Seasonal TBR Challenge – Summer 2015

Seasonal TBR Challengev2

Seasonal TBR Challenge – Summer 2015

One of the things that got me to return to reading for pleasure five years ago while I was in my undergraduate program was a book club on Goodreads. It was (and is! It’s still around, though I haven’t participated in over a year) called The Seasonal Reading Challenge. Every three months for each season, they develop a list of tasks each worth different points. People plan what books best fit each task and earn points throughout the season for each book that they read for the tasks. It was a great way to add some variety to the to-be-read (TBR) list and choices. And the competition was fun too!

As it’s the beginning of June, I thought it’d be a great time to try doing something similar for the blogging community! We all have that leaning tower of TBR books and sometimes it can get difficult to figure out which book to read next. So let’s have fun matching books to the challenges and see which books we’ll discover! Here’s the way it’ll go down…

The Rules

  • The Seasonal TBR Challenge for summer 2015 will run from 01 June through 31 August. All books read during those dates that count towards a task may be tallied, even ones read before officially signing up.
  • Interested bloggers can sign up using the link up below. Because of the short-notice launch of this challenge, a kick-off post is not in any way mandatory but if you post a kick-off after signing up, feel free to add that link as well and I can curate the list for increased usability. For any non-bloggers wishing to participate, please comment below and let us know so we can figure out how best to include you!
  • Each month will have additional tasks added to the list. June’s tasks are below. If you have suggestions for July and August tasks, please comment below!
  • Each task will relate to themes of the month and the season. Any book can be chosen to count towards a task as long as it meets the specific task’s details. (So any genre, length, style, etc. can be chosen unless otherwise specified by the task.)
  • At the end of each month (or really at any point), participating bloggers can post an update on their progress for the challenge, listing which books you read for the tasks, and how it matched. We will have an additional link up for update posts so we can all see what books you chose to match each task and how many points you’ve accumulated. (This is a great way to be exposed to new books and get help on pairing books to challenges!)
  • The challenge banner or button can be (and is recommended!) used in posts.
  • The reader with the highest amount of points by the end of the challenge period (01 September) will win a prize! (If you would like to contribute to the prize(s), please let me know as well! Email

seasonal tbr challenge buttonv2

June’s Tasks:

5 point tasks:

  • 5.1 Summer Heat. The sun is definitely here and that means raising temperatures! Read a book with one of the following words in the title: hot, scorch, heat, warm, sun, blaze, hazy, or any other similar variations.
  • 5.2 Summer Vacation to the Water. I hope you all are able to go on a vacation this summer, but let’s make sure we go on one to the water! Read a book that has a cover with a beach, river, lake, or pond on it or has the word beach, vacation, holiday, or other related words in the title.
  • 5.3 Warning, Contents are Hot! Read a book with a cover that is predominately made up of hot colors (red, orange, yellow).

10 point tasks:

  • 10.1 Hurricane Season. June is the beginning of hurricane season, which can definitely dampen vacation plans! Each year, the National Weather Service’s National Hurricane Center releases the names that will be used for each hurricane. Read a book whose author has a name on the 2015 list (spelling variations are okay):

Ana; Bill (Example: Bill Bryson); Claudette; Danny; Erika (Example: Erika Johansen); Fred; Grace (Example: Grace Draven); Henri; Ida; Joaquin (Example: Nick Joaquin); Kate (Example: Lauren Kate); Larry; Mindy; Nicholas; Odette; Peter; Rose; Sam; Teresa; Victor; Wanda

  • 10.2 Anniversary of D-Day. On June 6, 1944, the invasion of Europe, known as D-Day began. Read a book with a title beginning with the letter ‘d’, or has a plot that centers on an invasion (alien, invasion of privacy, war, etc. all count, though if it’s not clear from the synopsis, please explain the book pairing)
  • 10.3 Summer Reading List. School summer reading lists were never all that fun, but the internet is full of different lists recommending different reads for summer. (Examples: ALA’s 2015 Summer Reading List; The EveryGirl’s List; Bustle’s List) Read a book that is featured on a summer reading list and share the link to the list.

Good luck! Please sign up below! You can add the link to your blog or kick off post with any plans you have for each task and share any of your summer plans! If you have any cool ideas for the tasks for July and August, please share in the comments as well!

