Rearview Mirror // April 2017

Yes, folks, you read that right – I’m rounding up April!  I really do like to write these Rearviews for my own benefit (to be honest, this whole blog is for my own benefit, I just let you all tag along for the ride :-D), so even though we are well into June, I’m going to go ahead and see if I can get this written…

Favorite April Read:

By far and away, The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge.  I still find myself thinking about this deceptively simple book.  It is one of those rare books where every word is perfectly placed.

Most Disappointing April Read:

Paper Towns by John Green, although that may not be entirely true, since my expectations were super low to start.  So in a way, this book actually was the least disappointing, because it was just as pretentious, boring, pointless, and overrated as I expected it to be.

  • A Gentleman of Leisure (AKA The Intrusion of Jimmy) by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – fun and frolicksome, but not particularly memorable.
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – 5/5 – in a month that didn’t include The Scent of Water, this book would have been an easy first place.  Fun and frothy, I enjoyed every page and can’t believe I had never read it before!
  • The Prince and Betty by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – I would have liked this book a lot better if he hadn’t inserted the entire plot of Psmith, Journalist in the middle of it…!?
  • Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham – 4/5 – completely gripping, even if I wasn’t entirely convinced that the villain could be so villainous without anyone noticing…
  • Wild Palomino: Stallion of the Prairies by Stephen Holt – 2/5 – This was a pretty meh Famous Horse Story that just sort of muddled about and had a lot of big jumps in logic.  It may be entertaining to its target age group of around 10-12, but not particularly interesting to a more critical reader.

In Aprils Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

In 2015 I was going through a bit of a reading slump, so I hadn’t read very many books.  However, my favorite was definitely The Lewis Man by Peter May.  After being blown away by the Lewis trilogy, I’m still determined to get around to reading some more of May’s books… someday…

My most disappointing read that month was Pollyanna in Hollywood by Elizabeth Borton.  The Pollyanna books were written by different authors, and when Borton took over I just couldn’t continue on, as she turned the books into these weird travelogues and turned Pollyanna herself to a strange caricature of her character – in the earlier books Pollyanna was so genuine and kind, and Borton just never captured that in her writing.

Last year, I was enamored with Nancy Bond’s classic, A String in the Harp.  While it isn’t a tale of high action, it’s a beautifully crafted story with memorable and warm characters.  This is a children’s book that deals with grief so, so perfectly.

On the flip side, my most disappointing read was yet another part of a series that I really enjoyed on the whole – Dragonsblood by Todd McCaffrey.  While Todd’s mother’s Pern books had their ups and downs, they were on the whole quite engaging.  But when Todd took over, it was like he just kept writing the same story over and over again.  His writing is much lazier, with lots of logic gaps and parts where characters just conveniently guess the thing they really need to know in order to save the world (again).

TBR Update:

I’ve actually been slowly working my way through the TBR, trying to weed out doubles and books that should belong on one of the series tabs.  I mostly did this because the TBR had topped 900 and I really needed to bring it back below that mark to make me feel like I wasn’t completely crazy.  ;-)  I still have a ways to go on that project, so I’m hoping to see some more deductions.  Even though I’ve added a few in the meantime, I have managed to eliminate 21 titles in the process…

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Stand-Alones:  898 (which is weirdly exactly where it was when I posted the March Rearview?!  What are the odds of that happening???)
  • Nonfiction:  70 (up five, and I am once again determined to spend some more time reading nonfiction this summer, despite the fact that I didn’t put a single nonfiction title on my 20 Books of Summer list!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  621 (up four – even though I’ve been reading several of my own books lately, it’s been a couple of series, so they only count as one book down on the TBR)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  159 (up ten… several of the books that got dropped from the Regular TBR actually just got shifted to this area because they are part of a series rather than a stand-alone)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  76 (up four)

Awaiting Review:

I’ve been on a bit of  Dee Henderson kick lately, reading most of her “stand-alone” novels before reading an ARC of her latest book, Threads of Suspicion.  In her independent books she still has a lot of interconnecting characters, so I decided to read a bunch of her other books to get some background on characters, mainly  because I get weirdly OCD about reading series in their entirety and in order…

Point is, the books awaiting review are Dee Henderson novels, and will probably come out in a series of minireviews.

