Rearview Mirror // 2017

Happy New Year!  We actually have some real snow around here, which is super exciting.  A white Christmas is always lovely, but there is something about a white New Year that makes me feel like we really are getting a fresh start.

Of course, it’s also unbelievably cold out there – only 3* this morning!  My husband just told me that the average temperature in the US right now is only 11*!

2017 was a solid year on the blog for me.  I basically never look at my stats, but I’m sure lots of people have looked at things, which is awesome.  I really enjoy writing reviews for my own benefit, so I can look back on books that I’ve read and remember what was going on, but it is so amazing to me that there are a few hundred other people who also enjoy reading those reviews, at least from time to time.  Thanks for being there!!

This year was the first year that I really, really focused on marking books on Goodreads.  I’ve been kind of haphazard about it before, but this year I was determined to mark ALL the books, and for the last couple of months, I’ve been trying to update where I am with current reads as part of my morning routine – and actually am enjoying it!  Especially since it means that I get really accurate stats at the end of the year…

Believe it or not, I totally blew through my goal of 160 books, completing 197 titles.  Although I do feel that sheer number of books is a poor way to manage this challenge, since my longest book – Imperative (a P&P variation that I don’t think I even ended up reviewing here!), at 796 pages is worth just as much as my shortest book, Bronco Charlieat 48!  But I suppose it does all level out, as I read an average of 295 pages per book, for a grand total of 58,206 pages!  (What am I even doing with my life?!)

The most popular book I read this year was The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, also read by an astounding 2,123,251 people.  In contrast, only two other people have bothered to rate Container Gardeningwhich is a shame, because it is actually a very nice little reference guide.

I am still really enjoying my monthly Rearview Mirrors as a way to sort of summarize what’s been happening.  According to those post, these were my favorite books of the year:

I think 2017’s Book of the Year is going to be The Scent of Water.  There is something about that book – I can’t explain how it is not only perfect, but it actually changed my life.  While I loved Uprooted and The Night Circus, which are both magical and amazing reads, The Scent of Water is the one I feel like EVERYONE should read.

Other 5-Star Reads for 2017:

I feel like I finally have a grasp on my reading goals and am in a good pattern of reading four books at the same time, which is helping me work on multiple points of the TBR at once.  I also realize that it’s basically physically impossible to read all the books that I want to read, but I’m okay with that.  I’m just going to enjoy each book as it comes, and I’m not going to stop adding to the TBR, either.  It’s more of a dream list than a tangible goal.

The huge number of books on the TBR is the main reason I don’t really read ARCs and am not interested in Netgalley or other such opportunities.  I review usually 1-5 ARCs each year, and that’s about right.  I don’t necessarily need free books, because I use the library like a crazy person.  I don’t like the time pressure and (self-imposed) deadlines that arise from reviewing books from publishers.  I like being able to just not finish a book because I don’t like the first page, and not have to feel guilty about that.

I wanted to compare my TBR numbers from December 2016 to now, but realized that I’ve done a LOT of editing on that list throughout the year, so comparing the numbers doesn’t really make sense.  I cleaned up the Standalones tab, eliminating doubles and moving books to the Series/Mystery Series tabs as needed.  I’ve also been working on making sure all the books that I own really are on my Personal list, so that list has gotten a LOT bigger.  I’ve also been way more into getting free Kindle books this year, too, which hasn’t helped.  :-D  But I think that the numbers are straight now, so this time next year I should, theoretically, be able to legitimately tell if I’ve made any progress.

In the meantime, I fully intend to just keep reading, reviewing, and enjoying books.  Books have been such an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I’ve always lived surrounded by them.  I don’t really see that changing, especially since my mom sent me home with nine gardening books she was getting rid of today – so nine more books on the TBR and we’re not even 24 hours into 2018 yet.  :-D

Thanks for riding along with me for 2017, and here’s to lots of great books and happy reviews for 2018!

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Rearview Mirror // December 2017

What a weird month!  I was still struggling with bronchitis for the first part of it, we had another fairly involved renovation project going on, and then I got another virus that laid  me low with a fever and sore throat for a week – which all added up to almost no Christmas spirit!  I don’t have a SINGLE Christmas decoration in this house!  Ah well.

