Rearview Mirror // August 2017

August was kind of a weird month in relation to reading.  I hit a really major reading slump, which is kind of unusual for me.  It just felt like every book I picked up was very meh.  So then I started reading just random fluff books, and all of those were also very meh.  It made for boring times reading and boring times  blogging, and also explains why most of my book reviews this month were two-paragraph minireviews that basically said, “This book was quite meh.”

However, I have had two solid reads in a row, and am working through two books that also have started quite well, so I’m hoping that I am back on track.  It hasn’t helped that I’ve also been working quite a bit, have had a very busy month in my Etsy store, and had my brother come to visit from Seattle for a long weekend.  Lots of life happening!

Still, while I didn’t get a lot of awesome books read in August (or July, if I’m honest), I did work through a decent quantity.  So I am actually six books ahead of my Goodreads goal for 160 books in the year, aided by some shorter reads.

Favorite August Read:

I saved the best for last, I guess – Uprooted was my final August read, and it was FANTASTIC.  It’s made me believe in the concept that there are actually some worthwhile books out there.  It’s a really well-written fantasy novel that I would have gladly awarded five stars to if not for this one random and far-too-detailed sex scene out of nowhere.  Still, with that caveat, I highly recommend this book with great world-building, interesting characters, and a perfect ending.

As an aside, I think that that cover is gorgeous, but I can’t find anywhere for cheaper than around $60!  I really, really love simple covers without a lot of writing on them.  In my mind, a cover should have the title and the author’s name (preferably with the title in larger letters) and not a lot of other writing.  I hate it when covers are covered in random quotes and reassurances that I will LOVE THIS BOOK or THIS IS NOW AN AWESOME MOVIE – the cover art and title should speak for themselves.  This cover alone would make me way more likely to pick up the book than its current cover with a girl and a bunch of quotes on it.  Anyway.

Most Disappointing August Read:

I think The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler.  I enjoyed the earlier Phillip Marlowe books so much that this one came as a bit of a shock.  Unlike the earlier books, it was almost completely devoid of humor, and instead felt dark, depressing, and hopeless.  Later, I read that it took Chandler a long time to write this book, and his wife was dying (of cancer?  I can’t remember) basically the whole time, so I guess that all makes sense.  But it definitely made me take a break from the Marlowe series.

Other August Reads:

  • The Cat-Sitter Mystery by Carol Adorjan – 4/5 – a old childhood favorite that was still pretty fun as a reread.
  • A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White – 3/5 – I paid $0 for this book, and that’s about how much I got out of it.
  • Fatal Trust by Todd M. Johnson – 4/5 – if I hadn’t read Uprooted right after this book, Fatal Trust would have been my best read of the month – engaging, perfectly paced, and just twisty enough to keep me guessing.
  • The High Window by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – fun and engaging, but not brilliant.
  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – a little more graphic than the earlier books, but still quite solid.
  • Mail-Order Bride by Debbie Macomber – 3/5 – a good concept that set up well, but then got really sloppy.
  • Mind Your Manors by Lucy Lethbridge – 3.5/5 – an interesting nonfiction book about old-fashioned cleaning methods, but not as practical as I had hoped.
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – 4/5 – a really delightful graphic novel that completely engaged me – the artwork is amazing and the setting fantastic.
  • Once Upon a Kiss by various authors – 2/5 – an overall rather weak collection of YA fantasy short stories, several of which I didn’t even bother finishing.
  • The Story of Amelia Earhart by Adele de Leeuw – 3/5 – a nice children’s biography but a bit scattered.
  • Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens – 3/5 – just a little too disjointed for me to really enjoy.
  • This Love of Mine by Miranda Liasson – 3.5/5 – a fun little fake-relationship trope story.
  • This Loving Feeling by Miranda Liasson – 3/5 – a pleasant story but nothing exciting.
  • This Thing Called Love by Miranda Liasson – 3/5 – a decent start to an average contemporary romance trilogy.
  • The Whisky Wedding by Elizabeth Ann West – DNF – just why.
  • A Year of Weddings Novellas:  Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn – overall 3/5 for the collection.  Some were better than others, but only one or two were complete lemons.