Happy summer reading!

pj - michelle

Michelle’s Review: Uprooted by Naomi Novik

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Michelle’s Review: Uprooted by Naomi NovikUprooted by Naomi Novik
Published by Random House Publishing Group on 2015-05-19
Genres: Action & Adventure, Epic, Fairy Tales, Folk Tales, Legends & Mythology, Fantasy, Fiction, Romance, Science Fiction
Pages: 432
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

I have only read the first book in the Temeraire series but it was enough to make Naomi Novik one of my ‘must read’ authors. His Majesty’s Dragon was such a fun fantasy and while I plan on reading the rest of the series eventually, when I heard about Uprooted, a standalone novel, I definitely wanted to read it.

Uprooted was such an intense read. Every time you think things are starting to get resolved, things get crazy again. It’s extremely action-packed. The fantasy world is that of an alternate historical Poland, a world that feels real given that it somehow resembles the fairy tales kids are fed on. Yet there’s a very dark layer to it that sticks with you.

Agnieszka is an unlikely heroine and the Dragon isn’t what you think. The Woods are an evil that stick with you even when you go to sleep. I definitely had a lot of Uprooted-tainted (or corrupted, haha) dreams while reading this. They even stick with me after finishing it.

My biggest complaint is that I felt like I was missing some details or sentences. It could have been that it was a review copy. But you know when you are reading something particularly exciting you may skip a few sentences to see what is going on? That’s how this book sometimes read, even though I would go back and see if I did skip a sentence or two. There were some scenes that could be hard to follow, but I was able to get through them with a good idea of the point and still thoroughly enjoy the book.

I would recommend it to someone who is looking for a good standalone fantasy novel with an ending that is completely satisfying.

pj - michelle

Waiting on Wednesday: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

waiting on wednesday


Waiting on Wednesday is the popular meme to highlight upcoming releases that we are excited about. It was created and is run at the Breaking the Spine.

I haven’t done this meme in a while but I figured I would spotlight one of the books that I saw so many people being excited for at BEA this year.

six of crowsSix of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Expected publication: September 29th 2015 by Henry Holt and Company

Game of Thrones meets Ocean’s Eleven in this brand-new book in the world of the Grisha by New York Times-bestselling author Leigh Bardugo.

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can’t pull it off alone…

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist. Kaz’s crew is the only thing that might stand between the world and destruction—if they don’t kill each other first.

It sounds quite good, and given that I haven’t read any of Leigh’s books yet, I’m all about starting out with a new series.

Are you excited for this book too?

pj - michelle

May 2015 Wrap Up and Books for June


May 2015 Wrap-Up

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, but I think it’s about time!

In May, I read five books! I feel like that’s an impressive number for me these days. The books were:

Hexed by Kevin Hearne (Book Two in The Iron Druid Chronicles)
Hammered by Kevin Hearne (Book Three in The Iron Druid Chronicles)
Tricked by Kevin Hearne (Book Four in The Iron Druid Chronicles)
Two Ravens and a Crow by Kevin Hearne (Story 4.5 in The Iron Druid Chronicles)
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

As you can see, there was a definite theme to the books I read this month. I absolutely binged on Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series, which was so nice and refreshing to do. It was very nice get through each book and be able to go right on to the next one. Additionally, they were all audiobooks, and the narrator does such a good job with it. It really pulls you in and makes you want to continue to listen, even when you shouldn’t really. I will have a post coming up in a few days with my thoughts on the series so far.

Uprooted I devoured as well. I received a review copy through Netgalley a couple of weeks ago and finished it in a week. I would definitely recommend it. I enjoyed it though I will say it gave me all kinds of dreams and seems to continue to do so even after I’ve finished it. If you get nightmares, perhaps it’s not the book for you only because the fantasy world is so intense.

To highlight some of the reviews that were posted on the blog in the past month:

And we posted the following non-reviews:

Be on the lookout for a new way I may be approaching reviews…I -may- have figured out a way to get over some of my growing disinterest in them.

Books for June

Now, what shall I read in June?

I’ve been doing a lot of mood reading lately, but I generally still have a good idea of which books will be read in a month. Some of the books I’m looking forward to reading are:

days like thisDays Like This by Danielle Ellison

Sometimes the only thing standing between fear and hope is you.