The good news is, the week of resting from the virus took care of my lingering bronchitis, and I’m back to feeling completely well – with that added awesomeness that only comes after you’ve been low-grade sick for a while.  (I get up every morning and think, “I can breathe!  I can breathe!”)  I’ve got some 2018 resolutions involving various housekeeping and house-painting projects, I’ve given a firm, “I am not working more than three days a week!” answer to my spring job at the greenhouse (which last year ended up more like 55 hours a week for over a month…), and overall things are just feeling good.

Reading-wise, December has been solid.  This has been my best year of blogging so far.  I finally feel like I have a good pattern for reviews – the monthly minireviews have really helped me to get past reviews that just aren’t that involved, and I’ve started taking a few notes every time I finish a book, so even if the review happens several days later, I’m better able to revive my feelings towards the story.  I’m excited about continuing into 2018.

Favorite December Read

I had a couple of really enjoyable reads this month, but nothing that just wowed me.  I think I’m going to put Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore in this slot, as it’s the book I’m most likely to reread.  It was quirky and entertaining, and I really liked all of the characters.

Most Disappointing December Read

I didn’t have any huge bombs this month, but my most disappointing book was probably Son by Lois Lowry.  It dragged on forever and didn’t really seem to have much of a point.  It was especially disappointing because The Giver is so brilliant.  But the other three books just didn’t work for me.

Other December Reads

  • Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry – 4/5 – a really fun children’s nonfiction book with awesome illustrations.
  • A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch – 3/5 – I wanted to like this more than I did.
  • Best Worst Mistake by Lia Riley – 3/5 – Cute story that could have benefited from a lot less sex.
  • Bronco Charlie by Henry Larom – 4/5 – another great children’s book – with more great illustrations!
  • The Burnaby Books by Anne Emery – 3.5/5 – these five books were really enjoyable reads about the ups and downs of high school and college life.
  • The Divine Conquest by A.W. Tozer – 5/5 – don’t read if you aren’t ready to be challenged.
  • A Drop in the Ocean by Jenni Ogden – 3/5 – a decent novel, but the ending really aggravated me, as did the romantic emphasis.
  • Gathering Blue – by Lois Lowry – 3.5/5 – Intriguing, but a little strange.
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry – 4.5/5 – Brilliant.
  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben – 3/5 – a book I wanted to like but just didn’t.
  • A Lady of Quality by Georgette Heyer – 4/5 – classic Heyer.
  • Last First Kiss by Lia Riley – 3/5 – formulaic but pleasant.
  • The Little Lady Agency by Hester Browne – 3/5 – intriguing premise, but just kind of depressing and boring in execution.
  • The Man Upstairs and Other Stories by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – an alright collection, but honestly not very Wodehouse-y.
  • Messenger by Lois Lowry – 2/5 – What the heck?!
  • November 9 by Colleen Hoover – 3/5 – an engaging read, but Ben was just a bit too creepy for me to get behind the ship.
  • Right Wrong Guy by Lia Riley – 3/5 – nice romance, but a little too sexy.
  • The Rose-Garden Husband by Margaret Widdemer – 4/5 – predictable but so warm and happy.
  • The September Society by Charles Finch – 3/5 – just a bit too prosy to be actually enjoyable.
  • The Wishing-Ring Man by Margaret Widdemer – 4.5/5 – a weird beginning, but overall so happy and enjoyable.
  • The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn – 4/5 – compulsively readable, engaging, but not brilliant.

In Decembers 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.

Last year was a toss-up between two very different but both very enjoyable books – A Life in Letters (edited by Sophie Ratcliffe) is a fascinating collection of Wodehouse’s letters throughout his life, with very thoughtful and interesting biographical information to link them.  I still use this book as a reference when I am starting new Wodehouse books, to see if he had anything personal to say about them!  The other awesome book last December was Daisy in Chains by Sharon Bolton.  It felt like everyone thought this book was amazing, so I was a little scared – but it totally lived up to the hype.  I guessed some of the twists, but definitely not all of them.  I didn’t want to do anything except read this book when I was reading this book!  Just reading my review makes me want to read this book again!

My most disappointing book in December 2016 was Love’s Haven by Catherine Palmer – one of those books that is so terrible that I genuinely have no idea why I finished it!

//published 2010//

In December 2015 I was reading Nora Robert’s Bridal Quartet, which has become one of my go-tos for warm, fuzzy romance without a lot of thinking.  The final book in the series, Happy Ever Afterwas my favorite for the month.

In contrast, I found Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On to be pretty meh fare.

