Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: My 2019 Favorites!

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our favorite books of 2019.  I think 2019 was a really great reading year for me - I had quite a few 4.5 and 5-star books, and I'm usually pretty stingy about giving out ratings that high!  Here are just a few of my favorites from the past year:






 Did any of these make your top ten for the year?

Monday, December 30, 2019

2019 Reading & Blogging Goals Wrap-Up

Every year I say this, but it's still true - this year just flew by!  I read more books than I ever thought possible and had a great reading year - here's some stats and highlights:

  • I read 191 books this year! (At the time I'm writing this post - I will probably finish one more!)
  • 59 of those were 2019 releases.
  •  I listened to 26 audiobooks for a total of 294 hours.
  • My average rating this year was 3.8.
  • I read my first ebook and also started using the Libby app to borrow ebooks and audiobooks from my library.

And how did I do on my goals?
  1. Keep track of where I'm finding books. I think I did a pretty good job of doing shoutouts, either in a review or a monthly recap, when I read a book that I've added because of someone else.
  2. Participate in at least two challenges.  I participated in three challenges, recapped below!
  3. Read at least 12 nonfiction books.  I ended up reading 27 nonfiction books during the year - pass!
  4. Bring back my "Try It, You Might Like It" feature.  I did two Try It posts this year, so not a ton, but I have an idea for at least one more in the coming months.
  5. Host a giveaway.  I did it!  I celebrated my blog's third blogoversary by hosting a giveaway.  Thanks, everyone, for your tips and advice when I first announced this goal.
  6. Read the unread physical books on my shelves. I definitely read a lot of the unread books from my shelves, but I also acquired/borrowed a lot of books this year, so this is a goal that will always be ongoing!
  7. Reorganize my book shelves. I was able to purge 70 books from my shelves and reorganize a little.  However, #bookstagram really did a number on my shelves!  Pulling books for pictures, rearranging to take some snaps - they are a mess right now.  So, kinda pass-ish? 
As for the challenges I participated in...

For Beat the Backlist, hosted by Austine at NovelKnight, I chose 24 backlist books and I ended up reading 19 of those (and DNFing one).  However, I read a total of 118 backlist books during the year (over 60% of my reading total), so I don't feel too bad about not finishing my initial TBR!

The 2019 Retellings Reading Challenge was hosted by Tracy at Cornerfolds.  I read 8 of the 9 books I originally chose, and 18 retellings in all.  I loved this challenge and have so many more retellings I'd like to get to for next year's!  Here's my final BINGO board:

The last challenge I did was the Royal Reading Challenge hosted by Adriana at She's Got Books on Her Mind.  I read 9 of the 10 books I originally chose and ended up reading 14 royal-related books in all.

How did you do on your 2019 reading goals?

Friday, December 27, 2019

5 Reasons You'll Enjoy "The Wolves of Winter"

The Wolves of Winter
Tyrell Johnson
Published January 2, 2018
Forget the old days. Forget summer. Forget warmth. Forget anything that doesn’t help you survive.

Lynn McBride has learned much since society collapsed in the face of nuclear war and the relentless spread of disease. As memories of her old life haunt her, she has been forced to forge ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon, learning how to hunt and trap to survive.

But her fragile existence is about to be shattered. Shadows of the world before have found her tiny community—most prominently in the enigmatic figure of Jax, who sets in motion a chain of events that will force Lynn to fulfill a destiny she never imagined.
- from Goodreads
The Wolves of Winter is a post-apocalyptic thriller that takes place in the snowy Yukon.  Here are five reasons why you might enjoy this book as much as I did:

1.  Lynn.  Lynn is the main character.  She's 23 years old and has been surviving with her family in the Canadian wilderness for 7 years since the collapse of life as she knew it.  What I liked most about Lynn is that even though she's adapted to this new life (she's an ace with a bow and arrow), she's feeling restless and wants to know more about what's going on in the world.  It felt very relatable.

2.  The plausibility of the backstory.  When the characters were explaining how the world got to this point, it honestly didn't sound far-fetched to me, and that was kind of scary.  In a post-9/11 world, people were used to sometimes random attacks, until one was just the last straw.  The United States retaliated with nuclear weapons against several countries, while we too were also attacked.  After that, a virulent strain of the flu began to wipe out large portions of the population.

3.  The action.  Although the book started off a bit slow, once Jax shows up at Lynn's family's homestead, the action takes off and never stops.  Jax is not who he appears to be at first, and Lynn and her family are pulled into the types of dangerous situations they hoped to avoid by building a life so far from civilization.