In Augusts 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.

Interestingly enough, August 2015 was a bit of a reading slump as well, which I was also slowly working my way out of by the time I wrote the Rearview.  My favorite read that month was a Wodehouse gem – Ice in the Bedroom.  My least favorite that month was a book that I think turned out to be my least favorite read of the entire year – the incredibly creepy Zel by Donna Jo Napoli, a book that still makes me a nauseous  if I think about it.

In August 2016, my favorite read was another Wodehouse!  This time Money in the Bank took the place of honor.  And in a weird turn of events, my most disappointing read that month was actually from one of my favorite authors – Agatha Christie’s Destination Unknownwhich had much less plot and much more lecturing than her stories usually do.

TBR Update:

Well, due to the reading slump, an ambivalent attitude towards blogging, and a lot of life craziness, I haven’t done many of my Tottering TBR episodes recently.  But items do keep going on and off the lists, so I’m actually intrigued to see where things stand…

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:

  • Standalones:  802 (up twelve!!!  Oh dear)
  • Nonfiction:  79 (holding steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  598 (up two)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  226 (up four)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 103 (holding steady)

Well, could be worse… I think…  ;-)

Awaiting Review:

I’m actually caught up on reviews right now!  Madness!

Current Reads:

  • The Light Between the Oceans by M.L Stedman – so far a really good story, but kind of stressing me out because I hate it when people are living a lie and the consequences are just slowly looming over them like a giant wave and I have to keep waiting for the crash!
  •  The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler – I decided to try the next Marlowe story and see if it was better than The Little Sister.  So far, so good.
  • An Unlikely Duet by Leila Silver – my current P&P variation read.  Alright, but honestly just kind of boring.
  • The Iliad by Homer – technically I’m still ‘reading’ this, but I haven’t actually read much of it at all this month.  I’m hoping to pick this one back up soon.

Approaching the Top of the Pile…

The probable next five reads:

  • Playback by Raymond Chandler – the last Marlowe book he wrote, although someone else has finished his partial manuscript, so I may read that as well.
  • The Noble Path by Peter May – I’ve had this one from the library for a while and read about one chapter of it a few weeks ago and just wasn’t feeling it.  I’m going to give it another go now that I feel more like reading in general.
  • A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup – I read a review for this nonfiction book about the poisons in Agatha Christie’s books a while ago and it really sounds intriguing.
  • Indian Paint by Glenn Balch – my next book in my personal collection is another Famous Horse Story!
  • Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater – Pinkwater has long been a favorite of mine, but he’s a very prolific author so I’m still finding and reading random books of his.  For me, his books are either so funny I can’t stop snickering the whole time, or they make no sense at all, so we’ll see where this one falls.

Happy September!!!

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Rearview Mirror // July 2017

Well, for a while life was really in an amazing groove of productivity and awesomeness…  and then I started work again!  It’s always lurking around the corner, waiting to ruin real life!  Luckily, I actually really enjoy my job, and since it’s only part time, I can’t complain too much.  I’m back at the orchard – there is a bumper crop of peaches this year, and they’ve come on about two weeks earlier than usual.  Last year, I didn’t start until apple season, so the peaches are a whole new experience for me.  They have to be sorted by hand because they are delicate, and the orchard’s owner tries to pick and sell peaches all in the same day – most of the time, people are purchasing peaches that were on the three less than two hours before!  It’s really a great deal of fun, although I frequently find myself thinking of The Velvet Room – in that story, Robin and her family were migrants to California who found work at a peach orchard.  I really ought to pull that book out again for a summertime read – it is an old, old favorite.

I also suffered through several days of a bad stomach bug, which quite put me off my nonfiction schedule, because of course I only felt like indulging myself with light fluff reads during that time.  I also stumbled onto Raymond Chandler’s Phillip Marlowe books – I’ve been quite, quite enjoying them, but they really aren’t helping me with that ol’ reduce-the-TBR-project…  ah well.

However, I did read and review a LOT of books in July, which means I’m only two books behind my crazy Goodreads goal of 160 books this year.