  • The Witness by Dee Henderson  – bit heavy on the romance; everyone was a couple??  So the thriller part felt just kind of wedged into the background, a pattern that seems to be establishing itself in her books.
  • Before I Wake by Dee Henderson – bit more of an actual story, but had a really weird love triangle sort of thing.
  • Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson – definitely my least-favorite of any of her books I’ve read – super boring, and Ann is the worst character ever because she is so freaking perfect and basically the entire book is just talking about how perfect she is.  Be prepared for a rant on this one.
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson – I couldn’t tell if this book was actually a decent story, if it just seemed that way in comparison to Full Disclosure.

20 Books of Summer Update:

So far, Unspoken is the only book I’ve read from my list, although I am almost finished with Undetected.  I’m not completely confident in my ability to make up my 20 this summer, although I did accomplish it last year.  There is a lot going on these days, and I just don’t seem to be reading as much right now as I usually am!  I’m also ten books behind on my Goodreads goal of 160 books this year… whoops!

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probably next five reads…

Hopefully books 2-6 on the 20 Books of Summer list:

  • Undetected; Taken; Traces of Guilt; Sins of the Past; and Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson
  • Watching You by Michael Robotham – this book and Close Your Eyes are the only two books I have left in the Joseph O’Laughlin series.  I’ve really enjoyed these books, and am moderately frustrated that I haven’t gotten around to reading these last two yet!

I have two more reviews to write and then I’ll be caught up on May’s books and hopefully get a May Rearview out as well.  I’ve only read two books in June, which is really low for me.  I think part of the problem is that I’ve been reading Henderson’s book as ebooks from the library, and I just don’t tend to grab my Kindle as readily as a hard copy of a book.  I also really struggled to get through Full Disclosure, which really slowed me down on my overall reading.

The husband is off this week, so we are both trying to get caught up on stuff around the house after a crazy spring!  We are also busy housetraining our puppy.  And as an aside, if you’re interested in adorable border collie puppies, please feel free to check on my Instagram account @popcornandbooks15.  She is pretty dang cute!

Happy reading, everyone!

20 Books of Summer!

So as my life as been taken over by work, my normally very organized reading schedule has spiraled out of control.  This was mainly due to the fact that I just could not make it to the library regularly.  In the end, I did something I have done only rarely throughout my years:  I returned ALL my library books!

Consequently, my focus has been on books that I already own – and there are plenty from which to choose!  In the last couple of weeks I’ve read Cynthia Voigt’s “Tales of the Kingdom” trilogy, Trenton Lee Stewart’s “Benedict Society” books, and am now working my way through a slew of Dee Henderson books in anticipation of reading an ARC of her latest, Threads of Suspicion.  It’s totally different from the haphazard way that I’ve been jumping around over the last year or so, and in some ways it has been really enjoyable.  But I had also forgotten the pleasure of just sitting and reading straight through a series.

But I only have two weeks left at work (YAY!) and what better way to get back in the reading groove than to participate in the #20BooksofSummer Challenge with Cathy over at 746Books??  You can read the details about her challenge here.

My list will depend a bit on how much reading I get done over the next couple of days, as the challenge does not officially begin until June 1, but here is my tentative list…

