Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Sunday Salon: Reading, Challenges, & More

Happy Sunday, everyone! It's hard to believe another weekend is winding down and another work-week is getting ready to start! It may be even more difficult to believe that we are already in the month of March!

Do any of you set your annual Reading Challenge over at Goodreads? Last year, I got into the reading swing a little late in the game and just missed my goal of 100 books read with 91 completed in 2012. So, this year I decided to set the same goal -- 100 books read by the end of the year. If January and February are any indication of how the rest of the year will go, I should well exceed that goal! But I don't want to get TOO ahead of myself... Here's where I am as we begin March:

Now admittedly, I fully expect March and April to be slower reading months because of some other commitments I have lined up. So it may be that getting off to such a fast start is what I needed to do to reach 100 books this year. Time will tell.

In other "Challenges News," I have signed up to participate in the "Take Control of your TBR Pile" Challenge that takes place all month.  That is actually what I am trying to do all year, with a few new releases thrown in for series that I am keeping up with. But this month, I'm taking it a step further than the challenge, because my goal is to only read books that I've had listed on my TBR lists over at Goodreads (books owned and eBooks owned). We'll see how many I can get through -- should be interesting since I'm not expecting to have a heavy reading month. But even if I read just a handful of books this month, if every book is a TBR book, I will be happy!

Two other bookish challenges that should also appeal to all you Photo-A-Day challenge junkies are the book-themed Photo A Day Challenges that are being hosted at The Estella Society (#EstellaGram) and Book Soulmates (#BSMPhotoaday). Be sure to check it out and join in the fun -- it's okay to start late -- using the indicated hashtags to tag your photos. I already participate in the Fat Mum Slim Photo A Day Challenge, so we will see if I can keep up with THREE this month!

If you haven't dropped by the blog lately (for those of you reading this via a feed reader), I did a lot of Spring Cleaning a couple of weeks ago. I hated my sidebars -- they just seemed junky and not very useful. Now, I still have plenty going on in those sidebars, but I find them to be MUCH more functional and better-looking (but that could just be me). Here's what I decided to do to spruce things up:
  • I moved my Blogroll and Blog buttons to a page that you can link to from the top navigation bar, conveniently titled "BLOGROLL." With buttons of all shapes and sizes, it's tough to make that page pretty, but I've been working on it. :-)
  • I got rid of the label cloud. I loved it in the beginning but hated it over time. Instead I created "buttons" that link to labels that I felt were the most important, ie. genres and paranormal character types (vampires, werewolves, etc.) since I read a lot of Paranormal books. I also left a short list of other useful labels to navigate my posts. And for the heck of it, I linked up my daily themed posts (Sunday Salon, Teaser Tuesdays, etc.) with images in the sidebar, as well.
  • Now, everything in the right sidebar is devoted to navigating my blog, seeing what I'm reading and how I'm doing in my challenges, along with any important posts I want to highlight. Nearly everything in the left sidebar is related to me: my grab button, social networking, my favorite series graphics. I did keep my blog archive over there just to have some kind of navigation from that side, haha.
  • If you haven't been able to tell, I have become obsessed with Goodreads this year. I am in love with cataloging my books over there, no joke! I don't go crazy with labeling/shelving -- in fact, beyond designating TBR books, I only use the default "to read," "currently reading," and "read" labels. One of my favorite widgets I found to go in my sidebar is the one that displays a shelf of your choice. Hello, "Currently Reading"! Now instead of manually updating a picture of a book cover in the sidebar, I am letting Goodreads do all the work. (Don't tell me how behind the times I am, LOL. But for me, it was life-changing!)
  • One other thing I did... I learned how to add "infinite scroll" to my blog... No more "Older Posts" and "Newer Posts" links! Personally, I hated those, so I hope all of you who visit are pleased by the change!
I'm now in the process of changing up the look & feel of my review posts and other posts. For awhile, I was copying/pasting the code from Goodreads to my blog posts, but that doesn't really work very well if I want to schedule out posts. It rather defeats the purpose of having a blog if my review is going to be out on Goodreads for all to read long before it shows up here! So I have gone back to something very similar to my old review format, just made it prettier... I find I am loving the "quote" feature in Blogger -- how was I not aware of its awesomeness until just recently?! Somehow I feel like it makes my posts much more "eye-catching" and even more professional-looking, if that makes any sense. That may not be important to you, but it is to me! Something else I discovered and have just started using in my review posts (and may start using with other posts about specific titles): Goodreads has a widget that lets you add a book to your shelves right from my posts! I just set it up with the title I'm reviewing, pop it into my post, and voila! Now, if you aren't using Goodreads, I'm sure you couldn't care less, but I know I love coming across that on other sites when I am reading about new books that I'm interested in... (I told you I've become obsessed with Goodreads!)

All of this work on cleaning up the blog has gone great lengths to re-energizing my blogging. Well, that and Goodreads, and the fact that I no longer pressure myself to review Every. Single. Book. I read, nor do I take up many review books anymore. All of the sudden I have found new life in reading and sharing about it here! I only hope I'm not setting myself up for a crash and burn later this year! ;-)

Well, I ended up rambling along more than I originally planned... If you made it all the way through to this point, here's a virtual cookie for you! Happy Reading and see you next Sunday!


  1. Love the new look of your blog! You really did a great job with it!

  2. Melissa, I like what you've done with the sidebars, especially the buttons linking to categories of posts. Where do you get the great little "favorite series" icons? I've seen these for individual books, too, and I don't have a clue how to make or where to find them. I love Goodreads, too; I joined the Reading Challenge and have widgets for that and for books I'm currently reading in my sidebar. I'll have to check out the "add to your Goodreads shelf" widget -- that's cool.

    Oh, and I'm participating in Kimba's TBR pile read-a-thon, too. I need to make some inroads on my rapidly-growing stacks!

    I invite you to stop by my Sunday Post/Sunday Salon, even though it's now Monday!


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