Why I Love Goodreads

If you've stumbled across my blog, chances are you're an avid reader.  You probably also already have a Goodreads account.  (I can be found here, if you'd like to be friends.)  If you do have an account, you may be thinking, "Why am I reading this post?  I know Goodreads is a cool website."  And I get that.  The thing is, we all have our reasons for loving Goodreads.  Today I want to share some of mine.

If you've ever struggled with finding books to add to your "To Read" list, Goodreads is the perfect resource.  If you're like me, though, you probably rarely have trouble finding tons of books to add to that list.  But, once in a while, I fall into a reading slump.  Maybe I just haven't been picking great books lately.  Or maybe the opposite is true -- I just read an amazing book and I'm finding it difficult to want to move on.  Regardless of the reason, I tend to get out of a reading slump by searching Goodreads and adding books to my "To Read" list that I can get excited about.

One of my favorite ways to search for books on Goodreads is via the "lists" option under the "browse" tab.  There are literally lists for everything.  I use the lists most often when I'm searching for books to satisfy reading challenge categories, but sometimes I also use them when I'm in the mood to read about a specific topic.

Goodreads is also a great resource for finding books you may like based on your reading preferences and ratings.  I've found quite a few books by taking a couple of minutes to click through my recommendations (and they're usually pretty spot on).

In addition to simply finding books to read, Goodreads also makes it easy to organize these books.  A lot of people have tons of shelves.  I don't.  Sometimes I think I'd like to have a more elaborate system for organizing my books on Goodreads, but, for now, this works for me.  Each year I create a new shelf for my personal reading goal.  (For example, this year's shelf is labeled "my 2018 70 book challenge.")  I add books only as I begin to read them, and can then easily keep track of how many books I've read for the year as well as how quickly/slowly I finish them and my overall rating.  My only other shelves are for the book challenges I'm participating in.  Again, it just makes it easy to see my progress in each challenge.

And, speaking of challenges, there are tons of groups available on Goodreads for book/reading challenges (as well as for a wide variety of other book-related things).  Some groups are obviously more active than others, but I've enjoyed participating in the groups I'm involved in.  I'm also planning to join a few more over time because I don't think I utilize this area of the website enough.

Another area of Goodreads that I haven't utilized to its full potential is the "creative writing" section under the "community" tab.  So why am I adding it to my reasons for loving Goodreads?  Because I love that it's available.  It's a really cool resource for people who want to share their writing, and maybe one day I'll feel like sharing some of mine.  It's nice to know it will be there if/when I'm ready.

One of the coolest features of Goodreads is the fact that many published authors are part of the community.  It's always interesting to see what questions readers have about a book and what answers the author has for them.  As with music, I often prefer to create my own interpretation if there is any ambiguity, but I also appreciate knowing what the musician or author actually had in mind.

But my favorite thing about Goodreads is that it truly acts as a community.  You can see what your friends are reading and what they thought of a book.  You can read short and simple or incredibly in-depth reviews.  You can join groups to participate in challenges, expand your horizons, or simply make new book loving friends.  You can share your own work and offer helpful tips or praise for those brave enough to post what they've been working on.  You can discuss books with other readers or with the authors themselves.

Put simply, Goodreads is an amazing resource for book lovers.

Now it's your turn: what do you love about Goodreads?  Or, if Goodreads isn't your thing, why don't you like it?  (And what bookish site(s) do you prefer?)

Things I Don't Share On My Blog

Since I started The Book Life, I've been thinking a lot about what I want out of this blog.  When I stopped blogging for a year I realized I missed a lot of things about it, and the reasons I had for blogging in the first place became much clearer.

I've also been thinking a lot about what I don't want to do when it comes to blogging ... And those thoughts inspired this post.

I won't say I'll never share any of these things here because I've been known to change my mind about things.  (Even big things!)  But, as of right now, these are a few of the things I won't be sharing on my blog:

- My last name.

It's a privacy thing.  The only two people I know in real life who currently know about this blog are my husband, Eric, and my mom.  That's it.  So I really wouldn't want someone I knew stumbling upon it because they Googled my name.  (Though why they'd be Googling my name, I don't know.)  And, in general, I'm just not comfortable putting it out there.  Maybe one day, but not right now.

- My hometown.