  • Unspoken; Undetected; Taken; Traces of Guilt; Sins of the Past; and Threads of Suspicion – all by Dee Henderson.  I’m basically reading all of her “stand-alone” novels right now, as they all actually have interconnecting characters.  The library has all of these available as ebooks, so they’ve been great for the busy time when I can’t get to the library.  Threads of Suspicion is a review for the publisher, so I’m hoping to get to it before the end of June.  These are all thrillers with a big dash of romance – some more romance than thriller, I’m afraid.  But Henderson does an excellent job working religion into her books with natural conversations between her characters, and I love that she is unafraid to tackle some big God questions rather than just mouthing platitudes.  All that to say that I’ve been enjoying revisiting some of her books, and delving into the ones that I haven’t ever read.
  • The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart – rereading the Benedict Society books (which I love) reminded me to see if Stewart had written anything else recently – and he had!  I splurged and bought this one new.  If nothing else, Little & Brown does such a beautiful job binding these books that they are a joy to have on the shelves.
  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman – for a few years now, I’ve subscribed to a monthly subscription box called Cairn that sends hiking gear every month.  It’s been super fun and I’ve gotten a lot of nifty stuff, but let’s be real:  what with this house and everything going on, we just aren’t hitting the trail as often as we used to.  So when Cairn announced that they would be raising their prices, I decided that I was ready to let that one go.  But getting a box every month is so much fun!  So, of course, I turned to book subscriptions instead…  for the price of my Cairn subscription, I’m actually getting two book boxes.  Girl Out of Water is my first arrival from The Book Drop, which is the simplest kind of book box: they send you a book!  Currently, I’m trying the YA subscription box, but I may actually switch to the Children’s box later.  It’s month-to-month, so you’re allowed to switch it up (or even put your subscription on hold for a month or two).  They also have the “Jane” box which is mostly woman’s fiction, and the “Ernest” box, which is mysteries and thrillers (and also sounds fun).  Anyway, if I’m honest, Girl Out of Water doesn’t sound like a book I’m going to enjoy (any time the synopsis involves the phrase “Then she meets Lincoln, a charismatic, one-armed skater…” I begin to wonder…), but sometimes it’s good to jump out of my comfort zone and at least give something new a chance.

The rest of my list is comprised of random titles from the TBR, which has grown significantly since I haven’t been getting to the library…

  • Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer
  • Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin
  • Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
  • The Making of a Marchioness and The Methods of Lady Walderhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux
  • Water Song by Suzanne Weyn
  • What Lies Within by James Morris

All in all, I’m excited not just about reading, but about trying to get back into a good blogging groove.  I’ve got a whole stack of books that at least deserve a paragraph of recognition, and maybe sometime soon I’ll do an April/May combined Rearview, since I never did get around to wrapping up April.

In the meantime, I’ll leave with you with a Paisley picture, because she is cuter than ever…

 

Happy Reading!!!

Life Updates…

First off, I’m still alive!!!  I have really missed book blogging, both writing and reading, but things have been quite crazy.  My seasonal job at the greenhouse really took over this year, and I’ve worked a lot of overtime lately.  On the other hand, I have a great tan and have learned so much about plants (and people).  I only have a few more weeks left, and I am totally ready to be home for a few weeks before my other seasonal job (at the orchard) starts with peach picking at the end of July.

In the meantime, I have piles of books to review (and one minireview post mostly written!), but who knows when that will actually happen??  Especially since we just added our newest family member to the clan yesterday…

Paisley!!!

All this to say that I miss all of you and hope to be back in the groove sometime in June.  Until then – keep reading!

Rearview Mirror // February 2017

Hey friends!  Well, I am still alive, but quite busy now that I have started back up at my seasonal job at the garden center.  I really do love working there a lot, mainly because I spend all day digging about in the dirt and helping things grow.  (As an aside, I’m a total Hufflepuff anyway, and I realized that I even possess the badger-like quality of enjoying a good dig!)  However, working full time means less time for reading and less time for blogging.  I’ve been super lazy with my reading since I started working two weeks ago, although now that my body is readjusting to the manual labor aspect, hopefully I won’t just come home and go straight to bed.  Plus, it’s almost time for the time change, which I actually hate, but it does mean that it will be lighter later into the evenings!

As far as reading for February goes, as I was compiling the list of reviews and trying to decide what my favorite/least favorite reads were this month, I realized I had a LOT of 3/5 reads.  Kind of a meh month on a lot of levels!

Favorite February Read:

Weirdly, I think that I’m going to go with The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan.  This isn’t really my usual type of book, but Tan’s writing was so excellent that I was drawn right into this story that is really more a series of vignettes from the lives of four Chinese women (all of whom immigrated to America as adults) and their (now adult) daughters.  This book managed to capture a lot of emotion and insight, and while a little sadder than I usually like my fiction to be, still came through as hopeful and oddly uplifting.

Most Disappointing February Read:

Definitely The Heroic Edge of the Mysterious World by E.L. Konigsburg, and not just because I had some higher expectations, having loved some of Konigsburg’s other works.  This book just made no sense.  The characters were weird, the story was incredibly disjointed, and I never did really get what the author was driving at.  It was a book I really wanted to like – and, from the premise, I should have liked – but ended up not even kind of liking it.