Almost a year ago, nineteen-year-old Cassie Harlen had a lot to deal with. A stack of college acceptance letters waiting for answers, a proposal from the boy next door, and a mother whose most recent bipolar episode left Cassie hurt and confused. Tired of cleaning up the messes caused by her mother’s disorder, of resenting her mother for not being there, and scared of being trapped by an inevitable future—which included marrying Graham Tucker—Cassie did the only thing she could think of to keep from ending up like her mother: she left.

Graham never knew why Cassie walked away. He woke up one morning and she was gone—along with the life that he’d created around her. After eleven months, Graham has a new plan for his future. One that doesn’t involve Cassie Harlen.

When Cassie’s mom nearly burns down her house, Cassie’s forced to return home. Back to a mother she’s tried to ignore and the guy she’s been unable to forget. Graham doesn’t know how he’s going to spend the whole summer living next door to the person who broke his heart without letting those old feelings push through to the surface.

Neither does Cassie.

I also received a review copy from Netgalley for this book. I really enjoyed Salt by Danielle so I am hopeful that I will also like this one though it sounds completely different. I don’t usually read contemporary so we’ll see if I can be converted.

madmans daughterThe Madman’s Daughter by Megan Shepherd

Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true.

Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood.

Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.

I’ve been trying to read this for a while and it keeps being put aside for other books. I’m determined to at least knock this out finally to stop it from continuing to languish on my bedside table.

silkwormThe Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, Mrs. Quine just thinks her husband has gone off by himself for a few days—as he has done before—and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were to be published, it would ruin lives—meaning that there are a lot of people who might want him silenced.

When Quine is found brutally murdered under bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any Strike has encountered before…

I have this from Audible and I am looking forward to some more of J.K. Rowling’s characters. I’m already a little way into it and I may regret trying to listen to it instead of reading it because of the number of characters but the narrator does a decent job once you get used to him.

chardonnay charadeThe Chardonnay Charade by Ellen Crosby

“The Chardonnay Charade” begins with a daring helicopter flight in the middle of the night. Facing a freak spring frost that threatens to kill the grapes in her vineyard, Lucie Montgomery hires a chopper to fly over the vines in order to blow warm air on them. But her thoughts soon turn from grapes to murder when she discovers the body of Georgia Greenwood, a controversial political candidate, lying near the fields. Georgia’s husband, Ross, Lucie’s friend and doctor, immediately falls under suspicion.

To make matters worse, Ross, a renowned collector of Civil War documents, has just discovered a letter that seems to prove that Confederate president Jefferson Davis had prior knowledge of the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. In the small town of Atoka, Virginia — proud home to the “Gray Ghost,” the Confederacy’s legendary guerrilla commander — the letter is a bombshell.

Three years ago Ross saved Lucie’s life after she was involved in a near-fatal car crash. Now she intends to return the favor and prove Ross’s innocence. As the search for Georgia’s killer escalates, Lucie crosses swords with her attractive but cantankerous winemaker, Quinn Santori, and confronts her own unwelcome feelings of jealousy over his new romance and job prospects. Her worries about her kid sister’s out-of-control drinking and a second vineyard-related death further ratchet up the tension. Even though Lucie believes that in vino veritas — in wine there is truth — she finds that the path to uncovering a murderer involves making a heartbreaking decision that will alter the lives of those she loves.

This is our June book for the book club. While I may not be able to go to the meeting this month, I’m excited to see what it’s like to return to the series that kicked off our book club. I’ve been to many wineries in Virginia since then so there’s some curiosity with this book.

I think that’s about it for me and June. I am taking summer classes so despite only being in the third week of this course, I have a final paper due in three weeks…fun!

What are you reading this month?

pj - michelle

Armchair BEA 2015: Christina on Book to Movie Adaptations

armchairbeaDay 4 of Armchair BEA… sadly, the week is coming to an end. For those of you at BEA 15, hope you had a great time! For those who have been posting from the comfort of their favorite chair, like me, hope you enjoyed the conversations. So final post:

Book to Movie Adaptions

What books do you want to be made into a movie or television show? What are some of your favorites? We’ll explore more about this topic, especially what works and what doesn’t.  Are there any upcoming shows or movies that you’re excited for? What are your recommendations?


What books do I want to be made into a movie?

  • The last book I read, A Dangerous Fortune by Ken Follett, would make a great movie. I was already pairing actors and actresses who I think would play each character’s role well. (Maisie could be played by Rachel McAdams; Aunt Augusta could be played by Jennifer Connelly?)
  • I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe could make a cute movie based during the Civil War.
  • Basically any Gillian Flynn can be turned into a plot-twisted thriller of a movie.