Again, it's a privacy thing.  If I'd grown up in a large city, it might be different ... But I didn't.  I grew up in a small suburban town.  And if you know where to start, it's not that difficult to find tons of information about someone online.  That kind of creeps me out, so I don't share it.

- How much money Eric and I make.

Honestly?  I just feel like that's nobody's business.  I'm comfortable saying that we're comfortable (not rich, not poor), but I'm not comfortable giving specifics.  And, really, who needs to know this anyway?

- Specific financial goals.

This kind of goes along with disclosing our household income.  I'm happy to tell you that I'm aggressively saving money this year.  I'm just not comfortable writing something like, "In 2018 I plan to save $x" on my blog.  I don't know why ... It just doesn't feel right to me. 

- Certain personal goals.

This is obviously similar to the financial goals, but it's much more general.  There are a couple of things in particular that I've been talking to some of my friends and family about, but I'm not ready to disclose them online.  Of all the things I've listed, these are the things I'm most likely to share eventually.

I'm sure a lot of bloggers wouldn't disclose some (or all) of these things, but I also know that there are probably just as many who do.  It all comes down to what you're comfortable sharing.  

If you're a blogger (or even if you just love posting on social media), what things do you try to keep private?

Bookish Goals for 2018

I posted some of my more general goals for 2018 earlier this month, but only one of those was book-related.  Since this week's Top Ten Tuesday topic is Bookish Resolutions/Goals, I've decided to share my more specific, book-related goals for the year.

- Set a reading goal of 70 books.

This is a repeat from my previous post, but it's a book-related goal and therefore belongs here as well.

- Set smaller monthly reading goals.

Breaking that big number down makes it seem much more doable.  Monthly reading goals also keep me on track.

- Track my reading using my planner.

I have a specific place in my planner to write down what I'm currently reading, what page I'm on out of the total number of pages, and how many pages I read each day.  At the end of the week, I tally the total number of books completed and total number of pages read.  Yes, this is totally nerdy, but I like being able to see my progress.  And, honestly, I'm tracking a lot of things this year ... So why not track my reading as well?

- Read at least half of the books on my 10 Books I Meant to Read in 2017 But Didn't list.

I'd obviously love to check all ten of these books off my list, but I think reading at least five of them is a more realistic goal.  If I read all ten, great ... But I know there are always going to be other books out there that capture my interest more than any of these, and I'll probably prioritize those books instead.

- Complete Erin's latest reading challenge and read at least five books for the bonus round.

I usually finish Erin's reading challenges (though not always), but I feel like I should really push to not only finish this one, but also participate in the bonus round because the categories worked so well with my "To Read" list.  I usually have trouble finding books I want to read for at least a couple of categories, but not this time!

- Complete at least 50% of the 2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge.

I love reading challenges, but I also love reading books simply because I'm in the mood to read them.  For this reason, I'm not going to commit to reading a book for all forty categories (or fifty, if you count the "Advanced" section).  Twenty books, though ... Sure, why not?  There are at least twenty categories I could easily satisfy by using books on my "To Read" list.

- Read only YA for an entire month.

This is probably a really easy goal for a lot of people, but not for me.  I've mentioned before that YA can be pretty hit or miss for me, so it's not a genre I always go for.  However, I've noticed that more and more YA books are making their way on to my "To Read" list ... So I'm going to give them a little extra love this year.

- Join NetGalley.

I've been saying that I should join NetGalley for at least a couple of years, but I just never have.  I definitely prefer reading physical books, but I think I've been using my Kindle enough lately to make good use of this site.

- Read at least one book by the following authors: Dean Bakopoulos, Taylor Jenkins Reid, Tana French, Patrick Ness, and Nickolas Butler.

These are all new to me authors with multiple books on my "To Read" list.  There are a few others that could have made this list as well, but I thought five was a reasonable (and doable!) amount.

- Make notes as I finish each book to use in my reviews.

I've been doing this since the start of the year and plan to continue.  I usually write book reviews in one post (used for Jana and Steph's Show Us Your Books link-up each month), so I need to have some notes available as I'm writing that post to ensure I'm giving an adequate review.  I don't always feel like writing my reviews immediately after finishing a book, so these notes are a lifesaver.

I think these goals sound like a lot, but they also actually seem doable.  I'll plan to post a mid-year and end of the year update on these to share where I'm at.

Linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for Top Ten Tuesday!  Also, if we're not friends on Goodreads, we should be.  I love checking out what others are reading and recommending!

Our Experience at Tickets in Barcelona

Since I wasn't blogging last year, I could only share bits of our November anniversary trip to Barcelona on Instagram.  I'm hoping to eventually cover a few more experiences from this trip (as well as some of our previous trips elsewhere) on this blog.

Today I'll be discussing our experience at Tickets.  If you're not familiar with Tickets, it's a Michelin-star tapas bar that focuses on creative, whimsical dishes in a fun atmosphere.  Eric and I first heard of the restaurant when it popped up on The World's 50 Best Restaurants of 2016.  (It also appeared on another, similar list in 2017.)  After reading about it, we knew we had to get reservations!  We were already planning on Barcelona for 2017, so Tickets made it to the top of our "To Do" list.

I'm not going to lie -- getting a reservation at Tickets is just as difficult as online reviewers claim it is.  I obsessively checked their website for months in an effort to figure out the best way to go about it.  There always seemed to be a couple of available tables, but they were always for larger parties.  (And they don't allow you to reserve a table for two if, say, a table for eight is the only available reservation.)  Obviously that wasn't going to work for us.

I knew that reservations are required two months in advance, and that reservations open at midnight ... But every time I checked the website around midnight, I still always saw tables available for larger parties and nothing for two people.

Thank God for TripAdvisor!  Someone posted that the secret is to change the time zone on your phone/tablet/computer (whatever you're using to make reservations) to Barcelona, and then at midnight their time the website should update to allow for reservations two months from that date.  And, oddly enough, that little trick worked!

After the initial excitement of securing a reservation, we then had to wait two months to enjoy our anniversary dinner at Tickets.  It was definitely worth the wait!

At Tickets, you're given two options: you can either order off the menu or your server can select the food for you, surprising you with each dish.  We chose to be surprised.  (Though we did still select our main course, which was shared.)  They make sure you don't have any food allergies, are open to eating raw foods, etc., and then they literally keep bringing you food until you ask them to stop.

The "olives" are one of their most famous tapas.  (I say "olives" because they aren't actually olives.) They have the consistency of Gushers, in that they explode in your mouth with olive flavored goodness.

These were like little crispy sandwiches filled with pancetta and delicious Iberian ham, or jamón ibérico (which is, as I learned on this trip, my absolute favorite type of pork product).  We were instructed to eat the end dipped in paprika last.

These are exactly what they appear to be: prawns with the head on.  The body was delicious, but Eric and I both didn't enjoy sucking the heads.  That's supposed to be the best part, but honestly?  It had the consistency of a booger.  Not for us.

This is an oyster filled with caviar.  Neither of us had ever tried oysters before (shocking, since we both love raw seafood), and this was incredible.  I probably could have eaten twelve of these.

This is tuna belly with a side of apple flavored jelly.  The jelly was to be consumed after the tuna.

This is their take on nigiri.  I'm not sure exactly what was in this, but I remember it had a delicious smoky flavor that I loved.

This is Wagyu beef tartare (yes, we ate raw beef) on a potato puff.  This was one of my favorite tapas of the evening.

These are their famous "mini airbags."  The puff is filled with manchego cheese foam, and topped with more manchego cheese, hazelnut dust, and caviar.  I was most excited to try these, and they're a classic Tickets dish for a reason!

These are "airbaguettes," which, as the name suggests, are light and crispy and delicious.

I didn't get the best picture of this (you can see my hand in the bottom left corner), but it was still one of the most beautifully presented (and delicious!) tapas of the night.  This is woven avocado filled with crab and chipotle mayonnaise and topped with chia seeds.  Yum!

And, speaking of gorgeous presentation, here we have the Nordic Landscape.  This had bits of beef, pickled onions, and smoked cheese on top of a crispy wafer dusted with vinegar powder.  It was almost too pretty to eat, but the taste was just as amazing!

These are razor clams with a lemon dipping sauce.  The clams were delicious, and the sauce was so good that I wanted to drink it.

This is foie gras roasted with smoked eel in the center and served with some crispy bread.  They slice it at your table, and, after eating it, I wanted to say, "Could you please come back and slice off some more for us?"  I'm a fan of foie gras anyway, but this was the best I've ever had.