Other February Reads:

  • The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar – 3/5 – an alright YA with a fun premise, but somehow just came through as a bit bland for  me.
  • Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham – 3/5 – the fourth installment of the Joseph O’Laughlin series and a decent read but not quite as smooth as some of the other books.
  • Cold Shot by Dani Pettrey – 3/5 – decent story with some fun characters, but a little too much romance and not quite enough story for me personally.
  • Container Gardening by Suzanne Frutig Bales – 4/5 – informative with lots of pictures.
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer – 3/5 – a dystopian book that really wrestles with a lot of deep questions in a thoughtful manner, but wraps things up a bit too neatly to be completely believable.
  • The Lord of Opium by Nancy Farmer – 3/5 – a great sequel to The House of the Scorpion, but despite the depth of issues explored, it felt a bit simplistic in its conclusion.
  • Mike and Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – a genuinely funny story that also sets up the unlikely friendship between the two title characters, who will go on to appear in future Wodehouse entertainment.
  • Mike at Wrykyn by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – a lively school story with more character development than some of the others.
  • The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux – 3/5 – a decent mystery, but the “hero” was a bit on the obnoxious side for me.
  • The Princess by Lori Wick – 5/5 – reread of an old favorite.
  • Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour – 3/5 – a good start to the Night & Nothing Trilogy, but rather choppy in parts.
  • The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England: A Tale of the Great Invasion by P.G. Wodehouse – 4/5 for a witty and entertaining little tale told with tongue firmly in cheek.

In Februarys Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

In 2015, I had a favorite read and a so-close-it’s-basically-a-tie read:  A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness was my official favorite, and still is highly recommended.  It is a book that will emotionally destroy you, but I also found it incredibly healing.  I’ve never read a book that deals with grief so beautifully, and the illustrations by Jim Kay are amazing.  And actually, I think that this book went on to become my unofficial favorite book of 2015.

That runner-up slot was filled by the third Pollyanna book, Pollyanna of the Orange Blossoms.  This book is all about Pollyanna and Jimmy when they are first married, and it’s my favorite book out of the series.

I was most disappointed by Dan Brown’s Deception Pointmostly because it was EXACTLY like the first book of his that I read, Digital Fortress.

Last February, my favorite book was a classic Agatha Christie – The Seven Dials MysteryIt’s one of her spy thrillers and is full of fun characters and lively dialogue.

My least favorite book was a novella by William Ritter, The Map.  However, this really doesn’t seem fair because the only thing I really seemed to dislike was that it felt short and choppy.

TBR Update:

I haven’t been blogging much, so I haven’t posted a Tottering TBR episode in a few weeks.  But I’m sure that you will all be unsurprised to learn that the TBR is continuing to grow nonetheless…

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Stand-Alones:  891 (up ten, which for me is doing really great… we won’t mention the fact that I have 153 unread emails, almost all of which are book reviews from your lovely blogs…)
  • Nonfiction:  64 (up three… again)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  616 (up eleven… curse you, free Kindle books!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 149 (up two)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 72 (up one)

The real problem is that since I started working my brain has been fried, so instead of reading productive books off the literal hundreds on my list, I’ve been reading terrible Pride & Prejudice variations.  Whoops.

Awaiting Review:

  • Still Life by Dani Pettrey.  I’ve had this review almost-written for about two weeks, and since it’s actually from the publisher, I really do feel like I ought to get this one out here soon!
  • Briar Queen by Katherine Harbour – I actually enjoyed the second book in the Night & Nothing series better than the first!
  • The Wicked Marquis by Marnie Ellingson – this is a book I bought for a quarter at the Salvation Army years ago, and is one of my favorite go-to books when I just want something happy and fun – very Georgette Heyer-esq.
  • 1932 by Karen M. Cox – this is one of those P&P variations, with they story set during the Great Depression.  This was one of the more enjoyable variations I’ve read lately.
  • The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams – another P&P variation, pleasant but a bit bland.