TBR Update:

Sadly, I did a some research and realized that I had a BUNCH of books on my physical shelves – mostly nonfiction – that wasn’t on the Personal TBR list.  Tragically, it increased my number by quite a lot…  but now I feel like I’m on the right track there.  So there’s that.

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:  820 (DOWN THREE!  DOWN!)
  • Nonfiction:  85 (steady)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  670 (up by so many)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  226 (down one!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 105 (down one!)

Overall, a good month!  Not counting my Personal tab, which was really just recalculating because I didn’t buy any very many books this month, I actually managed to drop five!

Awaiting Review:

Would you believe… nothing??  All I have in the pile right now are four Love Inspired titles, because I’m reading Love Inspired #5, because I review them in batches of five.  So I’m actually caught up as we head into the new year!

Current Reads:

  • Montana Hearts by Charlotte Carter – aforementioned Love Inspired title.  Actually not that terrible.
  • Manna from Hades by Carola Dunn – first book in her Cornish Mysteries series.  I liked the Daisy Dalrymple series on the whole, so I thought I’d give this one a go, especially since there are only four books!
  •  The Mapmakers by John Noble Wilford – a nonfiction read on the history of maps and their creation.  Now that I’m done with the incredibly lengthy chapter that just whines about how horrible Christians ruined everyone’s lives by hating science in the Middle Ages, the book is picking up in interest.
  • Waiting for Normal by Leslie Connor – a children’s book that is actually rather heartbreaking in a not-exactly-sad way??  Hard to explain.

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probably next five reads…

  • A Colourful Death by Carola Dunn – the second Cornish mystery, providing the first one isn’t trash.
  • Copper-Toed Boots by Marguerite de Angeli – a beautifully illustrated children’s book that has been on my shelves forever.
  • Wrestling Prayer by Eric Ludy – honestly scared of what I’m sure will be a challenging read.
  • The Blue Sword by Robin McKinley – some of her books I love and some I feel really meh about, so we’ll see where this older title falls.
  • The Cat and Mrs. Carey by Doris Gates – an old children’s book that I’ve had for ages about a nice old lady who inherits a house, a cat that only she can hear talking, and possibly some smugglers.

Rearview Mirror // November 2017

November has been kind of a weird month.  I’ve had a lingering cold/cough/general meh feeling that has lasted basically the entire month.  It’s really the longest I can remember ever being sick (besides mono back in the day), and it’s been rather frustrating as there are a lot of things to get done around here and I don’t seem to have the energy for really any of them.  However, that does mean that I’ve spent a bit more time just sitting around with a cup of tea, so it has been a pretty solid reading month.

I have officially achieved this year’s Goodreads goal of 160 books!  As of this moment, the count for the year stands at 173.  I’ve been a lot more committed to making sure I actually mark off read books on GR, and have also been doing my best to update what I’m reading/where I am in reading regularly.  It is rather fun to see the little progress bars fill!

I keep forgetting to mention that back in mid-October my sister and I went to see Maggie Stiefvater at a library program.  She was an absolute delight and it was so fun and interesting to hear her talk about her newest book, All the Crooked Saints.  I haven’t read it yet, but am sure I will eventually.  In the meantime, I had her sign my copy of Shiver.  My sister has never read a single Stiefvater book, but she follows Maggie on Twitter and finds her consistently hilarious (so do I), so she actually had her sign a print-out of a picture of Stiefvater’s old Camaro, which my sister loves.  Maggie had been on tour quite a while by the time she got to our town, and actually seemed quite touched to see a picture of her car (she drew hearts around it after she signed her name haha).  This was actually somehow my first author event.  I don’t have a lot of them that I particularly want to see (and most of my favorites are dead lol).  But if Maggie Stiefvater ever comes back through town, I would definitely go see her again.  She even played the bagpipes!

Favorite November Read:

Oh definitely The Night Circus.  It may even end up being my book of the year.  I loved every page of this book, even though it used so many writing styles and concepts that I usually don’t like.  Every letter was perfection.  ::sigh::  So.  Magical.

Most Disappointing November Read:  

Actually, even though I read several books that received a lower rating this month, I think I’m going to go with  The Dire King by William Ritter.  I was really anticipating this conclusion to the Jackaby books, and in the end felt incredibly meh about this book.  There was a lot of confusion and a lot of answered questions.  There was also a big twist at the end which I personally didn’t like, as I felt like it changed everything about the characters so far.  It was worth the read, but really brought my overall enjoyment of the series down.