In other blog news, I started a reference page for all the crazy Pride & Prejudice variations/sequels that I read.  I used to be kind of embarrassed about them, but now I’m just embracing the crazy.  It can be found under my ‘Cross-References’ tab.

Favorite July Read:

If I’m honest, I read a LOT of books in July, but none of them really stuck with me as instant classics that I will love forever and want to read again and again.  I think I’m going to go with Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin, which I could hardly put down the whole time I was reading it.  It was a really engaging story that had perfect pacing, and even though there were some weak plot points, it was the kind of book where you didn’t really notice them until after you were done reading.

Most Disappointing July Read:

I think I have to land on Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier for this one.  Although I had other books I disliked even more  I had much higher anticipation levels for this one since I have really enjoyed others of du Maurier’s works.  This book just felt clunky and slow, and, for me, crossed the line from ‘atmospheric’ to just plain depressing.

Except I feel like I really, really have to mention What Lies Within by James Morris.  I had virtually no expectations going in, so I can’t exactly say that it was the most disappointing, but I will say that it’s been a very long time since I hated a book as much as I hated this one.

Other July Reads:

  • The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – a genuine surprise of a story with a classic ‘hard-boiled’ detective and a narrative voice that had me cracking up the entire time I was reading it.
  • The Companion’s Secret by Linda Thompson – 3/5 – a P&P variation where everyone was just too, too nice – except for the people who were too, too evil.
  • Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – the second Phillip Marlowe book was just as fun as the first.
  • The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Devereaux – 2/5 – a story that started alright and then just went completely off the rails.
  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman – 3/5 – not my usual fare, but a surprisingly decent YA read.
  • High-Yield Vegetable Gardening by Colin McCrate and Brad Halin – 4/5 – a really great reference book published by my favorite Storey Publishers, perfect for the gardener who is ready to take it up to the next level.
  • The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett – 3/5 – a pleasant story, except it felt more like an outline than an actual story.
  • Martin’s Mice by Dick King-Smith – 4/5 – a pretty adorable children’s book, short and snappy.
  • The Methods of Lady Walderhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett – 2/5 – pretty boring and a really weird ending.
  • Patrick Henry: Firebrand of the Revolution by Nardi Reeder Campion – 5/5 – a really delightful introduction to Henry’s life.
  • The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart – 4/5 – a fun and adventurous children’s book, although not quite as magical as some of Stewart’s other stories.
  • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain – 3/5 – a story that really gripped me, but I just had waaayyyy too many issues with how the details unwound to really find it enjoyable.
  • Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer – 4/5 – a super adorable and fun story with typical Heyer froth.
  • Sunlight and Shadows by Cameron Dokey – 3.5/5 – an interesting story that felt like it could have been more.
  • A Tapestry of Lives by Jean Sims – 4/5 – a really enjoyable P&P retelling except for the part where I had to pay for three volumes.
  • Unwilling by Elizabeth Adams – 3.5/5 – a fun and lighthearted P&P retelling.
  • Water Song by Suzanne Weyn – 3/5 – a decent read and a great concept, but this book needed to be about three times as long to really be a good story.

In Julys 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.

July 2015 was kind of a crazy month with a lot of traveling, gardening, and puppy time, and not a lot of reading.  My favorite books that month were a couple of rereads (I love rereading favorites when I’m traveling; so low-stress and not nearly as distracting as getting sucked into a brand new plot!) – The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery and Indiscretion by Jude Morgan.

My least favorite read that month came from breaking my rule of not reading new books on vacation –  I found Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to be incredibly underwhelming, but kept plowing through, hoping to discover the amazing book that everyone was raving about.  But apparently they’re all just crazy.

Last year, another of Codex Alera books won the top slot – Cursor’s Fury by Jim Butcher.  That series really is brilliant.

However, I was quite disappointed in another sequel – A Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter really lacked the magic (and cohesive plot) of Freckles.  

#20BooksofSummer Update

Actually, this is kind of crazy but…  I’ve finished my list!  July was a fabulous reading month for me, plus I had quite a few short books on the list.  The completed list, with links to the reviews, can be found here.

Other Bookish News

I’m pretty stoked that the fourth – and apparently final – Jackaby book is coming out in August:  The Dire King.  For once in my life, I’ve actually preordered a book!

