2016 Review and Planning for 2017

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hello fellow readers, bloggers, and dear friends! I've been semi-struggling with squeezing blogging back into my life. Not due to a lack of prioritizing but because quite a few chess pieces are still moving right now at my end. I'm hoping to be around sporadically until they are sorted out - I just need to figure out how to do it.

Anyways, I wanted to do a 2016 review before it got too late to talk about 2016. The whole of January qualifies as a good time to do such a post, correct?

2016 in books

In so many ways, 2016 was one of my best reading years. I read and listened to a good variety of books. My reading was mostly spontaneous with no reading list guiding it. Sometimes I read the book that everyone was talking about and sometimes I picked a book that sounded quirky. Sometimes the book in my hands just had the right description to suit my mood.

As easy as it was to read a book that felt right at the moment, I also found it not hard at all to put a book down if it didn't feel right. In the past, putting a book down was usually accompanied by a disappointing realization that I may never be reading that book ever. The time-constrained Athira however accepted that there can be another time or day for that book. Maybe never, but that was okay too.

One quality that many of my books read last year shared is that they were quick reads that could be easily put down whenever the baby and now toddler preempted my reading. This explains the higher number of books compared to last year (50 vs 47) and also the lower page counts (7168 vs 9344).

Without further ado, here's my 2016 in numbers:


Planning for 2017

2017 is already shaping out to pretty much the same pattern. Spontaneous reading is deciding my reading for the most part. I am continuing to stay away from making reading lists. I did however decide to do the Read Harder challenge this year but only to help pick my next read when I'm looking for options and not as a list to follow through the year. I will also be reading books via my Postal Book Club but that's probably the extent of my reading planning for this year.

I can't wait to read about YOUR 2016 review and/or 2017 reading. I'm slowly making the rounds through bloglandia. Tell me one thing though - are you planning to do any readalongs this year?

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 22, 2016



I hope you all have a wonderful (and very safe) holiday season with your near and dear! We will be on vacation with some of our close friends and family near Boston, but I'm hoping to be back here with more regularity once the holidays are over. See you in the new year, which, I hope, will be much better than 2016!


Can't Believe the Vacation is Over | This Week's Five

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Well hello! It's been a while, hasn't it? I had to force myself to come back here today and post something. My November somehow got away from me - I was surprised to realize that it's almost December. How did that happen? Anyhoosie, that means I've failed at Nonfiction November second time in a row and I'm probably looking at more time off because life just got too busy over here. More on that in a later post. For now, this is what kept me occupied most of this month.

1. A week-long vacation

We spent much of last week in DC - one of my favorite places to visit. That's the main reason I've been absent here and very behind on visiting any blogs. Since we've already seen much of historical DC, we spent this vacation checking out some other lesser-known spots. That included the Smithsonian Zoo, the Frying Pan Farm, a Nespresso boutique (because I 💗 my Nespresso), Georgetown, the Politics and Prose bookstore (more on this below), and Arlington National Cemetery. We also did a LOT of shopping. Don't you just love these last two months of the year? Of course, don't you just hate the first few months of a year too? The way the holidays are scheduled in my company, my first holiday after New Year is Memorial Day - such a painful five-month wait for a long weekend. I always joke that the party starts in May because after that, there is usually one long weekend every month.


2. Politics and Prose

Soooo, I have been reading about the Politics and Prose bookstore in Shelf Awareness for a long time so it has been on my bucket list. It's too far away from where we usually stay in DC (actually northern VA) and besides, it always requires passing through heavy DC traffic no matter the time of day. This DC vacation was all about the things we don't usually do so P&P got on to my list fast. The traffic was a P@!N as was trying to find a parking spot but the bookstore more than made up for it (at least for me - can't say the same about the unenthusiastic folks in my group). They had a huge coffee shop in the basement and plenty of books (and a cozy nook) in their large store. I wish I had more time to browse there. If I were staying nearby, I'd probably find an excuse to stop by often. Sadly, I didn't take any pictures. The thought completely escaped my mind!


3. This naughty naughty babe

Oh my God, how do toddlers learn to be naughty? It's like they have a secret club on how to do mischievous things. Almost overnight, Shreya has become VERY naughty. We are trying very hard not to laugh, so as not to encourage but it's hard. Some of the things she does! For instance, today, she has been trying to put some chalk in her mouth. We are working on teaching her that pens/chalks/crayons are for writing, and not for tasting. But she tries to pop one in her mouth very nonchalantly. As soon as we say uh-uh, she moves the chalk away as if she was always trying to do something else with it and not eat it. I mean, how do 16-month-olds know to do this? LOL, this girl melts my heart. The husband has been journaling about her antics so I look forward to reading them years later.


4. 2016 Reading

When I started blogging in 2009, my reading was very structured. I had plans and lists of books to read. As soon as I read the first page of a new book, OCD-me opened Goodreads and properly marked the book as currently-reading. If Litsy was available then, I would have posted 3-5 posts per book and definitely one for when I start a book. I was too organized! This year, my reading has been all over the place. Sometimes, I don't even track it until days or weeks later. I won't remember what I thought of the book if I didn't review it right away. My review backlog is now in double digits (14!) I have been reading a lot of fast and light books. And my next to-read book is usually the most interesting book I heard about yesterday (usually on Litsy). I've also DNF'd a lot of books this year (and not felt bad about it at all!) And you know what? I don't mind this at all. It's keeping me blogging a little too infrequently but that's okay with me. For now. The more important thing is that it's keeping my reading very fun. Next month, I'll be celebrating 7 years of blogging. It will be a very interesting year to review.