Other November Reads:

  • Alan Mendelsohn, Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater – 3/5 – a fun story, but not my favorite Pinkwater.
  • The Backyard Homestead Seasonal Planner by Ann Larkin Hansen – 3/5 – informative, but not amazing.
  • Beastly Bones by William Ritter – 4/5 – a fun sequel to Jackaby.
  • The Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve – 4/5 – beautiful edition and quite intriguing to read the original fairy tale.
  • Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – 3.5/5 – a good story, but somewhat lacking in focus.  Still looking forward to the final book, though.
  • Cinchfoot by Thomas C. Hinkle – 3/5 – a pretty meh horse tale.
  • Close to Home by Carolyn Aarsen – 3/5 – enjoyable, but the main characters really just needed to use their words.
  • Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder – 5/5 – perfect ending.  Like so perfect.  I couldn’t  believe how perfect.
  • Dreaming of a Family by Arlene James – 2/5 – alright story, but Dixie was SO obnoxious.
  • Ghostly Echoes by William Ritter – 3.5/5 – an engaging story in the Jackaby series, but a little too focused on the Grand Scheme.
  • The Great Shelby Holmes by Elizabeth Eulberg – 2/5 – Shelby.  Ugh.
  • Heavier Than Heaven by Charles Cross – 4/5 – really well-written and fascinating biography of Kurt Cobain, of Nirvana fame.
  • Jackaby by William Ritter – 4/5 – such a fun and funny mash-up of Doctor Who and Sherlock.
  • The Journey to Dragon Island by Claire Fayers – 4/5 – the second in a series about a girl named Brine and the crew of ridiculous pirates with whom she finds herself traveling.  Fun and lighthearted – a great children’s read.
  • The Little Nugget by P.G. Wodehouse – 3/5 – fun, but not the best Wodehouse ever.
  • Miss Billy, Miss Billy’s Decision, and Miss Billy Married by Eleanor H. Porter – 3/5 – nice stories, but lacking something – not books I anticipate rereading.
  • The Mommy Wish by Kathryn Springer – 3/5 – Nice story, but the Big Reveal wasn’t nearly as tragic as the lead-up anticipated.
  • Night Study by Maria V. Snyder – 4/5 – I couldn’t put this book down.  What even.  So crazy.
  • Only Dead On the Inside by James Breakwell – 4/5 – such a funny book.  Don’t read in public, unless you like having people look at you strange when you snort with laughter.
  • The Pastor Takes a Wife by Anna Schmidt – 3/5 – pleasant, but I wasn’t feeling the chemistry between the lead characters.
  • The Reluctant Widow by Georgette Heyer – 4/5 – classic Heyer froth.
  • Rumours and Recklessness by Nicole Clarkson – 4/5 – a really enjoyable and pleasant P&P retelling.
  • Shadow Study by Maria V. Snyder – 4/5 – a little slow in spots, but still fantastic storytelling.
  • Triplets Find a Mom by Annie Jones – DNF – I wanted to like this one, but the writing was just plain terrible.
  • The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers – 4/5 – a really adorable and fun children’s fantasy book that actually had me on the edge of my seat at the end!

In Novembers 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 November 2015, I didn’t review a single book!  Life was quite busy, and I was working a lot of extra hours.  At the time, that was at a law office, so all those extra hours were staring at computers… which meant I really didn’t feel like doing that when I got home!

Last year, however, I had another bumper month of reading, with three 5* reads.  While I chose Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome as my favorite, both Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan and First Lord’s Fury by Jim Butcher – the conclusion of Codex Alera – were very, very strong contenders.

My  most disappointing book was another example of what expectations can do to make a book work or not.  I had really enjoyed Sandy Hall’s first book, which made Signs Point to Yes even more disappointing when I didn’t like it.  Honestly, I had kind of forgotten about this book, but at the time it aggravated me so much that I actually made a list of the things I didn’t like.

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:

  • Standalones:  823 (up ONLY two!)
  • Nonfiction:  85 (up four!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  616 (holding steady!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  227 (down one!)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 106 (holding steady!)

Also, I’ve recently created a page to keep track of my attempt to read all of my own books.  You can check it out here.  What I really need is for other people to stop writing good reviews.  I mean, I’ve read TWENTY-NINE books in November – that’s almost a book a day! – and yet my net on the TBR is a gain of five?!  How is that even possible????