Current Reads:

  • The Wreckage by Michael Robotham – despite the fact that this book is quite good, I’ve been trying (and failing) to read it for over two weeks!)
  • All Fall Down by Christine Pope – I’m trying to actually read books that are on my Kindle, especially since I spend my lunch half-hour at work sitting in my car (it’s awkward to eat and read a bulky book…  like The Wreckage, for instance…)
  • Fate & Consequences by Linda Wells – obviously not another P&P variation, because that would be just plain ridiculous.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probably next five reads…

Well, since I haven’t been reading from my list at all, who knows??  We’ll just let this section by mysterious for this month…

The Tottering TBR // Episode XIII

A weekly post wherein I pretend to lament the fact that I have so many books on my TBR… but in fact am secretly rubbing my hands together with delight that there are so many amazing books left to be discovered…

A busy week around the house and on the blog, as I managed to post almost every day!

Added to the General TBR:

I am almost caught up on reading reviews, which means the TBR has suffered!  I added eleven titles to the list.  Three of them are novels by Amy Tan – this is the problem with reading a book that I actually enjoy, like The Joy Luck Club – only one book gets removed from the list, but several more get added so I can explore that author’s writing more!

But most of my additions were thanks to some great reviews around the blogosphere…

  • 517r8jt85l-_sy344_bo1204203200_Fictionophile wins the award for adding more than one title to the list this week.  Her reviews of Rainy Day Sisters by Kate Hewitt and Pocketful of Names by Joe Coomer both appealed to me.  I really enjoy reading books about siblings, so Hewitt’s book, about a pair of half-sisters getting to know each other as adults sounded intriguing.  Pocketful of Names also has a set-up that I enjoy – a loner who, through circumstances beyond her control, ends up having to help out various people and is drawn out of her solitude.
  • While Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten doesn’t exactly sound like my usual kind of book, Bee’s review of it over on HeartFullofBooks just sounded so interesting that I couldn’t resist adding this YA thriller to the list.
  • A while back I started to read Mark Billingham’s Tom Thorne series.  A couple books in I came across one that I just couldn’t stomach – too gruesome for me – so I gave them up, rather reluctantly as there was a lot about Billingham’s writing that I enjoyed.  (And I know I could have just skipped that title and jumped into the next, but there is some weird psychological twist in my brain that won’t let me skip around inside of a series!)  Anyway, Cleopatra’s review of one of Billingham’s stand-alone novels, Rush of Blood, made me think that that may be a good way to jump back into his writing, as this one sounds quite intense!!!
  • I really do enjoy fairy tales, and I also love reading traditional stories from other countries.  On top of that, Russia has always had a fascination for me – such a rich tapestry of culture to explore!  All that to say, when TheLiterarySisters reviewed a compilation of Russian fairy talesRussian Magic Tales (edited by Robert Chandler), it sounded like it would tick a lot of boxes for me!
  • Another trope that I like is where a young person comes to appreciate an older person in their life.  Chrissi described this type of tale in her review of Margot & Me by Juno Dawson.  With a WWII diary playing a key role in the story, it sounds like this book has a lot to offer.
  • Finally, Stephanie couldn’t say enough good things about Making Faces by Amy Harmon, which she described as an emotional tornado that still ended hopefully and beautifully.

Off the General TBR:

The funny thing is that I initially thought that I was finally going to have a week where I took more books off than I added, as I actually eliminated a lot of titles from the list!

thejoyluckclubI reviewed Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Clubwhich while not exactly uplifting, was still beautifully written and completely engaging.  I also wrote a minireview for The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg, which will post towards the end of the month.  Spoiler alert:  I really didn’t like this book, which was especially disappointing considering how much I’ve loved some of her other books.

However, besides eliminating those two, I also found several duplicates and whatnot – for instance, the books in the Joseph O’Laughlin series (which I’m currently reading) were somehow all listed individually, scattered throughout the TBR.  All in all, I removed six titles that shouldn’t have been there!  Woohoo!

Of course, I also read and reviewed two Wodehouse books – Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith, neither of which were on the list!

Total for the General TBR:  So I’m sitting at 887, which isn’t bad considering the number of books I added this week – only up three!

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Added to the Personal TBR:

After a couple of weeks of doing pretty well with free Kindle books, I fell off the bandwagon a smidge this week…  four more titles!

Off the Personal TBR:

No progress here this week.  I’m actually reading a Pride & Prejudice retelling that is ridiculously long and involved and encompasses two volumes and really isn’t worth the amount of time I’m putting in reading it for the story I’m getting out of it…  except I can’t stop…

Total for the Personal TBR:  612 – up four!