4.  The twists and turns.  The revelation of Jax's true nature was quite surprising, and as we are also introduced to a group of people who are trying to stop the spread of the flu virus and rebuild society, it was hard to know who to trust.  I kind of had an idea about Lynn's father and the secrets he kept through her flashbacks, but most of the time it was very unclear how the story would end for Lynn and her family.

5. The ending.  I actually kind of like when a story has a bit of an open ending - I can imagine all the different things that might happen to the characters after the last page.  Here, Lynn has hope, yet at the same time, the world is a difficult place and it's unclear whether she can actually help.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Down The TBR Hole #6

Down the TBR Hole is a feature created by Lost in a Story (although the blog seems to be down recently).  I've seen it on a few other blogs and thought I would try it out myself!  It seems like a really good way to cull your TBR of those books you're no longer interested in.  So how does it work?

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course, if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?

Here are the books I'm looking at this time:

 Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I am a sucker for books about royalty, so a story about a romance between the First Son and the Prince of Wales sounds amazing!  Plus, I haven't seen a bad review of this yet.  Keep!
 Finding Dorothy by Elizabeth Letts

One of my mom's favorite movies is The Wizard of Oz, so this fiction novel about the wife of L. Frank Baum, who wrote the Oz books, is really intriguing, especially because it also includes some behind-the-scenes tidbits about the movie.  Keep!
 The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides

This book sounds fascinating - a woman who kills her husband refuses to speak about the crime.  Keep!
 Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller

While I really liked Levenseller's Daughter of the Pirate King duology, I'm just not feeling this book about a female warrior who must win back her honor to rejoin her tribe.  Pass!
 The Night Olivia Fell by Christina McDonald

A mother tries to discover what really happened the night her daughter took a tragic fall, leaving her brain dead - but she's also pregnant, adding a whole other layer to the drama.  Keep!
 American Princess by Stephanie Marie Thornton

This book tells the story of First Daughter Alice Roosevelt.  While I like the idea of learning more about a female historical figure, this doesn't grab my interest enough.  Pass for now!

Have you read any of these?

Friday, December 20, 2019

Holiday Mini-Reviews

Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler (2019)

Ad executive Haley has to attend a Christmas Camp before her boss will let her pitch a big account that could help her become partner.

This book was basically the perfect book to get into the holiday spirit.  Haley, who isn't real big on Christmas, attends a Christmas camp at a picturesque inn, and it was so fun to watch her open up and enjoy herself, despite her insistence that she just wants to complete the camp tasks and get back to work.  Everything you could love about Christmas is here - decorating the tree, making cookies, sledding - but it's really nice that the whole purpose of the camp is about connecting with loved ones and creating memories and traditions.  The cast of characters is so sweet and lovable - I think if I had read this at any other time of year, it would have felt too saccharine, but I didn't mind it here.  One standout character was Ben, the owner of the inn, who always seems to have a magical twinkle in his eye, and my heart just felt for Gail, whose son is a deployed soldier.  There is a romance that develops (actually maybe more than one?!), but it doesn't take over the story.  It fits in really well and feels natural. 4 stars

25 Days 'Til Christmas by Poppy Alexander (2019)

Kate and her son Jack have had a difficult life since Kate's husband, a soldier, died, but she is determined to make this Christmas their best one ever.

I was expecting a sweet holiday romance and a feel-good story, but this book was actually really heavy.  Kate has just been scraping by since losing her husband, but she's tired of that and wants to put together the perfect Christmas for Jack, one that will hopefully kick-start a new life for them both.  I liked the idea of Kate using the advent calendar to plan fun activities and give Jack something to look forward to - and especially show that you don't necessarily have to spend money to have a good time.  I was also rooting for Kate and Daniel, who has also experienced loss, to find love because I could see how good they could be together.

However, there was just too much going on in this story, so many storylines, that it felt unfocused at times.  This book wasn't even that long, but I kept forgetting about some of the threads.  Almost everything bad that could happen to a person all seemed to pile on Kate, and it was a bit unrealistic.  For a Christmas book, it was oddly depressing.  The writing, and especially the dialogue, felt stiff and stilted at times.  3 stars

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Lucky Caller

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Lucky Caller
Emma Mills
Expected publication date: January 14, 2020
With the warmth, wit, intimate friendships, and heart-melting romance she brings to all her books, Emma Mills crafts a story about believing in yourself, owning your mistakes, and trusting in human connection in Lucky Caller.