Awaiting Review:

My little blast of minireviews yesterday really helped clear out the pile.  It’s mostly books that belong together – lately I’ve been reviewing series all at once instead of individually, unless they really jumped out at me as separate books.

  • The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben – a book I really wanted to like more than I actually did.
  • Senior Year, Going Steady, and Sorority Girl by Anne Emery – the first three books in the Burnaby series, published in 1950’s.  They have been very pleasant and relaxing reads that still have some good life lessons.
  • The Giver, Gathering Blue, and Messenger by Lois Lowry – mixed bag.  We’ll see how Son wraps everything up.
  • A Beautiful Blue Death by Charles Finch – the first book in the Charles Lenox series.  Kind of boring.  I already have the second book from the library, so I am going to give it a chance, but if it’s just as unexciting as the first installment, I’ll probably give the rest of the books a miss.

Current Reads:

  • High Note, Low Note by Anne Emery
  • Son by Lois Lowry
  • The Divine Conquest by A.W. Tozer
  • The September Society by Charles Finch

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Campus Melody by Anne Emery – the final Burnaby book
  • The Wolf’s Hour by Robert R. McCammon – werewolves and World War II??  Or something??
  • Album of Horses by Marguerite Henry – childhood classic
  • Last First Kiss by Lia Riley – one of those free Kindle books I’m trying to actually read instead of just accumulating them…
  • Bronco Charlie by Henry Larom – random children’s book that has been on my shelf forever

Happy December!!!

Rearview Mirror // October 2017

This has definitely been my worst month blogging in quite a while.  I did a LOT of reading, but basically no reviewing except for a couple of minireview posts at the end of the month.  And even those didn’t come close to catching up on my reviews AND never actually covered the books I read this month that I loved!

Things have been quite crazy at the orchard, and also really busy in my Etsy shop, so those things have been taking a lot of my time.  Tom and I also went to Virginia for a long weekend over my birthday – our first ‘real’ trip in the Zeppelin, and it was a resounding success!

Favorite October Read:

Well, my favorite October reads haven’t been reviewed yet: The Night Circus, Only Dead on the Inside, and Dawn Study.  But out of the small, pathetic handful of books I actually managed to review, I would actually go with A is for Arsenic.  I was surprised at how thoroughly interesting I found this book that details the various poisons Agatha Christie used in her novels.  It was science-y and informative, but really readable and engaging as well.

Most Disappointing October Read:

I had a lot of really meh reads this month as well.  Out of the ones reviewed, I think I have to go with Thirty Days to Thirtywhich could have been a super fun little chick lit read, except it just got stupid.

Other October Reads:

  • Dot Journaling by Rachel Wilkerson Miller – 4/5 – the first book on the subject that actually felt legitimately practical for someone like me, who isn’t remotely artsy.
  • The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins – 3.5/5 – there were a lot of things I liked about this book, and it was definitely worth the read, but it wasn’t one I would consider a classic.
  • Indian Paint by Glenn Balch – 3.5/5 – a fun Famous Horse Story about a young American Indian boy and the horse he loves!
  • Lion of Liberty by Harlow Giles Unger – 3/5 – a decent biography of Patrick Henry, but really more of a review of the American Revolution and constitution.
  • Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass by Maria V. Snyder – 3.5/5 for the trilogy – interesting books and nice to have some other stories set in Ixia/Sitia, but I just didn’t really like Opal all that well, and the love triangles got ridiculously out of hand.
  • The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye – 3/5 – a children’s book that would have been a lot better if it had actually been about a turtle.

In Octobers 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.

//published 2013//

In 2015, I read and loved The Crane Wife by Patrick Ness.  While a lot of times it really annoys me if I can’t figure out what a book is ‘about’, Ness managed to write a book that I felt like would be somehow different every time I read it.  It was a strangely magical book.

I was disappointed by Houses of Stone by Barbara Michaels.  I was hoping to get a book that was funny and engaging with a decent mystery, like I did in the Amelia Peabody books, but instead I just got a story about a whiny feminist.

Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – it’s now my favorite book by her.  On the other hand, I was left confused by Magic Below the Stairs by Caroline Stevermer, which added nothing to otherwise beloved Cecelia and Kate books.

TBR Update…

Oh dear.

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:  821 (up ONLY eight!)
  • Nonfiction:  81 (DOWN one!!!)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  616 (up only three!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  228 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 106 (up one)

Awaiting Review:

Quite the pile, actually.

