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Monthly Archives: December 2015

2015 – My Year in Reading and Blogging

2015 books and blogging

At the end of each year, I like to try and sit down and look back at my year in reading and blogging. Two things that I love getting at the end of each year that help me to do this, is the year in blogging report that wordpress sends me and for the first time this year (that I remember), a feature from Goodreads called “see your year in books.” I’m not going to regurgitate everything that is included in those reports, but maybe a few of the key items or funny things that I noticed. But, in the infamous words of Maria Von Trapp, let’s start at the very beginning…

Goals for Reading in 2015
2015 reading challengeOver the last few years, I have set my reading (and listening) goal at 365 books. However, this is the first year that I won’t quite make it – I mean, I’ll come close (right, now i’m sitting at 356 with several books in progress), but won’t quite be there. But at the same time, I’m not planning on adjusting my goal for 2016, because I do think 365 is totally doable.

Of those 356 books, 73 of them were audiobooks (so 20.5% of my total yearly total). Of those, 352 books, the longest one I have marked as finished was The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (which came in 630pgs). The shortest book that I read (or again listened to) was The Interview by Silk Jones at 24pgs. Those 356 books totalled 97,888 pages (ohhh, so close to 100k), with an average of 291pgs per book.

The only book I rated 5 stars in 2015 was The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris (and a well-deserved 5 star it was); but I did have lots of 4 star reads (135 to be exact). I was also more likely to either DNF or rate a book low if I didn’t like it (2 stars seemed to be another fairly common rating on my shelves). I know some people would say, why do you keep reading books if you aren’t enjoying them – sometimes its because they fit a challenge that I am working on; sometimes its for a review and I want to give honest feedback and sometimes, it is just me being stubborn…lol! (ask my mom, she’ll tell you how stubborn I can be). In 2015, I had an average rating of 3.3 out of 5, which is slightly lower than my overall GR average (3.42 avg from 2364 ratings).

Moving From Reading to Blogging
I had a productive year in 2015, with 150 new blog posts (compared to 77 in 2014). My longest blogging streak this year was in March with 9 days, compared to 6 days in 2014. However, even though I had more blog posts during the year, I actually had less overall views for the year (5400, compares to 5700 last year).

monique and the mango rainsOne of the most interesting stats that I came across while looking at my blog stats was the popularity of different blog posts. For the second year in a row, 2 of my top 5 blog posts were ones that I wrote when my blog was relatively young (in 2011 and 2012 respectively). My reviews for 2 peace corps memoirs (The Ponds of Kalambayi and Monique and the Mango Rains were again popular. To me this shows that while I enjoy blogging all the different romances out there, sometime there are more unique books I could consider writing reviews of. Two of my other top 5 posts were my brief blog feature, Featured Author Friday – where I did a Q&A with different authors. I would love to start this back up in 2016 but didn’t get a lot of takers to be featured when I posted previously (oh well, something to consider).

And finally, taking a look at how people found my blog – since I always like to know how all my readers ended up here…for the second year in a row, facebook, twitter and amazon were 3 of my top referrers. I also was excited to see both Barb Drozdowich’s Book Blogger List and Kate Tilton also in my top sources for clicks. I didn’t really start putting my blog out there until late 2014, so seeing that those places do gain you clicks, was nice to see.

Goals for 2016
On the reading front, I’m going to leave my goal at 365 books, so roughly a book a day, but that will also taken into account any audiobooks that I listen to. On the blogging front, I want to try and post at least 200 new posts in 2016 (so 50 more than this year). That might be a bit of a leap, but its doable, I think. But no matter what happens, or how many books I read, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Years. May your 2016 be full of live, love, adventures and of course, great reading!