After that, we asked them to stop bringing the tapas so we could get our main dish.  This is quail stuffed with eggplant, cilantro, and quail eggs with a vegetable sauce.  They cut it up at our table (after it had already been cooked!), which I thought was a neat touch.  I think we chose the right entrée, because it was not only delicious but also the perfect amount of food after all those tapas (and the desserts to come).

Once the main part of the meal is over, a server will ask you to follow them.  You want to do this.  They lead you back to another room specifically for dessert.  There are berries hanging from the ceiling, and monitors playing scenes from Willy Wonka on one wall in the dessert room.

And, like the tapas at the beginning of the meal, the desserts keep coming until you say stop.

Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture of this until after we'd already eaten the dessert, but this is a real rose that once held a lychee, raspberry, and rosewater gelatin sphere.  These were handed to us as we entered the dessert room.

I'm going to be honest ... I don't remember what this is.  I know they torched it in front of us, and it was light and airy and tasty ... But that's about it.

These are mini pumpkins filled with mandarin orange and pumpkin sorbet with toasted pumpkin seeds on top.  The perfect fall dessert!

This is the famous Tickets cheesecake.  It's not a cheesecake in the traditional sense, but it was creamy and delicious.  

This was my second favorite dessert of the evening: a hazelnut and chocolate torte.

Our final dessert was also my favorite: chocolate cookies with coconut, basil, and passion fruit.  These were so good, and the perfect way to end an amazing meal!

This experience was one of our favorites in Barcelona.  Eric and I are both self-proclaimed foodies, so a place like this was the perfect way to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary.

It is rather expensive (we spent nearly $400 with the entire meal and two bottles of wine), but it's well worth it.  The food was both delicious and beautiful, and we had an opportunity to try a few things we'd never had before (like the razor clams).

If you're planning a trip to Barcelona and consider yourself an adventurous eater, I highly recommend visiting Tickets.  You won't be disappointed!

Three on Thursday: Things I Can't Get Enough Of

Stephanie has been doing these Three on Thursday posts for a while now, and I love the idea behind them.  If I'd been blogging last year, I probably would have posted quite a few of these.  It's a great way to share a few things I'm loving right now, and (hopefully) inspire others to check them out as well.

1.) "Disillusioned" by A Perfect Circle

It was a happy accident that I stumbled across this on Spotify last week.  I used to be so on top of new releases by bands and artists I love, but I haven't kept up with it as well in recent years.  When this popped up, my exact reaction was, "Holy shit!"  I may have even squealed a little like the silly Maynard James Keenan fangirl I am.  And this song ... So beautiful.  Maynard's commentary on the current state of the world usually isn't uplifting (Tool's "Ænima" is a perfect example), but "Disillusioned" is just that ... And that's something I think many of us need right now.  But don't just take my word for it.  You can listen to the song below.

2.) Apple Airpods

I got these for Christmas from my mom, and they are awesome!  I've been looking for a nice pair of wireless headphones for a while, but I wasn't a fan of the ones with really large earpieces or the ones that still had a wire running between the two earbuds.  When I saw these, I knew I had to try them ...  And they're everything I hoped for and more!  I was worried they wouldn't stay in my ears very well (this seems to be a common problem for me), but they actually stay put even if I'm jogging or bending over/moving around a lot while doing things at home.  And, not only do they stay in place, but they're comfortable to wear ... I forget I have them in sometimes.  The sound quality is even better than I expected, and the Bluetooth range seems to be really good.  I haven't gone really far with them in, but they've worked everywhere I needed them to.  If you're on the fence about these, I say go ahead and buy them.

3.) Spotify Premium

I initially didn't plan for this post to be all about music, but that's the direction it took.  I love music to a ridiculous degree, so I'm sure more music-related recommendations will appear in future posts.  Since I love music so much, it may surprise you that I just recently opted to upgrade to Spotify Premium.  (Well, I had it once for a month long free trial, but that was in 2014.)  I got a great deal on it, though, so I couldn't resist!  I was offered 3 months for $9.99 (plus tax), and, because I used my Capital One Quiksilver card, I got 50% off that ... So I got 3 months for a little over $5!  I'll probably keep the subscription once the special runs out, though, because I feel like I'm using it a lot more.  It's nice to be able to download my playlists for times when I'm offline (like on flights), and I love not having ads.  It's worth it to me.