  • Only Dead on the Inside by James Breakwell – quite entertaining even if you don’t have children or believe the zombie apocalypse is imminent.
  • Shadow Study, Night Study, and Dawn Study by Maria V. Snyder – so good!  Dawn Study was even more satisfactory than I anticipated.
  • Miss Billy and Miss Billy’s Decision by Eleanor H. Porter – by the author of Pollyanna; Billy isn’t quite as engaging of a heroine, but pleasant books nonetheless.
  • The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern – what.  This book was so magical.  All the feelings.  Oh my gosh.
  • Still Life by Dani Pettrey – reread of book #2 to gear me up for reading book #3 which I received as an ARC.

Current Reads:

As a side note, I have been trying to do better at keeping up on Goodreads, so feel free to follow me there.

  • Miss Billy Married by Eleanor H. Porter – the final book in the Miss Billy trilogy, and my favorite so far.
  • Blind Spot by Dani Pettrey – alright so far.
  • Jackaby by William Ritter – reading yet again, this time so I can get the full build-up to launch in the fourth and final book, that will hopefully bring this series to a very satisfying conclusion.
  • The Pastor Takes a Wife by Anna Schmidt – time to read another lil batch of those crazy Love Inspired books so I can eventually get the pile of 5000 of them out of my house!

 Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • Four more Love Inspired books, determined by a random sticking-my-hand-in-the-basket.
  • The rest of the Jackaby books.
  • Heavier Than Heaven by Charles R. Cross – part of my goal to read my own books; Tom has had this biography of Kurt Cobain laying around forever.
  • The River Line by Charles Line – not sure what this one is even about.
  • Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars by Daniel Pinkwater – this one keeps getting pushed down the list by other reads, but I am going to get to it this time!

Happy November!!!

Rearview Mirror // September 2017

September has been a really busy month.  I work at an orchard, so we are in top gear there, plus the husband had a week off for vacation (which I took off, too) – we mostly spent it working around the house, although we did get a chance to camp for a couple of nights in the newest addition to the McCafferty clan – the Zeppelin:

Through it all, I have been doing some reading, but mostly short, snappy reads that don’t require a great deal of concentration.  I’ve finished the month strong with Maria V. Snyder’s books set in Ixia/Sitia – only three books left before I finish those.  It’s been good to dig into a solid fantasy series.

Favorite September Read:

Despite finding the Study series to be really good, I think I’m going with Vertigo for this slot.  It was a classic that I knew very little about, so I was completely sucked into the story with no idea where it was going.  At first I thought it was a little slow, but by about 2/3 through, I realized that I wasn’t actually getting anything done besides reading this book – and the ending was perfect.

Most Disappointing September Read:

I  had a lot of pretty meh reads in September, but none of them were particularly disappointing as I didn’t have particularly high expectations to start!  But I guess I would go with A Season to Wed.  I really enjoyed the first Year of Wedding novellas series, but the second year, which starts with Season, was really quite terrible overall, with low-quality writing, obnoxious main characters, and disjointed storytelling.

Other September Reads:

  • Fire Study by Maria V. Snyder – 4/5 – very enjoyable third book that had me scrambling to get to the end.
  • Fireman Dad by Betsy St. Amant – 2.5/5 – a story that could have been a lot better if the main character had just been a little more chill.  Way too much drama.
  • Homecoming Hero by Renee Ryan – 3/5 – a decent story that handled a few sensitive topics well, but that was just not terribly engaging.
  • Kiss the Bride by Melissa McClone, Robin Lee Hatcher, and Kathryn Springer – 3/5 – a decent trio of novellas that were ultimately forgettable.
  • The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman – 3.5/5 – beautifully told with an amazing setting, but just a little too sad for my personal taste.
  • The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler – 3.5/5 – Snarky and engaging.
  • Magic Study by Maria V. Snyder – 3.5/5 – a good second book, although it definitely felt like the ‘growing pains’ installment where I spent a lot of the story wanting to give the heroine a good shake.
  • Oklahoma Reunion by Tina Radcliffe – 2.5/5 – a really bland but ultimately inoffensive romance featuring one of my least-favorite tropes.
  • The Perfect Gift by Lenora Worth – 3/5 – a fine little fluff piece, even if it was lacking in basic logic at times.
  • Playback by Raymond Chandler – 3/5 – an entertaining mystery that lost at least half a star because of all the random sex.
  • Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder – 4/5 – really great start to a series that has solid world-building and an engaging protagonist.
  • Poodle Springs by Raymond Chandler and Robert B. Parker – 3/5 – a good conclusion to the Phillip Marlowe stories, but Parker tended to make Marlowe a bit too bumbling for my taste.
  • Toss the Bouquet by Ruth Logan Herne, Amy Matayo, and Janice Thompson – 2.5/5 – a trio of novellas that were alright but honestly were so lacking in logic that it made them rather unenjoyable.
  • An Unlikely Duet by Lelia M. Silver – DNF – super boring P&P sequel.  Like so boring.