Sarah Rees Brennan also has a new book out in August – In Other Lands.  I really enjoyed her Lynburn Legacy books, especially the first one, so I’ll be sure to check this one out at some point.

TBR Update:

Speaking of books I’m going to check out at some point…

or 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:

  • Standalones:  790 (up five)
  • Nonfiction:  79 (DOWN one)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  596 (up seven)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  222 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  103 (up one)

Awaiting Review:

I’m really trying to stay on top of reviews better, and that’s working out…ish.  However, I am currently behind by five!

  • A Dark Lure by Loreth Anne White – an alright thriller, but definitely some logic gaps
  • The High Window by Raymond Chandler – Phillip Marlowe is my new hero
  • Once Upon a Kiss by various authors – a pretty meh collection of fairy tale retellings
  • The Cat Sitter Mystery by Carol Adorjan – an old Scholastic Book Club book that I’ve had since I was just a wee little girl
  • The Story of Amelia Earhart by Adele de Leeuw – a decent introduction but honestly kind of an odd collection of Earhart vignettes

Current Reads:

  • The Lady in the Lake by Raymond Chandler – a little darker than the others, but still really good
  • Winter Brides by various authors – three novellas, of which I’ve read and really enjoyed the first two so far
  • The Iliad by Homer – I’ve kind of stalled on this one but am hoping to pick it back up
  • Breaking Free by Beth Moore – I’ve kind of stalled on this one but am hoping to pick it back up
  • Mind Your Manors by Lucy Lethbridge – more history and fewer housecleaning tips than I was expecting, but still interesting

Approaching the Top of the Pile

The probable next five reads…

  • Spring Brides by various authors – the next three novellas in the series
  • The Little Sister by Raymond Chandler – what will Marlowe do next!?
  • Summer of Lost and Found by Rebecca Behrens – my latest subscription box book!
  • Vertigo by Pierre Boileau – I’ve somehow never read this book OR watched the classic Hitchcock film!  Maybe I’ll do both…
  • Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – I’m not usually into graphic novels, but I’ve heard good things about this one, so we’ll see

Happy August!!!

Rearview Mirror // June 2017

June settled into a nice routine that is rolling into July (we’ll see how long that lasts!).  I’ve been getting a lot of chores done around the house and painting a LOT of fence.  Paisley the puppy is continuing the grow like a weed, and she and Waylon careen through the house in a way that makes me a little nervous about what will happen when they’re both adults!

Reading-wise, I mostly checked a BUNCH of Dee Henderson off the list, as well as finishing off the Michael Robotham’s Joseph O’Laughlin series.  It’s been good to get back into a good reading groove again, as I’ve also been working on my nonfiction assignments.

Favorite June Read:

Watching You by Michael Robotham – this book was SO intense I could barely put it down.  The pacing was perfect and I was completely engrossed.  I loved the way that I had no idea who to trust.

Most Disappointing June Read:

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson.  An entire book about Perfect Ann.  SO BORING.  And she wasn’t actually perfect, even though everyone goes on (and on and ON) about how perfect she is…  I kind of thought she was selfish and boring.  It was basically an entire book of everyone talking about how awesome Ann is… and then it turns out that Ann wrote all of Henderson’s books, so a whole new level of awkward made it feel like Henderson wrote an entire book talking about how awesome she herself is….  too weird.  And BORING.

Other June Reads:

  • Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham – 4/5 – a solid addition to the series, but the ending left me feeling completely dazed.
  • Reclaiming Christianity: A Call to Authentic Faith by A.W. Tozer; edited by James L. Snyder – 4/5 – a good collection of essays and sermons that are poignant and challenging.
  • Taken by Dee Henderson – 2/5 – Pretty boring, and too much kidnapping.
  • Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson – 3.5/5 – probably my favorite out of this batch of Henderson’s novels – solid story with interesting characters.
  • Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson – 3/5 – a good story, but the ending just sort of fizzled out.
  • Undetected by Dee Henderson – 2/5 – Mark.  Ugh.
  • Unspoken by Dee Henderson – 3/5 – alright read, but dragged in the middle.

In Junes 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.

