Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Bout of Books 20: Update 1

Day 1 of Bout of Books is...well...in the books and we're half way through Day 2. So far, so good on this front. I managed to get in just over an hour of reading yesterday. I spent this morning canning the plethora of beans from the garden, but did squeak in almost and hour and a half so far today.

Last night was the first Twitter chat and it was a blast as usual. I am still always stunned at how fast it goes. I was able to plant myself on the couch and enjoy the chat in full while Gary took over the responsibility for both dinner and the boy. He even delivered wine and chocolate to me on the couch. He's fantastic. 

As usual, I found a new handful of book bloggers to follow on Twitter and a couple of new blogs to follow. There were not as many books added to the TBR as usual, but I have a feeling that the questions at the next chat may lend me to find a larger accumulation.

It's really nice to be back reading. Finding a comfortable schedule for my day is still being adjusted and tweaked, especially since I've spent the last 6 weeks hindered by the cast on my right foot. I'm very much looking forward to its removal on Thursday and the increased mobility and efficiency that will allow. While I enjoy hanging out on the couch, it has not been ideal to getting things done during the day.

Adding daily reading into the routine has gone pretty well so far. Hopefully, I can still keep a small section of time for it on a regular basis.

As far as the read-a-thon goes, here's the current progress:

Currently Reading:

Completed Books:

This one got a 4-star review and surprised me a bit. It wasn't what I was initially expecting, but it turned out quite well. It's definitely one to recommend.

Completed Books with Brecken:

Overall Stats:

The checkmarks are accumulating. We're looking pretty good and I'm pleased with the progress so far. I love watching the little boxes fill up!

Are you joining in for Bout of Books? If you read at all it's for you! Trust me...this is one of the best around. A lot of fun participants and a no-pressure read-a-thon that embraces readers of all kinds.

Read on!

Monday, August 21, 2017

Bout of Books 20: The Starting Line

Happy Eclipse Monday everyone! It's cloudy up here and we're nowhere near the zone of totality, so we just watched the eclipse on TV. Definitely something interesting, but wouldn't have been worth the 250 mile drive for us. Guess we'll just have to see what happens in 2024.

I'm getting ready to fire up my reading for Bout of Books. I'm not as prepared as usual...for some reason I had issues remembering that yesterday was Sunday. I failed to do my grocery shopping, so my snack options are just meh. Hopefully I can rectify that before the weekend so I can do this right with some of the usual spread.

For those of you not familiar with Bout of Books...
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 21st and runs through Sunday, August 27th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 20 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
I've participated in seven Bout of Books read-a-thons. This is my eighth. It's one of my favorite read-a-thons to take part in.

Here's the plan...

Read-a-Thon Goals

1. Read every day.
2. Read for a total of at least 400 minutes.
3. Read at least 350 pages.
4. Complete at least 2 books.
5. Read at least 10 books with Brecken.
6. Participate in at least one Twitter chat.
7. Complete at least 2 Mini-Challenges.

I'm keeping track of my progress via my Excel spreadsheet and then I'll be posting it on the blog using my newly revamped Goal Tracker.

As far as what I'm reading...I have a loose idea of my TBR pile. Here's what's currently in the stack...

I'm a little over halfway finished with The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore. I'm quite liking it. It's something of modern day retelling of Romeo and Juliet in a fantasy setting. I wasn't sure about it at first, but it's keeping my attention very well. There is high promise for a great rating.

Are you participating in Bout of Books? I'm looking forward to this evening's Twitter chat. It's always crazy, but a great time and I typically wind up with a pile of books to add to the burgeoning TBR.

 But for now, it's time to open up the spreadsheet and get this train rolling. It's time to read!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Time for a Revival

Alright. So it appears that you are all in agreement. Keep the name, embrace the change, and soldier on. I'm cool with that and very much appreciate the input. Good to know I have some people in my corner.

And so...we're moving forward. I'm going to start by cleaning the blog house. It's time to dust off a few menus, clean up some challenges, and make things up to date again. Cleaning out the cobwebs and remembering the things that inspire me should help get a jump start going on this thing.

Also, what better to get back in the swing of things than a read-a-thon?

Bout of Books

Yaaaaaassss. Bout of Books 20...that's right TWENTY...starts on Monday. (Also...sidenote in case you've been living in a hole, Monday is eclipse day. Where I live, we will see about 78% and the best viewing time is at around 1pm.)