Book to move adaptations:

  • They did a very good job sticking to the story in the Gone Girl movie.
  • I started watching The Pillars of the Earth mini-series first, then stopped a couple of episodes in to pick up the book. I thought the series was good (although I never finished it after it inspired me to start reading the book); the book was great. Now I’m Ken Follett obsessed.
  • Duh Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit… great casting, great portrayals… mostly good scripts. Although there were parts of the books I missed seeing in the movies, like Tom Bombadil’s character in LOTR and quite a few things in season 5 of GOT… and I was not a fan of how they portrayed Beorn in The Hobbit (just wasn’t what I envisioned… I envisioned more bear, more hair, more gnarly face…)

Sometimes it’s refreshing to see a different portrayal from book to script. However, I have found I really enjoy seeing the book played out exactly as it was written on television on many occasions… I especially have learned this while watching the new season of GOT. I sit here and comment the whole time about what was different in the book. I have found I have a “book loyalty” that gets me frustrated with directors and screen writers sometimes… I want to see what was originally created, now a different interpretation. But I know I should have a more open mind and I’m working on it… but COME ON GOT… stop killing people I was not ready to die/aren’t supposed to be dead yet!

Upcoming movies or TV shows I’m excited for… I need to think about this more. While it is inspired by a notorious book series, I am really excited for the new 007 James Bond: Spectre. I have started Ian Fleming’s series and intend to slowly read through the books. I intend to run to the theatre opening weekend when Spectre comes out.

What movies or TV shows do you recommend that are adaptations from books? Any coming up you can’t wait for? Please share! I’m always looking for new reads and new flicks. Now where is the popcorn…

pj - christina

Armchair BEA 2015: $10 Amazon Gift Card Giveaway

armchairbeaI hope everyone has enjoyed Armchair BEA this year! Christina and I certainly did! It was great connecting with you all and it helped take out some of the sting of not being able to go the real thing in NYC. Next year it’s in Chicago, which will actually make it more difficult for us to attend, but we’ll continue hoping that the stars will align!

While the pile of books that I’d love to share with you is quite large, I wanted to make a giveaway that was open internationally and allow you to perhaps preorder some of the pretty books that have been displayed at BEA this year. I know that there was quite the buzz about Truthwitch and Six of Crows this year! There were some others that definitely caught my eye and I look forward to their release dates to explore them more!

So without further ado, here are the details regarding the giveaway!

  • Open from May 30, 2015, ending 12:00am EST June 6, 2015.
  • Enter using the rafflecopter below. All entries are optional.
  • Please no exploiting rafflecopter/entering with different accounts.
  • Prize is a $10 Amazon gift card to be delivered via email.
  • This giveaway is open internationally.

If you have any other questions, definitely let me know.

Thanks again and look forward to continuing to engage you all in bookish love!

Michelle & Christina

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Armchair BEA 2015: Christina on Blogging 101

armchairbeaIt’s Day 3 of Armchair BEA! How has your week been going? Today’s prompt, I have decided to look at blogging 101:

Blogging Q&A

Blogging 101. All kinds of tips and tricks to get you started or keep you going. Talk about ARCs, reviewing in general, web design, etc.  What blogging platform do you use? How do you network? What are some of your favorite web designs?  Or maybe you want to talk about your own blogging journey, and how you got to where you are now. Either way, we want you to share your knowledge with the rest of the community!


Let’s start from the top and work our way through the questions:

Talk about ARCs:

  • For me, ARCs are fun to receive the opportunity to review and fun to read. Whether these come through email or book expos, and whether they are free copies for e-readers or physical books – they’re fun! I must say, the first physical ARC book I personally received (The Exchange of Princesses by Chantall Thomas) made me giddy (for lack of better words). I loved having the actual book in hand to review.My advice: Be sure to have an easy-to-find email on your blog for publishers and authors to reach out to you through. Do not take every book that comes in through your inbox or that you find on a table. Be selective and pick the ones on topics that catch your interest. This will allow you to enjoy the reading experience and write a passionate review.

Reviewing in general:

  • Reviewing books should be fun! That is why we do it, right? Enjoy the books you read and find a reviewing style that is right for you. For me, after taking many history classes and writing historical reviews for these, my style has settled into organizing my reviews by: summary of the book; what I liked about the book; why the book was unique; areas that needed improvement in the book; and overall summary of my opinion/rating and the audience I would recommend for the read.