Back in 2015, I didn’t have a lot of strong feelings about any of the books I’d read,  but I chose Dragonsong by Anne McCaffrey as my favorite read – I was really getting into the Pern books at that point – and Heart’s Blood by Juliet Marriner as my least favorite – it just felt too disjointed to really be enjoyable.

Last year, I was getting into the groove of Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera (which I LOVED), and Academ’s Fury was definitely my favorite book of the month.  Meanwhile, I really wanted to love The Watchmaker of Filigree Street by Natasha Pulley, mainly because the cover is GORGEOUS, but ended up kinda hating it, mostly because it made no sense.

June 2016 was also my first time participating in #20BooksofSummer – as of last year’s June Rearview, I had read six of my twenty… I’m actually ahead of that this year as I’m halfway through book #9!

#20BooksofSummer Update

Speaking of the 20 Books of Summer (hosted by Cathy), I’m actually not doing too badly.  Here’s the current list:

  1. Unspoken by Dee Henderson
  2. Undetected by Dee Henderson
  3. Taken by Dee Henderson
  4. Traces of Guilt by Dee Henderson
  5. Threads of Suspicion by Dee Henderson
  6. Watching You by Michael Robotham
  7. Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham
  8. The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
  9. Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
  10. Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer
  11. Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin
  12. Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey
  13. Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier
  14. The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
  15. The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  16. The Methods of Lady Walderhurst by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  17. The Girl from Summer Hill by Jude Deveraux
  18. Water Song by Suzanne Weyn
  19. What Lies Within by James Morris
  20. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

 

TBR Update:

So I spent my holiday doing what everyone does on a holiday… reorganizing my TBR.  ;-)  I went through the Personal tab on the TBR (books I own) and updated a bunch of stuff.  I’ve actually read a lot of the books on the list already, but it was before I had the list written down.  And, back when I made the list, I didn’t bother putting a bunch of books on it since I had read them really recently.  But now I’ve decided that I want to keep a master list of every book I own with its “last read” date.  All that to say, I added books and checked books off, since the TBR number only reflects the books I haven’t read since I started book blogging back in 2011 (tumblr days!).

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:

  • Standalones:  785 (up five)
  • Nonfiction:  80 (up five)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  589 (down 34!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  221 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  102 (holding steady)

Awaiting Review:

I’m really working on keeping a post a day going, so right now only The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart is in the pile!

Current Reads:

  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman – I’m actually kinda enjoying this book that is so not my kind of book.
  • Breaking Free by Beth Moore – her writing is so accessible and challenging, like reading a letter from a close friend.
  • Patrick Henry: Firebrand of the Revolution by Nardi Reeder Campion – a middle-school biography of this famous patriot – I’m totally enjoying learning about his life and definitely intend to find a more involved biography of Henry soon.
  • High-Yield Vegetable Gardening by Colin McCrate and Brad Halm – because when I’m not working at a garden center or actually gardening, I love to read about gardening. (I don’t have a problem lol)

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer – actually looking forward to some relaxing Heyer action
  • Woman With a Gun by Phillip Margolin – so enjoyed his Amanda Jaffe series – we’ll see how a standalone goes
  • Sunlight and Shadow by Cameron Dokey – I’ve enjoyed a lot of her fairy tale retellings before, so I’m anticipating this one
  • Jamaica Inn by Daphne du Maurier – I almost read this one earlier this year, except then life happened – I’ve loved both Rebecca and My Cousin Rachel, so I’m hoping this one follows suit!
  • The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain – one of those random books I read a review for a long time ago – no idea what it’s all about!

Rearview Mirror // May 2017

Only one month behind, so I’m catch up, right??  :-D

May was kind of a crazy month, and I worked a LOT of overtime – not a lot of time left for reading (or cleaning, or resting, or thinking…), so I mostly read a couple of children’s series that I already owned, and then started working my way through some of Dee Henderson’s books.

Favorite May Read:

The Nesting Place by Myquillyn Smith – it’s kind of rare for a nonfiction book to be my favorite read, but Smith’s  book was just such a delight and encouragement from beginning to end that I feel like it definitely earns this spot.  I actually read this book throughout April and May as I had time, and ended up buying my own copy so I could highlight parts that were important to me, and pull it out again whenever I want.  This was just a wonderful book about contentment, making your house your home, and having the courage to let your house reflect yourself and your family.