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2015 in General

 

Wishlist Wednesday – 30 December 15

Wishlist WednesdayWishlist Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Pen to Paper where we post about one book that has been hanging out on our wish list (either for a long time, or not so long)

Over the last few months, I’ve been really bad about staying in the loop on upcoming books that might be interesting to me. Its not for lack of interest, but rather lack of time, so a lot of my recommendations recently have been coming from fellow bloggers and this weeks is no different. I actually came across this weeks Wishlist Wednesday only yesterday, but I did something that I rarely do and pre-ordered it almost immediately (and by that, I mean, as soon as I could click over the Amazon and buy it).

hanging maryHanging Mary – Susan Higginbotham
Release Date: March 1, 2016

Description:
Meet Mary Surratt, the woman who could have saved Lincoln. Find out what stopped her in this vivid reimagining of Lincoln’s assassination

In 1864 Washington, one has to be careful with talk of secession. Better to speak only when in the company of the trustworthy, like Mrs. Surratt. A widow who runs a small boarding house, Mary Surratt isn’t half as committed to the cause as her son, Johnny. If he’s not escorting veiled spies, he’s inviting home men like John Wilkes Booth, the actor who is even more charming in person than he is on the stage. But when President Lincoln is killed, the question of what Mary knew becomes more important than anything else.

Why I can’t wait?
Having not grown up in the US, my knowledge of Lincoln’s assassination was pretty sparse – I mean, everyone knows basically what happened, but I didn’t know who all the other players in the conspiracy were until I went to a presentation at Ford Theatre a couple of years ago. Around the same time, I discovered that I actually lived only about 20 minutes from Samuel Mudd’s house (Mudd was the doctor who treated John Wilkes Booth and was sentenced to prison for it). So this is an area of history that I find interesting. So a story from the perspective of Mary Surratt, the first woman put to death by the US Federal Gov’t for being part of the plot, is right up my alley.

Unfortunately, I have to wait until March to read it…(pouty face)…

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Wishlist Wednesday

 

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The Case of the Traveling Book

hate is such a strong word 1 (1)One of the things I love about communities like Goodreads is how it can bring together people across the world over a simple topic, the love of books – (yes, I’m a dork and gushing…lol). I have made many friends over the years on that website, many of whom I have never met in person (and likely never will) and yet, I feel like I know them. Over the last few years, one of the groups I’m part of (YA Rated MA) has been doing a fun event called the traveling book.

hate is such a strong word 1 (2)The premise is simple, a group member donates a book that they think other members would be interested in reading – normally maybe an ARC of a YA book soon to come, or a book not widely released in the US (since that is where the majority of our members are from) and the book then travels from member to member. At each stop, its read (well, duh) and members are encourages to write notes in the book, highlight passages that really struck home for them (shock, horror if you don’t like writing in books) and sign their name in the front cover and leave a quick note in the back about their overall opinion. Best of all, they each include a postcard from where they live, so when the person who originally donated the book gets it back, there is like a treasure trove of gifts.

Over the last few months, my book donation of Hate is such a Strong Word by Sarah Ayoub has been traveling around the various members of the group and on Saturday, it arrived back home (and yes, there might have been a slight happy dance when I saw it in the mail). Hate is Such A Strong Word is a book that my mom sent me from Australia, written by a Lebanese-Australian author. The story revolves about Sophie, a 12th grader who is in a cultural clash between her Lebanese family and the more modern society she is living in (or so I have gauged from the description, because I haven’t read it yet).

I’m looking forward to reading Hate is Such a Strong Word in the next few weeks and until then, I’m going to enjoy looking through all the different postcards that i got in the package.

hate is such a strong word 1 (3)

 
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Posted by on December 30, 2015 in Reading Events

 

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Review – Reckless – Priscilla West

recklessReckless
Author: Priscilla West
Series: #6 in the Forever series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Review Copy Provided via NetGalley

Description:
Everything about him warned me to stay away.

I’d seen bad boys before, but he had it all and more. The rippling muscles covered in tatts, the piercing eyes hiding dark secrets, the silky voice that could make a girl come with just a whisper . . .

He was exactly the type of guy that would get me in trouble, but when he jumped off the stage, inked skin glistening with sweat and breathed his seductive words into my ear, I couldn’t resist the temptation.

It was supposed to be the best one-night stand of my life, but fate didn’t let it play out that way. Things happened. I got upset. I got hasty. And worst of all, I got reckless.

After that disaster, I thought it was the last I’d see of him. But what I didn’t know was that I’d started something.

Something that could shatter the very thing I had worked so hard to protect.

I should have known back then that the most seductive things in life are also the most dangerous.