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Added to the Series List:  

One of the books that I removed from the General TBR actually belonged on this tab (a fluffy chick lit series), so we went up one here.

Off the Series List:

18505811Nothing off, but I did review the first book in a trilogy, Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour.  There were a lot of things about this book I really liked and a lot of things I didn’t like, so I’m curious to see which direction the second book goes.

Total for the Series List:  148, up one.

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Added to the Mystery Series List:  

This was another book that was misplaced on the General TBR when it actually comprises several titles and belongs over here – the Sergeant Cluff books by Gil North.

Off the Mystery Series List:

Still working on the Joseph O’Laughlin books – I reviewed #4 this week, Bleed for Me.  

Total for the Mystery Series List:  72, up one.

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Total for the Nonfiction List:  Holding steady at 61.

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Grand Total for the Week:  Seventeen on and only six off, so up eleven for the week!

The Tottering TBR // Episode XII

A weekly post wherein I pretend to lament the fact that I have so many books on my TBR… but in fact am secretly rubbing my hands together with delight that there are so many amazing books left to be discovered…

If it’s possible to have normal weeks in life, this was one of those weeks.  I hung out with my family, sold a few notebooks, read some stuff, wrote a couple of reviews, and of course celebrated Groundhog Day.

Groundhog Day is actually a big holiday for our family.  I’m not even sure how it exactly started, but sometime back when I was in my teens, my dad decided that I would love the movie Groundhog Day and that we should watch it, which we did and I did and it was brilliant.  Then the next year my brother was old enough to really get it, so we watched it again…  and, well, we’ve watched it every single Groundhog Day for probably somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty years.  (If I’d known what a tradition it was going to become, I probably would have paid more attention about when we started!)  Now we not only watch the movie, we also have a series of snacks that we eat throughout the movie that coordinate with events in the movie – usually angel food cake, popcorn, fudge, and sticky buns.  2016-02-02-1457-2Plus my mom makes the most adorable little groundhog pudding cups!

2016-02-02-1457Last year, we even found Dad a Punxsutawney travel poster.

Anyway, back in the book blogging sphere, it was a pretty average week.  I didn’t make any great strides in checking off reading projects, but I did get a few books reviewed, plus posted January’s Rearview Mirror.

Added to the General TBR:

I am once again quite behind on reading reviews, so I am sure there are even more books waiting out there to be added.  Still, I managed to add six, including another book by Wendy Van Draanen (since I liked Flipped so well), and a few books inspired by random advertising emails.  Two of my books were inspired by blogger reviews –

  • The Literary Sisters reviewed The True Story of Hansel and Gretel by Louise Murphy, an adaptation of that fairy tale that sets it in WWII Poland.  I love fairy tale retellings and am also endlessly intrigued by stories set in random locations during WWII, so how can this not be a win??
  • The other addition is also historical fiction – Following Ophelia by Sophia Bennett.  Heart Full of Books reviewed this one, and I was totally hooked when they said that it was like a nineteenth century version of Hannah Montana, except without wigs.  Perfect.  :-D

Off the General TBR:

188214I reviewed two books from this category this week – Flipped by Wendy Van Draanen, which I quite liked, and The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux, which I didn’t like quite as well.  I also reviewed The Swoop! (which I loved!) in my quest to read all of Wodehouse’s book in published order.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have all of his books on the TBR to begin with, so some of them – like this one – don’t technically help reduce the number on that pesky list!

However, I also removed one another book that I came across – a long while back, back in the day when the TBR was just getting started, I added all of Grace Livingston Hill’s books because I have enjoyed reading some of them in the past.  Now I frequently remove them without even reading them if, as in the case of The White Lady, it just sounds exceptionally lame.

Total for the General TBR:  884 – up three!

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Added to the Personal TBR:

This week I added four.  Two were free Kindle books, and the other two are actually books that I got my husband for my birthday (because yes, getting him books for gift-giving occasions is a great way to add to my collection!)