Web design:Dont make me think

  • If you do not own these books yet, go to your local book store or get on Amazon right now and order: Don’t Make Me Think: A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug and The Elements of Content Strategy by Erin Kissan

    These books will help you optimize your web design, make it user-friendly, and attract others to your blog. There are so many great tips in these two books for setting up a webpage, whether it is for the content on pages, the layout, the font or colors, and other widgets and features…. You need these books. I was introduced to them during my Digital Public History Master’s class and will always keep them close on my book shelf.

What blogging platform do you use?

  • I have grown comfortable with using WordPress. I have explored other sites, but WordPress has an easy-to-use platform with many different layout options. The font and colorings are so easy to change, and the different pages, parent pages and children pages are easy to manipulate. I use WordPress for both of my blogging platforms.

How do you network?

  • Twitter and other social media platforms are a great way to network. Going to libraries, talking with others and events, and just talking about the blog in general with others who may be interested are different ways I network. I still need to design business cards…

What are some of your favorite web designs?

  • I haven’t really thought much about this…

Or maybe you want to talk about your own blogging journey, and how you got to where you are now:

  • My blogging journey began with my Digital Public History class. We had to create a blog we recorded our weekly thoughts on for our readings, and we had to comment on others’ blogs in our class. From there, we had to create a website for the Digital Public History class’ final project… that is how Virginia Wine: History Uncorked ( was born. I have grown my blogging from that site by writing about the history of wine in Virginia, visiting different wineries and recording my experiences, and by writing about the history attractions near wineries. About two years ago, shortly after we started are VA Wine and Book Club, Michelle asked me if I wanted to contribute to Playing Jokers with the occasional book blog. I was honored, thrilled, and here I am today loving the book blogging and writing world!

Share your blogs so we can check them out and connect!

pj - christina

Armchair BEA 2015: Michelle and Christina on Social Media

armchairbeaDay 2 of Armchair BEA… The Social Media topic caught our eye. Here is the prompt:

Social Media

How do you use social media to expand your blogging/writing horizons?  Social Media is all about networking and connections, and utilizing today’s technology to the fullest.  Make sure you mention your own social media pages. Do you have another blog, maybe a Tumblr? Have a Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook? Or maybe there’s an underrated social media program that you like.


So, how do we use social media to expand our blogging? Michelle and Christina will chime in on a few of our social media outlets and uses:


  • On Facebook…  We have a Facebook page for the blog and I’ve been trying to make an effort to post more than just links to the posts here on it. What makes pages on Facebook worth following? When a conversation can spark or become aware of other cool posts out there. I use the Facebook page to share other posts that I think are cool that I’ve seen on my feed. I never know whether to share on my posts on my personal Facebook or not…I don’t want to annoy people but I do want to encourage more people to engage!
  • On Twitter… I’ve been on Twitter for several years now and I feel like I’m still learning the ropes! Definitely follow me @deckfullojokers! I have just started using Tweetdeck to schedule some tweets, but I’m definitely not as sophisticated as Christina when it comes to marketing myself or the blog using Twitter.
  • On Instagram… I’m nothing if not consistent, so I also have an Instagram, @deckfullojokers. I like to share a myriad of pictures, usually book related or nature related…with a healthy serving of selfies #noshame
  • On Blogs… I thought I had these posts auto-populate a Tumblr since the beginning basically, but as I went to check on it…apparently not! Something has glitched! See, Armchair BEA is so helpful!  (Definitely see Christina’s blog, Virginia Wine Uncorked…it’s quite fun and has quite the future!)
  • Anything else to add? I have been very intent on joining YouTube and becoming more of a vlogger, but I keep running into roadblocks. I need a working computer, and some type of tutorial on how to use non-Apple product editing software. What tips do you have for me?