Bout of Books is one of my favorite read-a-thons. It's all week long, almost all of my favorite book bloggers participate, there are fantastic Twitter chats, and it's totally low pressure.
The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 21st and runs through Sunday, August 27th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 20 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team
I'm looking forward to getting in a little reading. I had been in quite the slump, but finally got back to getting some book time over the last couple of weeks. It feels really good to be able to finish a book now and then. Hopefully I can do a little bit of catch up on my reading goal for the year since I'm TWENTY-SIX books behind. So embarrassing. Apparently my goal was a little lofty this year. Oh well...we'll see if I can make that number a little less dramatic.

Thank you very much to all of you who gave input on what to do with my blogging crossroads. It's always nice to get the opinions of those who can see things from the outside. EPJ will continue to exist and evolve.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Winds of Change?

I've been blogging for over ten years. In fact, looking back...it seems that it's been nearly twelve. EPJ itself began to take shape in the fall of 2009. That seems like so incredibly long ago. Since then I've written over 650 posts on everything from scrapbooking to recipes to book reviews with a few crazy pumpkin posts thrown in for good measure (and good blog growth).

But in the last two years, things have changed so incredibly much for me. Life is nothing like it was. And, in most ways, that has turned out to be a very good thing. However, in blogging terms it apparently is not. Because I have stagnated. I've been stuck. I haven't written much, haven't crafted much, and I feel a bit lost.

Why? Well...because I'm not sure that the blog is still meant to be the same. With as much as life has changed, it seems only right that what I write about should change (or at least shift) as well. And I think perhaps I've feared that making that shift under the same old Erratic Project Junkie heading would just seem awkward to those reading.

My days are filled with different things. My projects are of a different nature. And I feel like maybe the EPJ name is keeping me feeling a bit more constricted than I should be.

I still enjoy writing about books. I still enjoy sharing projects -- though there is now likely to be an even greater hodgepodge with the addition of farming and homesteading activities. And I still think I would enjoy sharing pieces of my every day life...though not in a way that would turn this into something more accurately identifiable as a mommy blog.

And so now I have a question to pose...

What would you like to see from me? Should I take the blog in a new direction and leave things labelled with EPJ? Should I relocate everything over to the farm blog even though not everything relates to farming? Should I start a separate blog for books and those other non-farming things and abandon EPJ altogether?

It's a crossroads. And I need a bit of guidance. Feel free to be blunt and be honest. Help me make this transition and get back into writing without feeling like things are so ridiculously awkward. It's time to get back in the saddle somehow.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

2016 Book of the Year: We Have a Winner!

Ah...we've finally made it to the final round. It will be nice to get this finished. However, it does mean that now I'm going to have to start thinking about what posts will be coming up next. Time to dust off the blog planner and figure this stuff out. It also could mean breaking out the sewing machine for the first time in over a year. It's exciting, but also mildly daunting.

As we get ready to settle into the heavy competition, here's a reminder of where we left off last time.

It's the Pulitzer winning The Shipping News by Annie Proulx versus the young adult fiction novel Since You've Been Gone by prior BOTY winner Morgan Matson.


I will admit, this was a rather difficult decision. It, like the competition between Since You've Been Gone and Arcadia, was very head to head. I know it seems odd to say that when the books are from two very different genres and intended for relatively different audiences, but I liked both books in different ways. (Good grief, how many times can I say "different"?)

The Shipping News took a short while to get me interested and I wasn't entirely sure if I was going to enjoy the characters at first. However, it quickly wrapped me up and I truly loved it. It was a good read from both a storyline perspective and a literary analysis standpoint. Annie Proulx is very talented. Her writing is smart and laden with impressive style and technique. Her characters are unique and well-rounded. Put very simply, the book works.

I went into Since You've Been Gone with high hopes as I had truly adored Matson's prior book, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. Any dedicated reader will recognize that this tendency is a dangerous situation. Sometimes this leads me to great disaster. In the end, it's not quite up to the status of Amy & Roger, but the book is still pretty great. I love her tendency to create playlists in her novels and I particularly enjoy her eclectic music selections. The plot is cute and smart, but the one semi-serious downfall was a fairly predictable ending.  Though I appreciate the happy, somewhat overly perfect ending approach in it's attempt to make readers happy, it sometimes just becomes...a bit boring. I tried not to let it bother me, but it did prevent the book from getting five stars.