  • Grandma Gatewood’s Walk: The Inspiring Story of the Woman Who Saved the Appalachian Trail by Ben Montgomery is the story of Emma Gatewood who, at the age of 67, told her family she was going for a walk.  She left with just a little bit of money and some clothes and went on to hike the entirety of the Appalachian Trail by herself without a tent, a sleeping bag, or any of the other items that most of us would consider essentials for overnight trails.  At the time, the AT was minimally maintained, and the awareness that Gatewood raised helped solidify the AT’s place as a classic thru-trail.  Gatewood is actually from here in Ohio, and there is a six-mile out-and-back section of trail down at Old Man’s Cave named for her that Tom and I (and Waylon) hike all the time.  Tom has been reading this book already and says that it is really well-written and engaging.  I’m looking forward to this one a lot.
  • 51hcc1zml8l-_ac_us240_ql65_The second book is another nonfiction title, And On That Bombshell: Inside the Madness and Genius of Top Gear by Richard Porter.  Porter was a script editor for Top Gear for all thirteen years of the Jeremy Clarkson era, and tells the story from the first (dreadful) pilot episode through the crash ending that led to release of Clarkson from the BBC.  Tom and I have watched Top Gear for years, and have found the new Amazon show with Clarkson, Richard Hammond, and James May (The Grand Tour) to also be quite entertaining and even, at times, informative.  I’ve read several articles and whatnot by Porter, and he is quite humorous, so I’m anticipating an overall light read with this one.

Off the Personal TBR:

Here’s something crafty:  I originally had The Mystery of the Yellow Room on the General TBR, but when I got it as a free Kindle book, I added it to the Personal TBR, too – so now it’s off both and I get credit both places!  Go me!

Total for the Personal TBR:  608 – also up three!

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Total for the Series TBR:  Nothing added or removed here, so holding steady at 147.

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Total for the Mystery Series TBR:  Holding steady here, too, at 71.

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Total for the Nonfiction TBR:  I’m displaying so much restraint that this tab, too, is holding steady – 61.

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Grand Total for the Week:  With ten added and four removed, I’m only up a net of six this week.  So don’t worry – I definitely have this list under control.  ;-)

Rearview Mirror // January 2017

January didn’t really end up being that great of a month on the blog for me.  I spent most of the middle of the month just not feeling like writing anything, which also ended up being coupled with me (re)reading a lot of relaxing fluff.  But I’ve come to realize that I go through phases of just not feeling the writing aspect of life, and that’s okay because eventually I always kick back into it.

On a personal level, January was pretty chill.  I wrapped up my job at the orchard for the year and opened an Etsy shop (I have been having so much fun making adorable notebooks!).  I’ve been teaching myself guitar and bass guitar on Rocksmith on the PS4, and have spent a lot of time hanging out with my family, including my sister who is now living just a few houses down (so convenient!).

Favorite January Read:

2768230-_uy200_I think I’m going to go with Shatter by Michael Robotham.  The third book in the Joseph O’Laughlin series was completely terrifying.  I couldn’t put it down.  The “bad guy” in the story was completely believable, which made the whole story fabulously creepy.

41hym1lb7cl-_sx330_bo1204203200_However, as usual, I do have an honorable mention – The Shapeshifters (by Stefan Spjut) was just the most bizarre yet intriguing book I’ve just about ever read.  I finished it a month or so ago, but I still find myself thinking about it sometimes, and part of that thinking always involves me saying, “What the heck?!”  It was such a weird book but so well done.

Most Disappointing January Read:

Probably Not George Washington by P.G. Wodehouse and Herbert Westbrook.  I don’t know if it’s because it is one of Wodehouse’s earliest books, or because of Westbrook’s influence, but while the story was humorous at times, the main character just wasn’t all that likable.  He completely lacked the charm that nearly all Wodehouse characters possess.  While it wasn’t a terrible book by any means, it just didn’t have that typical Wodehouse sparkle.