  • On Facebook… Have you seen our Playing Jokers page on Facebook? If you haven’t already, please like us to help spread the word! For my personal Facebook page, I find this to be a great tool to raise awareness about my blog sites and share the latest posts. Whenever I post something new, the first place I share this is on my personal Facebook page to encourage my friends and family to join the conversation.
  • On Twitter… In addition to Michelle’s Twitter @deckfullojokers, I have my own personal Twitter account I utilize whenever I schedule something new for either of my blogs. Follow me: @vawineuncorked.  In addition, I have found hootsuite to be an amazing tool, especially for those busy days when I don’t have access to my phone or a computer due to meetings. Hootsuite is a great tool for multiple social media outlets to pre-schedule posts so you can carry on the conversation throughout the day, even when you are away.
  • On Instagram… I actually do not have an Instagram account. I have found too many social media outlets to be a distraction from my every day enjoyment. It was too much to manage so this is the tool I chose to knock out!
  • On Blogs… In addition to where I have been contributing for about two years now, I also have a wine blog I started when working on my Masters at George Mason University: This blog is a fun hobby I have turned into an informative website on the history of Virginia Wine in addition to the blogging feature. Follow my latest posts here in addition to!In addition to Michelle’s Twitter @deckfullojokers, I have my own personal Twitter account I utilize whenever I schedule something new for either of my blogs. Follow me: @vawineuncorked.  In addition, I have found hootsuite to be an amazing tool, especially for those busy days when I don’t have access to my phone or a computer due to meetings. Hootsuite is a great tool for multiple social media outlets to pre-schedule posts so you can carry on the conversation throughout the day, even when you are away.
  • Anything else to add? Social media, as we all know, is a great tool to connect with others who love the same things as you. I love books and Virginia wine… social media has introduced me to a whole new world of book and wine lovers like me. (Sometimes, people who like both!) Two examples of the power of social media that have personally affected me:  – Facebook is the reason the Virginia Wine and Book Club got started. I posted on a friend’s wall about how fun it would be to have a reason to get together over wine by discussing books. Michelle saw this post and suggested we check out Goodreads… from there, others chimed in and here we are over two years and 27 books later!  – Twitter helped to connect me with others in the wine community. I ended up taking the George Mason Business of Wine class for fun. I’ve discovered new wineries in the community. And I was also invited to be a guest speaker on VinVillageRadio through Twitter. It really is a great tool to expand one’s knowledge, interests, understanding and networking circles!

Share your favorites and personal social media outlets with us. We would love to connect with you!

Armchair BEA 2015: Christina on Library Love

armchairbeaSo excited for Armchair BEA to begin!  You’ve seen Michelle’s introductory post. Now I want to share my #LibraryLove for the local public library near my community! First, the prompt:

Library Love

Librarians are awesome. Not only are they helpful, they’re very fun to talk to and give great recommendations. Show your library some love, and the wonderful men and women that run it. Why is your library fantastic? Got any funny stories? Feature your library on your blog? Do an interview with a librarian?

So why is my library fantastic? I wanted to highlight Pohick Library in Fairfax, VA first:

  • I can walk there it is so close
  • They always have books for sale in the front of the library (I stalk these shelves constantly)
  • They have awesome 3-day large book sales on select weekends throughout the year that I ALWAYS find at least a few of the books on my to-own list (plus they have the $5 bag day on Sunday… time to stalk up on new reads that grab my attention too!)book sale
  • The librarians are always super helpful when I am looking for books… always friendly, both the staff and volunteers!

Why are libraries in general fantastic?

  • They always get the new titles in, and a lot of copies to make the holds list go quickly
  • I’m in a book club… one book a month for the club adds up, especially next to my other books on my to-read for-fun list. Libraries give me the chance to read these books without having to spend the money
  • See a book, but don’t know if you’ll like it? Borrow it from the library and return it if it’s not your style!
  • Online e-books. My Kindle and the free online e-books I can borrow from my local library while sitting at home have changed my life
  • They offer great study spaces and quiet rooms for those looking for an escape or location to do research without the distractions (although, the books are a great distraction to me…)
  • As a Masters student in U.S. History, I needed to do A LOT of research for my papers and find the latest texts on certain topics, in addition to some of the original works. Libraries made this SO EASY… not just the school library, but the local public libraries in Fairfax County. My research excelled thanks to the variety of books the public libraries offered

One more library I wanted to highlight was the Library of Virginia in Richmond, VA:

  • When I was working on my Master’s thesis on Freedom Suites in Virginia, the Library of Virginia contained the original documents I needed. Some of the works were transcribed or scanned online through the library’s website. Others were available for free in the archives there… I got to handle the original documents from the 1700s. It was AMAZING
  • The Library of Virginia also acts as a museum featuring documents, exhibits, and preserving history for others to see

I could go on, but I will stop there with why libraries are so fantastic. Have you been to your local library lately? Michelle  visits Pohick Library as well and snapped these great photos of Santa looking for an audio book and the view from where she was sitting. Enjoy!