I realize after writing the prior paragraphs that I tend to be highly critical of the books I enjoy the most. Interesting. I continue to learn things about my own reading habits the more I do this. 

I waffled back and forth on my decision quite a bit and this was one of those times, yet again, where it could have truly gone either way. Looking back at the bracket, sometimes I doubt my ultimate decision and think things should have swayed the other direction. So...clearly both books are actually winners in some grand sense of things. 

However, for the purposes of this exercise, I have to sacrifice a good read. So...I'm truly sorry to say that The Shipping News fell a bit short. I just love Matson's characters and her bubbly style too much, I guess. In the end, we end up with our first ever repeat winner. Morgan Matson takes the 2016 Book of the Year with her novel, Since You've Been Gone.

It faced some pretty good competition along the way, but Matson comes out on top again. I'm pretty stoked that we have a repeat winner. Though I will admit, I kind of like it when something of a dark horse tends to make it really far in the challenge. Let's face it though, that was something of the situation here. A children's book and a play both made it to the Final Four. Unheard of. It was a bit of a fun and surprising elimination bracket. And I suppose that's why I find this tradition so much fun. You really never can tell what will happen when you randomly pit these books against one another. A different roll of the dice for initial bracket setup and we could have had a different winner...you never know.
It was an interesting year of reads; definitely one that was unique when compared to past challenges. I look forward to seeing where my 2017 reads will take me. What was your favorite read from last year? What is your favorite thus far this year? What should I be adding to the top of my TBR that could take next year's bracket? I'm ready for some unique and interesting reads.

Interested in past winners? Check them out (and their competition) below...

2011 Book of the Year  : The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson
2012 Book of the Year  : Let's Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
2013 Book of the Year  : Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher
2014 Book of the Year  : Amy & Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson
2015 Book of the Year : The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins

Friday, June 16, 2017

2016 Book of the Year: The Finals

Let's get this show back on the road, shall we?

Normally, we all know my favorite book from the year before by the end of February. Obviously, we are slightly behind schedule. But...all is not lost. We will persevere and...by darn...we will know my favorite book by the end of June.

Since it's been a terribly long and pathetic amount of time, your memory is likely (like mine) to be a bit rusty in remembering where we were in this process. For those of you who haven't been around for Book of the Year (BOTY) before, it works like this:

Book of the Year is a bracket style elimination wherein I enter all of the books I read the year before in a randomized fashion and then pit them against each other to determine my favorite book of the year. The size of the bracket is dependent upon how many books I read in the year prior. If there are more books than a standardized bracket, then the lowest rated books are eliminated before we even begin. Once the competition begins, those books that were rated higher in my original ratings automatically beat their opponents. Opponents with the same rating get to duke it out based on my personal feelings towards each book. Sometimes I know the winner going in to the process, sometimes even I am surprised at who comes out on top. 

Got it? Okay, let's move on...

This is where we left things after we eliminated down to the Final Four.

It's an eclectic bunch. We have a children's book, a fiction novel by an award winning novelist, a young adult fiction novel, and a play. This is the first time in BOTY history when either a children's book or a play have made it this far in the process. 

Now...depending on what you're looking to read, all four of these books are worth your attention. But...as always, only one can be the winner. So, let's get eliminating.

We only have to rounds this time: the left bracket and the right bracket.

The Left Bracket:


Porko von Popbutton is a Canadian children's book that was written in the 1960s and is admittedly not what would be considered politically correct by today's standards. But it's colorful and it's fun and it is part of a series based on the seven deadly sins. This one is gluttony. Plus, there's hockey. What's not to love? It's out of print and difficult to find, though Amazon has made life so much easier for these sorts of things.

The Shipping News, interestingly enough, has a plot largely based in Canada (though it is written by American author Annie Proulx). It was a New York Times bestseller and won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1994. Obviously it has seen high praise. I read this one for a literature class and wound up writing a terribly long term paper on it, so I obviously read and scrutinized it in depth. It's creative and quirky, with lots of hidden meanings and literary effects. It's incredibly well-written.