5. Happy Holidays!

We have one more vacation planned for next month. This time, we will be heading to Boston. (I know, we visit the wrong places in the wrong season). This visit will be more about family and friends so I doubt we'll be outdoors much. We are also planning to take the train so that will be somewhat fun. How do you keep toddlers entertained in trains? Anyone have any good idea? But I'm looking forward to it. This week-plus vacation has me eager for more. I have no idea how I'm going to get to work tomorrow. It has been so nice sleeping in every day and not rushing to do stuff. The husband is also traveling for work tomorrow so that's going to be a bummer. But hey, the next holidays are just around the corner, woohoo!


How are you spending the holidays? Vacations? Reading? Spending time with family?

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (or why this is a must-read)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Handmaid's Tale
Better never means better for everyone... It always means worse, for some.

This review is probably the most of a political statement I will make on this blog. Today. For now. But I can't help thinking how super-relevant this book is in today's America. I can't emphasize how many times I've had Offred and her dystopian world pop into my head ever since I read this book in March. Or how many similarities there were - the way the unrest crept up on the citizens. Or how no one worried about the social impact of the change. But, you know what's funny? This book was written in 1985. Let that sink in a bit.

Offred is a Handmaid of the Republic of Gilead. Handmaids are women assigned to families with the sole responsibility to bear children in an age of declining births, after an environmental crisis affected the birth rate. Moreover, she and other handmaids don't have a name of their own. They are named after the men they belong to. So Offred is really "Of Fred". It was not too long ago however, when things were normal. When she had a happy life with her husband and her daughter. Now, she doesn't know where either of them are. She suspects that her husband has been killed and, on her happier days, she thinks that her daughter has been married off to someone.

The Handmaid's Tale was the scariest book I have ever read. And that's counting every horror or crime fiction I have come across. What made it scary was realizing that the story was very plausible. When the uprising first started, no one questioned it. When the uprising took hold, no one questioned it still. By the time people started reacting and attempting to leave the country, it was too late. They were all brought back and either killed or groomed for their future roles as Wives, Handmaids, or Marthas, if they were women; or Commanders and servants (who can't take wives), if they were men.

I felt badly for Offred. The difference to me, between a book like The Hunger Games (which was also awesome) and something like The Handmaid's Tale is that the latter is set shortly after something bad happened. All the characters in this book had a good memory of how their life used to be and how close they were to escaping. They remembered their loved ones and the not-knowing aspect tortures them to no end. They are living in the post-world, a world where they are plagued by the what-ifs. They are living with the guilt of ruining their children's future, because they were only looking out for themselves, and now that future is bleak. Several decades later, Gilead would be the norm and no one would be questioning what happened.

Sure, the details in the book may sound very fictional right now. But it's funny how the chess pieces that lead to the dystopia are easy to relate to. That to me is what makes this book one that everyone must read. Even though I only read it a few months ago, I know I want to reread it. Soon. And I want to put this book in everyone's hands now. I know many of you have read it already, but if you haven't, now is a good time to start.

As for the prose, Atwood's writing took a little getting used to but it soon got addicting however. Atwood does not write to impress you. She does not try emotional manipulation or any literary devices meant to hook you. She writes it as it is and that was more than enough to keep me turning the pages. That is what I (eventually) loved about her writing, after I got past the first few chapters.

And now I want recommendations! What books would you recommend that we all read in this post-election era? Any genre/category welcome.

This ebook is from my personal library.

Five Things Before the Election | This Week's Five

Monday, November 7, 2016

This post is coming to you one day later than planned! We drove to DC this weekend and had some fabulous friends-and-family time. Since we got in very late last night, I took today off from work, hoping to get some ignored chores done.

1. What's up with the weather nowadays?

Two weeks ago, we were out in our winter best but then last couple of weeks were more like Fall. And then this week, we had some 80 degree weather. (Please make up your mind, Mother nature!) We took advantage of these warm days however. We've been taking walks and hanging out on the deck. There's nothing like the threat of an upcoming winter that makes me want to get some sun. Still, I wish I knew what sweater weather to expect each day.


2. Bullet Journaling

I don't think I ever mentioned this on my blog but back in March, I took up bullet journaling and have never looked back since. Prior to that, I've been trying out app after app, hoping to find the one app that was simple enough and yet did everything I wanted it to do. There was no such app so I adopted the bujo instead. It's one of the best things I've added to my life. I now actually get stuff done! Do any of you bullet journal?


3. This haircut

On Friday, I decided it was time for a hair makeover. For a long time, I've been building my courage to go very short. And finally, I did it - I chopped off some really long tresses (not really, but long for me). And I love it. It's exactly as I was visualizing it. Kudos to my hairdresser for such a fabulous job!



4. Plum Deluxe teas

If you have been following my blog for a while, then you probably know that I love tea. Especially sweetened black tea with some milk. Hot. No iced tea for this girl. Last week, the founder of Plum Deluxe sent me a few samples of some teas and wow, I am seriously impressed. I am not much for spiced or flavored teas - I do sometimes enjoy a cup of ginger tea but that's usually the extent of my tea adventure. So I wasn't really sure what to expect from the teas I got from Plum Deluxe. But wow, I loved the two I already tried - the Morning Blend and wait for it... the Reading Nook Blend. How can you not love a tea with a name like that? I know I'm going to be stocking up on some of their teas soon.

5. The Election

I mean, seriously. I am ready for this show to be over. But I'm also very terrified of what could happen, if this election was any indication. I've come across quite a few people over the past few months who have decided that "political correctness" is not for them so they are going to say anything they want to say, unfiltered, which usually means making racist or sexist comments. So yeah, I will probably be glued to my phone and TV tomorrow, with my fingers crossed. As I'm sure, most of you will be too.


Are you going to have an election party? Or would you prefer to pretend it's not happening?