A photo posted by Michelle (@deckfullojokers) on


A photo posted by Michelle (@deckfullojokers) on

pj - christina

Armchair BEA 2015: Introduction to Michelle

armchairbeaArmchair BEA 2015: Introduction

Another year, another Armchair BEA! Another year that I am unable to attend the Expo in person, but will gladly still participate with everyone in the fun that is Armchair BEA! I feel like this year the majority of my posts have actually been introduction posts as I haven’t exactly been the best blogger in the world, but for those who I am meeting for the first time, here’s some information on me!

I have been blogging for just over two years! I am from Northern Virginia and love my state. My current dream is to leave the major metropolitan area of Washington, D.C. and go to a more rural area of Virginia and experiment with a more sustainable lifestyle (like growing some of our own food, using renewable resources, etc.).

I got into blogging because I was bored after my undergraduate program and would come home from work with little to do. I wanted a hobby and was already doing a lot of reading and reviewing. I had actually started reviewing books in 2010 on Goodreads. After a particularly large book haul from LibraryThing and Goodreads one month, I decided to copy Steph Gorelenore at Cover2CoverBlog, who I had been stalking and had been my introduction to the book blogging community and start my own blog.

I have enjoyed reading for basically my entire life. It’s not the actual reading that I necessarily enjoy, it’s the entire experience. I love stories, whether it’s a history class, a book, a television show, or audiobook. A good story lingers with you and can get you just as excited in remembering it as it did when you first read it. Blogging I have a bit more of a complicated relationship with. I’m not longer just coming home from work with nothing to do…I’m going to graduate school part-time, trying to plan a wedding, workout…basically time is always limited and blogging often gets neglected. But when I do get the chance to devote time to it, I enjoy the project of it. Whether it’s planning posts, scheduling things, researching books, websites, publishers, bloggers, figuring out how to market and design…I enjoy these things when I get the opportunity to do so.

I’m not sure I have a theme song. I’ll admit that for the past week I’ve been obsessed with Taylor Swift’s Bad Blood, but who isn’t? I wouldn’t necessarily call that a theme song though…perhaps it’s better to say that any epic soundtrack music is my theme song. I listen to that music all the time.

Diversity to me means differences on all levels. I don’t necessarily believe that diversity should only be considered on the gender, sex, race, or age of the author, but also of its characters, plot, and creativity. It brings to mind the drama involving those in the internet community who rigged the Hugo Award nominations because of their belief that science fiction should only be a certain type of space or science drama. I think when we believe that authors, characters, genres, stories should be of one type even unintentionally, we severely limit creativity and number of new stories we could enjoy.

I’m not good at universal book recommendations, but the book I seem to recommending a lot lately is The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I really enjoyed that book and plan on reading the rest in the series. It’s a good fantasy with pirates…I feel like you can’t go wrong with recommending that book.

I just went through my posts for the past year and I think my favorite post is the one about the “Just in Case Book Habit.” I would say that it is still true that I will carry a book with me most places, just on the off-chance that I will need it.

Part of the whole reason I have such a weird name for a book blog is that I don’t necessarily have a favorite genre. I will enjoy nonfiction as much as fiction sometimes and fantasy and science fiction as much as historical fiction. The list of genres I don’t like are shorter than those I do enjoy.

I am currently reading Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I had a hard time understanding the world at first but now that I do, I am hooked. It’s a book that I am completely sad that I have to go to work and put the book down for. I’m really curious to see how I will feel about it once I have finished it. I’m only a little less than halfway through right now.

After finishing Uprooted, I will be reading Days Like This by Danielle Ellison. I really enjoyed Salt by her, and as she is a local author and friend, I am definitely excited to dive into this one next!

I actually just did a Top Ten Tuesday on my summer TBR, but I think more than just these books, I’m also interested in reading The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black. The title makes me think of Uprooted right now, but I could always do with more Holly Black in my life.

Beyond the survival books and their authors I would want to bring with me while stranded on a deserted island, I would probably want to bring…maybe George R.R. Martin so he can finish A Song of Ice and Fire?

Looking forward to meeting you all!

pj - michelle