Review:
So my initial thoughts on this are a bit of a rant in that I WISH I had seen the this book is a cliff-hanger warning when I selected it to read. (I just went back and looked and is it at the very bottom of the description of the book, and not listed at all on the Goodreads description…) So when I got to the end, my kindle very nearly went flying with fustration (of course, I wouldn’t actually do that to my poor baby, but you guys know what I mean!). So honestly, while I enjoyed the writing, I’m very undecided if i want to continue the story or not…but let’s jump back to the beginning.

I’ll admit that I am a sucker for the bad boy rockstar type romances – they have always been a guilty pleasure for me. I guess it has to do with the idea of them being untouchable and wish fulfillment. I mean, I know personally, if I was to ever even get close to a rock star (say someone like Adam Levine), I would probably turn into a bumbling idiot. So reading about romances with rock stars is like the ultimate wishlist fulfillment.

Priscilla West is a solid writer – I found her style throughout to be engaging and I just wanted to keep reading (which was unfortunately for my level of sleep prior to work the next day). And while there were some angsty spots throughout, they were well-written (although I had to wonder, what if Riley had not been the love-struck 20 something that she was, but more like the sensible accountant that she was touted to be…there were definately a few moments where i wanted to slap her silly (yes, sometimes books make me consider violence – don’t hold that against me).

I gave Reckless 3 stars, although it had been on track to be a 4 star read, until the cliff-hanger ending. I will likely read the follow-up book in the near future, but not sure when.

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2015 in Book Review

 

It’s Monday – What are you reading?

book date its monday

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. It’s a great post to organise yourself. It’s an opportunity to visit and comment, and er… add to that ever growing TBR pile! So welcome in everyone. This meme has had various host over the years and I’ve loved checking in with their different blogs – the newest host is Kathryn and The Book Date. I’m looking forward to following her and participating in this meme again 😉

As the end of 2015 rapidly approaches (am I the only one who finds it insane that 2016 is only 4 days away!), its time to look back at books read and listened. A time to re-evaluate reading and listening goals (2015 is actually the first time in about 6 years I probably won’t make my goal of 365 books and I’m not willing to short sell myself and read a bunch of novellas to get there). A time to think about any reading goals I might have for 2016 (I know reading more diverse fiction is probably going to be one of them). I also know it’s a time to look back at my blogging for the last year, which has been very patchy in places and come up with a plan (or an attempted plan) to try to cover down so that doesn’t happen again. As my mind continues to wander on things I need to think about for 2016, its time to look at what is on my plate for this last week of 2015 and what I read during Christmas week.

Last Week in Reading (and Listening):
career of evilWith my new commute to work that can be anywhere from 2-4 hours round trip a day (although i’ve yet to see close to the 2hr mark, its been more like 3-4hrs), I have had a lot of time to listen to audiobooks (yay!). Last week, I finished listening to both Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling) and Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut. I had enjoyed the previous Galbraith books and Career of Evil was no exception, but I also felt like everything was wrapped up too quickly in the end – almost like the author had reached her page count and just wanted to get it done (looking back, I had similar thoughts about the previous 2 books in the series) and holy cliff-hanger at the end – ugh! As for Slaughterhouse-Five – I felt like I was missing something, it was a classic that just didn’t click with me – not sure why, but on the bright side, its another book off my 50 classics in 5years challenge (that I have been seriously slacking on).

burning brightOn the reading side of the house, I finished Angelfall by Susan Ee, Burning Bright – an anthology of Chanukah romances (see my review here, Call of the Highland Moon by Kendra Leigh Castle and finally, Prism by Faye Kellerman and her daughter, Aliza. I have to say overall, it was kind of a disappointing week of reading. None of the books got over 3.5 stars on my personal rating scale, and several were 2 star reads. Which was kind of a sucky way to tie up the Christmas reading break 😦 Here’s hoping this week will have some better ones!

Currently Reading (and Listening)
My current audiobook listen is AD 33 by Ted Dekker and if i finish that up, then my next one is, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. the Inheritance of Loss will likely become my first audiobook listen of 2015 as well (since I signed up to do a Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day…even though its still like 60 deg by me).

when alpha purrsReading wise, I’m hoping to finish out the year by reading some favorite authors – right now I’m reading Eve Langlais’ When an Alpha Purrs – if you haven’t read Eve she writes comedic erotic romance with a paranormal theme. I am also reading The better angels of our nature by Steven Pinker as my HTTB (hoity toity thinkin book 😉 ). And my on deck pile includes Rosalind James’ Just in Time; Penny Reid’s Scenes from the City and Jennifer Ashley’s A MacKenzie Clan Gathering

I hope everyone has a great reading week and don’t forget to stop by The Book Date and let all of us know what you are reading this week 😉

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in It's Monday! What are you reading?