In Septembers 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 was a haunting fantasy by Patricia McKillup – Solstice Wood.  My most disappointing read was Donna Leon’s Quietly in Their Sleep.  It was especially disappointing because I really wanted to like this mystery series, and actually did really like the main character and the setting a great deal.  But Quietly, and the book just prior to it (Acqua Alta) both just had really, really weak mysteries, which meant I basically just had to sit through a couple hundred pages of Leon ranting about the hypocrisy and stupidity of Christians without a whole lot of story to make up for it.

Last year, I was gearing myself up for the emotional devastation of reading the final Codex Alera book.  In the meantime, my favorite book of the month was Stormy, Misty’s Foal by Marguerite Henry – a surprisingly deep read for a children’s book, one that actually did bring tears to my eyes.  My most disappointing reading was definitely Shadows on the Moon by Zoe Marriott.  I really wanted to love this book, a retelling of Cinderella set in an AU ancient Japan, but it was just too, too terrible – the story made no sense, the main character was dreadful, and Marriott definitely gave a thumbs up to casual extra-marital sex and also self-harming as an A-OK way to deal with problems: I just couldn’t get past those genuinely awful messages in a YA (or any other) book.  (Although I have to say that the cover is gorgeous!)

TBR Update:

I haven’t compared my TBR numbers lately, but I’m willing to bet that they aren’t good….

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:  813 (up eleven!)
  • Nonfiction:  82 (up three)
  • Personal (which includes all books I own (fiction and nonfiction), but lists any series I own as only one entry…):  613 (up fifteen… curse you, irresistible free Kindle books!)
  • Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series):  227 (up one)
  • Mystery Series (each series counted separately, not each book within a series): 105 (up two)

Awaiting Review:

  • The Glass Trilogy by Maria V. Snyder – Storm Glass, Sea Glass, and Spy Glass.  Solid reads, but I didn’t like Opal as well as Yelena, so I didn’t enjoy them as much as the Study books.
  • A is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie by Kathryn Harkup – I really enjoyed this nonfiction read, even if it made my husband nervous.

Current Reads:

  • Thirty Days to Thirty by Courtney Psak – I started this yesterday when I was stranded at the doctor’s office; it’s been a free Kindle book that’s languished for a while.  So far, nothing noteworthy – just eye-rolling fluff.
  • Only Dead on the Inside: A Parent’s Guide to Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse by James Breakwell – I follow this guy on Twitter and Instagram, and figured that since he makes me laugh almost every day, I should buy his book.  Luckily for me, it’s actually quite entertaining.
  • The Turtles of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye – a Bethany Beach Box book that’s pretty boring.
  • Lodestar Anthology #8 – New Zealand – not a book at all, but a sort of travel journal/magazine that I first heard about through my subscription to Slightly Foxed.  LA comes out three times a year, and each issue focuses on a single country.  I was very pleased when I received my issue because it is gorgeous!  However, you will have to wait until I finish and review it for more details… mustn’t get too carried away here!

Approaching the Top of the Pile:

The probable next five reads…

  • The Soulfinders Trilogy by Maria V. Snyder – Shadow Study, Night Study, and Dawn Study – super excited to read this, and super sad to realize that’s all I have left!
  • Lion of Liberty by Harlow Giles Unger – a biography of Patrick Henry that I found secondhand.
  • Miss Billy by Eleanor H. Porter – an old book that I’ve had on my shelf for quite some time, written by the author of Pollyanna.
  • Indian Paint by Glenn Balch – still haven’t read this Famous Horse Story yet.
  • The Jackaby Series – JackabyBeastly Bones, Ghostly Echoesand The Dire King by William Ritter – rereads for the first three books so that I can thoroughly enjoy the concluding book that just came out at the end of August.

Happy October!!!

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!!!

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!!!