadsheeted book items. My categories for this year are going to be the same—they made for really rewarding reading last year.

General Fiction
Mystery & Thriller
Children's & Young Adult
Poetry & Plays
Biographies & Memoirs
Writing, Parenting, Life Skills
General Nonfiction
In Translation
Diverse
Male Writers

As in previous years, I shall continue to participate in Wendy Crutcher's TBR Challenge where on every third Wednesday of the month, I'll comment on a book from the TBR on my blog here. I try to follow Wendy's monthly themes but since my goal is to read non-romance books for this challenge, my books don't always fall in the same categories as Wendy's. Going off-theme is allowed!

If Vassiliki runs it again next year, I also hope to participate in Vassiliki's ShallowReader Bingo! every month, where for every entry on the Bingo! card, I'll write a sentence or two from the books I read that month. Last year in October, I completed the entire Bingo! card based on one book. That is what I hope to aspire to every month, even though advertising on the side of a bus also counts as reading.

And that's it for now. I'll try to check in mid-year to see how I kept up with my goals and to see what I need to change going forward.


Sunday, January 1, 2017


Happy New Year!


Dear Readers of Cogitations & Meditations:

Wish you all a very happy new year. May this year bring you joy, laughter, and contentment.

Thank you for reading my posts here. Looking forward to a year of writing and reviewing here and at All About Romance.

I can be found on email keira at keirasoleore dot com or on Twitter @KeiraSoleore.

As my Twitter bio states: I'm a student of medieval manuscripts, a reviewer, a book editor, an aspiring historical writer, a book blogger, an avid reader, a choral singer, a proud coffee drinker, a dedicated sun saluter, a fannish beach-lay-abouter, and an all around good egg." I will continue to be so in 2017 as well.

Warm regards,
Keira