Most Disappointing May Read:

The Wings of a Falcon by Cynthia Voigt – this book was just really weird.  I couldn’t stand the protagonist, who was a total jerk and continued to be a total jerk throughout the entire story.  I wasn’t sure what the point of this book was, as it was very long, disjointed, and rambly.

Other May Reads:

  • Before I Wake by Dee Henderson – 3/5 – alright, but kind of a weird love triangle.  The mystery was good until the ending, which was weak.
  • The Extraordinary Education of Nicolas Benedict by Trenton Lee Stewart – 5/5 – a really delightful prequel to the other books.
  • Jackaroo by Cynthia Voigt – 3/5 – an alright story with some interesting thinking points, but nothing amazing.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart – 5/5 – this was a (multiple times) reread for me, and I love it more every time.  The story is clever and engaging, thought-provoking but not polemic.  A genuinely fantastic children’s book.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart – 4/5 – fun and engaging, but not quite as exciting as the first.
  • The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner’s Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart – 4/5 – lively and interesting, and a solid conclusion to the series.
  • On Fortune’s Wheel by Cynthia Voigt – 3/5 – an alright story with some interesting thinking points, but nothing amazing… kind of exactly like Jackaroo.
  • The Witness by Dee Henderson – 3/5 – Kind of a meh read that started alright but was definitely more romance than thriller, so it got rather boring in the middle.

In Mays 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.

Back in May 2015, my favorite book was one I almost didn’t confess to reading – Forever by Maggie Stiefvater.  Because sometimes the teenage werewolf thing is actually done right.

I had a lot of meh reads that month but nothing I really hated.  I ended up choosing Girl Missing by Tess Gerritsen, which was completely unmemorable for me – I can’t even remember what I didn’t like.

Last year, I was still blazing through every Agatha Christie book ever printed, and it’s still amazing to me how many of them made it as my favorite book of the month.  In May 2016 I read the genuinely brilliant And Then There Were Noneone of Christie’s most clever, twisty stories that, despite the fact I had read it multiple times, I read it in one go, staying up until midnight to get to the grand conclusion.

My least favorite book ended up being Todd McCaffrey’s Dragon Harperwhich I ranted about at length.  After spending a year+ reading through Pern, it was really disappointing to end with his genuinely terrible, boring books.

TBR Update:

So I went through and cleaned this spreadsheet up a bit, mostly sorting books to the tabs where they actually belong (a lot of books on the general TBR were actually series) and getting rid of doubles and whatnot.  I also FINALLY caught up on my emails/blog entries.  This means that the general TBR took a stunning plummet…  but the other tabs took a huge jump…

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:

  • Standalones:  780 (down 118!  Go me!)
  • Nonfiction:  75 (up five)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  623 (up two)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  220 (up 61 because most of the books that I edited out of the standalones actually moved to either this column or mystery series)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  102 (up 26)

Still, my editing did give me an overall net loss of 24, which is pretty good for me.

Awaiting Review:

Basically, Dee Henderson:

  • Full Disclosure
  • Unspoken
  • Undetected
  • Taken
  • Traces of Guilt
  • Threads of Suspicion

Plus Reclaiming Christianity by A.W. Tozer, and the Spring (#53) issue of Slightly Foxed.

20 Books of Summer Update:

I’ve read five of my books, and eliminated Sins of the Past (which was actually a collection of novellas instead of an entire Henderson novel), so I’ll be adding a title someday (if I get that far haha).

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Watching You by Michael Robotham, which I just started today.
  • Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham, which should wrap up the Joseph O’Laughlin series that I started so long ago Robotham may have actually written another book by now…
  • The Secret Keepers by Trenton Lee Stewart
  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
  • Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

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!

Rearview Mirror // March 2017

Better late than never, right??

And gang, I have BIG NEWS: Waylon is getting a little sister – we’re getting another border collie puppy in May!!!  She’s an adorable blue merle who still needs a name, so I’m accepting suggestions!  I’ll post pictures soon.  In the meantime, rest assured that she is SO FREAKING CUTE.  Getting another puppy is probably a terrible life decision, but hey!  You’ll have that.  :-D

Meantime – books!