When Nina decides to take a radio broadcasting class her senior year, she expects it to be a walk in the park. Instead, it’s a complete disaster.

The members of Nina's haphazardly formed radio team have approximately nothing in common. And to maximize the awkwardness her group includes Jamie, a childhood friend she'd hoped to basically avoid for the rest of her life.

The show is a mess, internet rumors threaten to bring the wrath of two fandoms down on their heads, and to top it all off Nina's family is on the brink of some major upheaval.

Everything feels like it's spiraling out of control―but maybe control is overrated? - from Goodreads
I love Emma Mills' books - they are so charming and feel so real, and I'm very excited to start 2020 with another of her books!

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: My Winter TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week's topic is our winter TBR!  I felt like for awhile there I was pretty good about getting to at least half of the books I pick for these seasonal TBRs, but I just looked at my fall post and realized I was total garbage at it (I literally just read two books from it in the past week - nothing like waiting until the last minute)!  So, a few of these are going to be carried over from last season and hopefully I will be better at this TBR!

Have you read any of these?  Where should I start first?

Monday, December 16, 2019

My Favorite Wanderings of 2019

While we didn't do as much as hiking this year as we've done in previous years, Tom and I managed to cross off three more states in our quest to visit all 50 together, all without getting on a plane!  Here's a look back on our 2019 adventures!

We drove down to Winterthur in Delaware to tour the house and gardens and check out The Crown costume exhibit.


We took a family vacation to Williamsburg, Virginia.

We took a walk along the High Line in New York City.

We spent a weekend leaf peeping in Connecticut.

I can't wait to start planning next year's vacations!

Friday, December 13, 2019

DNF&Y #3: The Audiobook Edition

DNF&Y is a feature hosted by Lindsi at Do You Dog-ear?  According to Lindsi, "DNF&Y is used to explain why I gave up on certain books, and what about them just didn't work for me. What I disliked about a book might be something you love, so it helps to share your thoughts even when they're negative!"  Since I tend to DNF quite a bit, I thought it would be fun to participate!

I've had pretty bad luck recently with audiobooks and actually DNFed these three right in a row!

 The Winter Soldier by Daniel Mason (2018)

This book is about a medical student who finds himself thrust into actually practicing medicine when World War I breaks out.  I love a good wartime story, but this one was so bland and the writing felt so sparse that I began to dread listening to it and had to DNF.
 The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary (2019)

This book has been such a hit this year, so I didn't even mind that the wait list at my library was pretty long.  I was so excited to finally get it.. and then.. the narrator's voices - ugh!  Could they have found two less pleasing voices to narrate this book?  I couldn't even understand what "Leon" was saying half the time, it was so garbled, coupled with the fact that his sections were written more as train of thought than actual sentences.  I might go back to this one at some point in print, but the audio definitely didn't work for me.
 The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick (2019)

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper was one of my favorite books a couple years ago, so I was excited to see what Patrick put out next.  I thought the premise of this book, about a volunteer librarian named Martha who finds out that her grandmother, who she thought passed away years ago, might actually still be alive, sounded interesting.  I ended up DNFing this book around 25%.  Martha was the biggest doormat - it's nice that she wants to help people, but she goes too far and just does everything for everyone, and clearly very few people even appreciate it.  I just wanted her to get a real job and a real life.  And - minor spoiler - when we find out her grandmother is still actually alive, I began to feel like any family secret that was going to be revealed was going to be ridiculous and I just didn't even care to know.

Have you read any of these?

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Big Lies in a Small Town

Can't-Wait Wednesday is hosted by Tressa at Wishful Endings and helps us spotlight upcoming releases we're eagerly anticipating!

Big Lies in a Small Town
Diane Chamberlain
Expected publication date: January 14, 2020
North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher's life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women's Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn't expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies? - from Goodreads
Diane Chamberlain's last book, The Dream Daughter, was such a spectacular read, so I'm really excited to see what she does next.  I mean, small town secrets??  I'm intrigued!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: New-To-Me Authors in 2019

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl.  This week is a freebie, so I decided to spotlight authors I read for the first time in 2019.  I have my favorite authors that I tend to read a lot, but I'm always interested in trying authors that other bloggers are raving about.  Here are some new-to-me authors I finally read in 2019!






What author did you read for the first time in 2019?