 

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Review – Anthology – Burning Bright

burning brightTitle: Burning Bright – Four Chanukah Love Stories
Authors: Megan Hart, KK Hendin, Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ½

Description:
This December, take a break from dreidel spinning, gelt winning, and latke eating to experience the joy of Chanukah. When you fall in love during the Festival of Lights, the world burns a whole lot brighter.

It’s definitely not love at first sight for Amanda and her cute but mysterious new neighbor, Ben. Can a Chanukah miracle show them that getting off on the wrong foot doesn’t mean they can’t walk the same road?

Lawyers in love, Shari Cohen and Evan Sonntag are happy together. But in a moment of doubt, he pushes her away—then soon realizes he made a huge mistake. To win her back, it might take something like a Chanukah miracle.

When impulsive interior designer Molly Baker-Stein barges into Jon Adelman’s apartment and his life intent on planning the best Chanukah party their building has ever seen, neither expects that together they just might discover a Home for Chanukah.

All Tamar expected from her Israel vacation was time to hang out with one of her besties and to act like a tourist, cheesy t-shirt and all, in her two favorite cities. She definitely was not expecting to fall for Avi, a handsome soldier who’s more than she ever dreamed.

Review:
Sometimes I love when random books pop up in my feed as recommendations. This year, Burning Bright was one of them that I came across and since it focused on Chanukah, and since I can’t remember ever reading any books with that as a basis, I’m glad i decided to take the plunge. And as always with anthologies, I love discovering new authors – in the case of Burning Bright, the only author I had previously read was Megan Hart.

Burning Bright consisted of 4 stories, all with a different take on Chanukah – although for me, my two favorites were the first one, written by Megan Hart and the last one written by KK Hendin. The other day (at least to me) were only so-so and I didn’t really enjoy them – so i’m going to quickly review my two least favorite ones first, before I talk about my favorite ones. I think i’m going to refer to the Megan Hart and KK Hendin contributions as bookends – i seem to always end up using favorite authors as bookends on my shelves, and it is the case with this anthology 😉

Fundamentally, there was nothing really wrong with the stories by Stacey Agdern, Jennifer Gracen – they were well-written, they just personally didn’t appeal to my reading asthetic. In a Dose of Gelt (Jennifer Gracen), we meet Shari and Evan, both lawyers who work at the same firm and in love. my problem was that I typically struggle with stories where the main couple is already in a relationship with each other – although there are often interesting dynamics, they just leave me feeling empty – I like the newness of figuring out a relationship (even though second chance romances where they couple is NOT together is a favorite trope of mine). That being said, Evan did do some serious grovelling – I just didn’t like the whole premise and how it was executed. The same could be said for A Home for Chanukah (Stacey Agdern) – the premise itself was interesting, but I struggled with the continual head-hopping throughout. It wasn’t just a simple back and forth POV each chapter, but rather multiple times in each chapter – one saving grace was that each POV was labelled, so at least there was that consistency.

My two favorites in the anthology were Miracle (Megan Hart) and All I Got (KK Hardin) – there was something brutally raw about both of these that just drew me to them. in Miracle, we got to experience Ben’s separation from his family and not being in the safety zone that his religion had previously provided – finding himself in a world that is less strict that where he came from. I really enjoyed this one because it was raw and emotional, but at the same time, I learnt some new stuff. And then there was KK Hardin’s contribution, All I Got which probably fell more into the new adult realm, since the main character was engaged in education. But when she falls in love on a trip to Israel (which is also on my bucket list of places i would love to visit one day), she discovered just how small the world truly is.

As always with an anthology, I was left with wanting to potentially read more books by the authors and look forward to good reads in the future. Overall, I gave the anthology 3.5 stars with 2 books getting 4 stars and 2 getting 3.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Merry Christmas!

merry christmas

I hope everyone is having a wonderful Christmas surrounded by family and friends. May your bellies be full (and if needed, sweatpants engaged) and lots of books to read.

 
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Posted by on December 26, 2015 in General

 

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