Favorite March Read:

Probably The Wicked Marquis by Marnie Ellingson.  It’s a reread, so it’s a bit of a cheat, but this is one of my favorite go-to fluff reads.  It’s just so happy and adorable, even if it’s not remotely deep or thought-provoking.

Most Disappointing March Read:

Dead End Close by Dominic Utton – no contest.  This book was just so depressing and just ick.  Ick.

Other March Reads:

  • 1932 by Karen M. Cox – 3/5 – unique premise but needed a bit more fleshing out to make it a really good story
  • Briar Queen by Katherine Harbour – 4/5 – a book that does not suffer even a little bit from second-book syndrome
  • Fate & Consequences by Linda Wells – 3/5 – would have been much better if the characters didn’t keep devolving into emotional disasters
  • The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar – 2/5 – sooo boring when it could have been so much fun
  • The Houseguest by Elizabeth Adams – 3/5 – a pleasant but not super inventive Pride & Prejudice variation
  • Nettle King by Katherine Harbour – 4/5 – great conclusion to a really engaging trilogy
  • Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse – 4/5 and so much fun
  • Still Life by Dani Pettrey – 3/5 – alright, but could have used more thriller and less romance
  • The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck – 4/5 – beautifully written historical fiction that was hard to read but a gorgeous story nonetheless.
  • The Wreckage by Michael Robotham – 3/5 – solid but not particularly thrilling entry in the Joseph O’Laughlin series

In Marches 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 my favorite read of the month was Peter May’s brilliant thriller The Blackhouse.  I really, really want to reread that trilogy.  It was SO GOOD.

Wild Goose Chase by Terri Thayer was my most disappointing read that month.  I still think about that cozy “mystery” sometimes and am confused by it every time.  What was the point of that book!?

Last year, the classic A Tale of Two Cities won the best book award, and I would say that it’s a solid contender for best book ever.  There is so much to chew on in this book.  It’s a fabulous story with personable and passionate characters.  There’s a great deal of teaching, but it doesn’t feel preachy or condescending.  Brilliant.

Giant’s Bread by Mary Westmacott (Agatha Christie) was the book that disappointed me the most.  It was just such a dreary story, doubly disappointing because I love Christie so much.

TBR Update:

So these numbers aren’t completely accurate because I have about 200 emails in my inbox that need read, and I’m positive that many of them are going to add to the list.  But here it is as it stands at this exact moment in time…

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 (up seven, which isn’t too bad, although I’m a bit terrified about how close I am to the 900 mark!)
  • Nonfiction:  65 (up only one)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own, but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  617 (up only one – I’ve actually been reading quite a few of my own books lately!  Brilliant, I know!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 149 (holding steady!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 72 (holding steady!)

Awaiting Review:

  • Say You’re Sorry by Michael Robotham – this was a completely terrifying addition to the Joseph O’Laughlin series, and I could hardly put it down!
  • A Gentleman of Leisure by P.G. Wodehouse – also known as The Intrusion of Jimmy.  This was a fun little tale, and it was obvious that at this point Wodehouse was beginning to get his “formula” down.
  • The Scent of Water by Elizabeth Goudge – this book has actually changed my life.  So beautiful.  Just wow.  I’m not really sure if I am even going to be able to review it well.

Current Reads:

  • Paper Towns by John Green – my first John Green novel, and so far it’s suuuper boring.

Yeah, weirdly that’s the only thing I’m really actively reading right now!

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • The Prince & Betty by P.G. Wodehouse – my journey through Wodehouse continues!
  • Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – would you believe that I’ve somehow never actually read this book!?  I’m so embarrassed.
  • Wild Palomino: Stallion of the Prairies by Stephen Holt – another “Famous Horse Story” classic.
  • Runaway by Peter May – super stoked about diving into one of May’s stand-alones.
  • Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor – the next series I’m going to read (presuming the first book is any good).  I’m a bit late to this game and have heard a lot of mixed opinions, so we will see how it goes!

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…