I would like to say that the underdog took the day in this one, simply because...how cool would it be for a children's book to make it to the finals? But, that's not to be. It just couldn't. The Shipping News is an incredibly good book and one that is on my reread list for the future. That doesn't happen often. And I got an A on that term paper, so obviously I know my stuff when it comes to this book. 😉

Winner for the left side of the bracket and first entry into the finals for 2016 Book of the Year...

The Right Bracket:


Since You've Been Gone is a young adult fiction novel written by Morgan Matson, winner of the 2014 Book of the Year with her novel, Amy & Roger's Epic Detour. Admittedly, this one did not give me all the feels that Amy & Roger did, hence its four-star rating compared to Amy & Roger's five. But, it's still adorable and lovely. Morgan Matson is a fantastic author and for lovers of young adult fiction, this one is a must read.

Arcadia is a play by Tom Stoppard and also received four stars on initial rating. I also read this one for the aforementioned literature class. Now, I am not typically a fan of plays. I do not seek them out and I very rarely read them unless they are part of an assignment. But...wow. Seriously. Arcadia is masterfully written and has a fantastic premise wherein the entire play takes place in the same room, but in two separate time periods 100 years apart. And yet...they aren't entirely separate. It's really quite good. Like The Shipping News, this one goes on the reread list. Serious props to my professor for her choices here.  

This match-up was my most difficult decision to this point in the bracket. I waffled back and forth several times on my selection for the winner. In fact, when I sat down to write this post today, I couldn't recall who the winner was. I guessed...and I was wrong. So, really it was anyone's game here. You can't go wrong with either. But if I've said it before, I've said it a thousand times. There can only be one winner. And the show must go on. Decisions must be made. Losses must be cut.

So...the winner of the right side bracket, by less than a hair's breadth...

It always gets painful at some point in these eliminations. And this, my friends, is where it happened this year. Though I admit that the early competition of Binge and Pirate at the Party was also a tough one. The lower right bracket was full of good reads.

So...here is where we now stand:

Only one more round to go, my friends. And then it's winner, winner, chicken dinner. We will finally have my 2016 Book of the Year.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Return to the Land of the Blogging...

Hey! Did you miss me? I've been slogging through the world of no sleep, late nights, and a new super cute snuggle buddy.

Those of you who follow me on Instagram or Facebook have already been somewhat inundated with pictures of this adorable little guy. But...for those of you who don't, here's an introduction.

Brecken Stephen was born a day before his due date on March 15th. He came into the world via an unplanned C-section after 15 hours of labor. Due to some issues with regulating his temperature and sugar levels, he was life-flighted to Children's Hospital in Fargo where he spent 5 days in the NICU. It was a fairly traumatic experience, but we were very lucky. Our little guy is a good and strong fighter and he was able to come home relatively quickly.

Since he's been home, he's put on weight like a champ. At 11 weeks old, he now weighs about 13 lbs. and is in the middle of the pack at a length of 23 1/4". As was the issue with his birth, he still sports a relatively monster noggin. He ranks in the 98th percentile for head circumference at a nice 16.5". But...studies have shown that kiddos with big heads end up being relatively smarter, so we'll take it. 

He's a fantastic baby and a very happy kid. We love him to bits. He keeps a pretty regular schedule, is a great traveler, and is growing a little personality all his own. He's a wonderful adventure.

Now that we've gotten ourselves fairly settled in and we've developed a good daily routine, I'm ready to get back in the swing of things. Before I disappeared, we were working on discovering my 2016 Book of the Year. We'll be finishing that off before moving on to other things. I'll continue to blog here about family life, crafts, and books.

However, I'm also starting a new adventure. We're growing our farm. The second blog that I mentioned a few months ago is under construction along with a website. The website is live and growing every day. I hope to get it and the farm blog fully functional within the next two weeks. I'm planning to try and blog here about twice a week and once over on the farm page. Stories about our farm and homesteading adventures, our animals, and other home projects will be featured over there. I'd love if some of you would like to join me. You can find us at Crooked Tree Ranch. Pay us a visit and stay tuned for some pretty great things.

Thanks for being such patient readers and supporters. I'm looking forward to this new chapter and exploring all of the possibilities that this new life is affording me. It's a pretty fantastic ride so far. I hope you'll be able to enjoy some of it with me. It's good to be back.

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