Other January Reads:

  • Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth – 3/5 – a retelling of Rapunzel that was really well done but still just sad and a little too much about sex.
  • Crazy Kill Range by Rutherford Montgomery – 3/5 – a moderately interesting story about a wild horse.
  • Flipped by Wendy Van Draanen – 4/5 – so adorable and happy and actually just an all-around excellent little story about learning to look a little deeper in order to really know someone.
  • The Magician’s Workshop, Volume One by Christopher Hansen & J.R. Fehr – 3/5 – Really interesting premise but a little short on action.
  • The Magician’s Workshop, Volume Two by Christopher Hansen & J.R. Fehr – 4/5 – With the characters in place from Volume One, this book really got the story rolling and was way more engaging.
  • The New Way Things Work by David Macauley – 4/5 – a great nonfiction book that looks at the machines within the machines in order to really understand how machines work…  all illustrated with woolly mammoths!
  • Terms & Conditions by Ysenda Maxtone Graham – 4/5 – such a fun little memoir of sorts that managed to make a very specific aspect of humanity incredibly relatable.
  • The Travelers by Chris Pavone – 3/5 – fun but just not that level of engaging that a really good thriller needs to be.
  • The White Feather by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – one of my favorite of Wodehouse’s school stories so far – fun characters and not quite as much cricket.

In Januarys Past…

Now that I’ve been doing my Rearview Mirrors for two years, I thought it would be fun to see what my favorite and least-favorite reads were from those years.

downloadIn 2015, my favorite book of the month was Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter.  And I have to say that, for some reason, my reviews of Pollyanna and its sequels are still very high on the list of my most-visited posts, and I have no idea why.  Anyway, Pollyanna is definitely a classic and I highly recommend it.  Porter does a really wonderful job of creating a character who is lovable and kind without being obnoxious.  Also, as usual:  Book > Movie.

I found Catherine Palmer’s A Dangerous Silence to by my most disappointing read that month.  While the book had its moments, overall it was just full of logical gaps too large to be ignored.

209194For 2016, it was an Agatha Christie classic that won the coveted Best-Read spot:  The Man in the Brown Suit.  This book continues to be one of my favorite Christie books, full of adventure, spies, delightful dialogue, and completely unlikely coincidences.

My most disappointing book that month was Phillip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle.  While interesting, it just seemed like a total waste of a brilliant premise, as nothing really happened in the story.

TBR Update:

For those of you who don’t know, I’m weirdly obsessive with organizing the TBR, and have it on a spreadsheet divided into five different tabs:

  • Stand-Alones:  881 (up fourteen… which is actually fewer than it was up by last month… is this good or just really sad?!)
  • Nonfiction:  61 (up three)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  605 (also up fourteen)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 147 (holding steady)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 71 (holding steady)

I’m going to say that the fact that two categories are holding steady means that I am overall making progress.  :-D

Awaiting Review:

188214Honestly not a lot of titles here.  I read all four books of Nora Roberts’s Bridal Quartet but since those were rereads, I probably won’t bother reviewing them.  I haven’t been hardcore reading lately, although I am starting to find the groove again.

  • The Swoop! Or How Clarence Saved England: A Tale of the Great Invasion by P.G. Wodehouse
  • The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux

Current Reads:

  • The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan – I’m about a hundred pages into this and I think that I will like it, despite the fact that it is A Novel.
  • Mike by P.G. Wodehouse – the second half of this book, which was originally published as its own book, introduces Psmith, one of my favorite Wodehouse characters.  So far, despite being full of cricket, this has actually been a really fun read.
  • Reclaiming Christianity: A Call to Authentic Faith by A.W. Tozer; compiled and edited by James L. Snyder – As always, Tozer isn’t afraid to thump you over the head with what you need to hear.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

18505811The probable next five reads…

  • Thorn Jack by Katherine Harbour – this is the start of a new series (Night & Nothing), but we’ll see how it goes.  It may be a bit too dark/melodramatic/angsty for me.
  • The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World by E.L. Konigsburg – I am hoping to read all of Konigsburg’s works, since From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and The View from Saturday are two of my all-time favorite books.
  • Bleed for Me by Michael Robotham – We’ll see if the next Joseph O’Laughlin book can hold up after I enjoyed Shatter so completely.
  • The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer – this if the first book in a duology.  Again, it may be a bit too dark/angsty, but it did come recommended from a book blogging friend whose tastes are usually similar to mine, so we shall see.
  • The Intrusion of Jimmy AKA Gentlemen of Leisure by P.G. Wodehouse – continuing with the quest to read all of Wodehouse’s books in published order, this one sounds as though it may be more along the lines of what I would consider to be “classic” Wodehouse – a convoluted plot and a little bit of burglary.